Hybrid Events Allow Organisers and Exhibitors the Best of Both Worlds, Says Suchitra Anish of Oni360

Industry Watch | December 21, 2020 | Interview

Oni360 Suchitra Anish

Integrated brand management, digital marketing and communications agency Oni360 helps clients develop a compelling identity and narratives that create, promote and grow ideas into powerful brands. EVENTFAQS Media reached out to Suchitra Anish, Founder of Oni360, to know how the agency is coping with the pandemic, its recent award win for work on Altimetrik, new initiatives, future plans and more.

According to you, which are the trends and best practices in the experiential and events space that are likely to stay in the industry beyond the COVID-19 pandemic?

Through these past six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have supported many exhibiting clients and event organisers pivot to a digital or virtual-only format. While it was necessary, it was really a live experiment with regard to hosting events virtually and the kind of ROI that it delivers. We've come to the conclusion that virtual events are great for delivering content and extending the lifespan and reach of that content, but virtual events fall far short of the human engagement and live networking that is needed to build real and lasting business relationships. While our platform enables efficient video-based networking, nothing beats the good old face-to-face human interaction. Further, virtual events have not been able to provide that much-needed environment-based experience. None of the virtual experiences have been able to replicate experiences that rouse and pique all five of our human senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell) - such as tactile experiences of exhibits, visually appealing insta-worthy environments that one can totally immerse themselves in, the smell and taste of freshly ground and brewed coffee by skilled baristas on the show floor to the five-course gala dinner hosted by generous sponsors. So, moving forward, we'll definitely see a big push into hybrid events as it allows event organisers and exhibitors the best of both worlds - content longevity and reach, as well as valuable human face-to-face interaction and experiences.

In terms of revenue model, will virtual or hybrid events be more feasible as live events are restricted to limited number of attendees? Do you think digital events have a wider reach?

Definitely hybrid. From interactions with event organisers, we know that pivoted events are a lot harder to monetise because it’s hard to justify paying huge money in sponsorship for ‘quantity’ over ‘quality’. We know that virtual events have great reach but how targeted and qualified are those additional participants? The value of a physical event is in paying for the undivided in-person attention of qualified attendees that want to be there for the duration of the show. With virtual events, it's a lot harder to ‘contain’ an attendee because he/she has to deal with business-as-usual while setting aside time to participate in a virtual event. We've seen, statistically, that while the content has a greater reach, the attention span and engagement duration is a lot shorter than what event organisers have experienced at a live show. So, to be economically feasible, event organisers have to adopt a hybrid model to capture as much value as possible throughout its value creation chain.

Please tell us about your recent award win for the PR campaign for Altimetrik, and take us through it from client brief to execution, especially delivering it amidst the pandemic.

Our PR campaign for Altimetrik focused on delivering the client's mandate to reinforce its credentials as a US-based digital company transforming businesses, a caring employer and a responsible corporate citizen. As part of the campaign, we ‘news-jacked’ (aligning company announcements with trending stories of the day) Altmetrik's internal COVID-19 business and market preparedness initiatives to generate 64 earned media coverage over six months from April to September, 2020. The stories ranged from rapid transition of 2,500 staffers to work-from-home in 18 days to raising US $1 million COVID-19 community welfare fund, executive appointment and COVID-19 special insurance cover for all employees. (More about the case study can be read here

Besides this, we created an event platform based on our experience of organising live events for our customers over 18 years. The tools that we created are meant to solve the needs of our clients’ customers. For example, take the Accenture Fintech Innovation Lab programme. This is a start-up fast-track incubator-type programme that has been run live for the past six iterations to help start-ups evolve to the next level of growth. Knowing that events are varied in nature, we chose to build our platform with open-source technologies to allow us to mix-and-match different functionalities that are needed to support such a rigorous programme. Some of these elements include the ability to network, video call, share documents, create working groups, collaborate in real-time and hold plenary sessions as well as breakout sessions. All this ‘infrastructure’ has allowed start-ups to come together to connect with their mentors effectively and efficiently, across different time-zones and without having to commute or contravene any group size restrictions imposed during the pandemic.

What are the other initiatives or activations you have on hand? What are some unique collaborations that you are planning in the larger experiential and events industry?

We are in discussion with several agencies and event organisers on building a hybrid strategy for their events. Our methodology requires us to deep-dive into it with our clients to understand their customer's journey and to understand intricately the activities that create value for them. Only by doing so can we formulate a plan and bring together the right tools to build a functional platform apt for the value creation chain. So, we hope that by covering more industries, we can come up with several industry-specific templates that allow other event organisers and clients to customise at speed and at scale.

While content from virtual events has greater reach, the attention span and engagement duration of participants is a lot shorter than what event organisers have experienced at a live show, says Anish

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