How hybrid events merge the personal and virtual experience

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In the past 16 months, live concerts, conferences and events have undoubtedly changed. This previously thriving sector valued at over $ 39 billion

During this time, virtual events have proven invaluable, enabling many businesses to take advantage of the stay-at-home judgment. But while we are returning to some level of normalcy, many are testing hybrid events, combining the personal and virtual experience, and making sure that all audiences are catered for.

46% of people in the UK are comfortable attending a live event and would prefer major events to return, but with many still safety conscious, what is the future for this sector?

What happened to the industry?

2019 was a landmark year for the events industry, reporting $ 70 billion in direct consumer spend.

Business events such as conferences and exhibitions account for over £ 31 billion of this. Recreational events such as arts and cultural events, music events and festivals, and sporting and recreational events contributed around £ 39 billion.

Events play an important role in highlighting new strategy, innovation and creativity – and ultimately bringing people together to share the infectious euphoria of the collective flare.

This sector was hit hardest during the pandemic. As of March 2020, 845 major exhibitions have been canceled, representing a loss of £ 8.6 billion in economic impact.

It is estimated that 400,000 jobs were lost in the events industry during the Covid-19 crisis. The industry is repeatedly urging financial support. An online petition was launched for the government to offer economic aid to the events industry during Covid-19, which received over 150,000 signatures.

The height of the pandemic meant all events were canceled or postponed with no end date in sight. Progressive, responsive companies and retailers began to take an interest in virtual platforms for hosting their events.

We can assess the performance of retailers, especially over the last year, using the Bosco Index, which is a measure of how well they are getting their paid and organic media opportunities relative to their closest competitors.

Mastering the challenges of the pandemic

Sudden interruptions in planning and the switch to digitalization did not make running the only challenge during this time.

Despite the e-commerce boom, retailers and businesses have faced the difficulty of a saturated market. With small and large companies in one digital location, the playing field is the same for everyone.

With soaring clicks and costs, it can be difficult to find your way around the online advertising space. We designed Bosco to help retailers plan and adjust marketing budgets using their data combined with machine learning.

Many companies were moving to a new online strategy; virtual events enabled retailers to push the boundaries and meet their customers in a different and more engaging format. A recent report found that virtual event usage has increased 1000% since the pandemic.

As a multi-level marketing and beauty brand, Rodan + Fields (Bosco Index: 746) had to adapt to keep its global team in business and maintain customer satisfaction.

The annual conference known as the “Skincare Superbowl” took place virtually in October. The convention, entitled “One and All”, was broadcast on their virtual channel, with accompanying Facebook groups for consultants and customers to discuss the event at viewing parties.

Launch parties are the order of the day in the beauty industry – extravagant events with VIP guest lists. In 2020, Fenty Beauty (Bosco Index: 631) experimented with VR to launch the Fenty Skin range. A virtual “house party” was created, which was intended as a way to celebrate with singer Rihanna.

Although they couldn’t feel or smell the new products on offer, the party gave consumers an experience they would not have attended before, including the feeling of being with Rihanna themselves.

Sports fans haven’t been able to experience a live game for almost two years. As one of the main sponsors of the Uefa Champions League, Heineken (Bosco Index: 717) held a virtual celebration to mark the start of the championship last August.

Heineken hosted the “Kick Off” event with Defected Records, an eight-hour virtual music event with eight different DJs streaming live from different locations around the world. In addition to the engagement on Heineken’s own social channels, the event was also streamed on the social channels of Uefa and Defected in order to increase brand awareness.

The virtual opportunity was highlighted after actor Idris Elba hit the decks for the event and his DJ set hit over 3.4 million views on YouTube.

What does the future of the event industry look like?

Virtual events have become commonplace, but the end of restrictions means companies now have more flexibility in organizing and hosting events.

Freedom doesn’t necessarily mean returning to live events at full capacity. A recent survey found that 43% of people feel uncomfortable attending live events.

Companies can counteract this by combining the personal and virtual experience. This is aimed at all audiences, especially those with post-pandemic safety concerns.

Junction is one of the leading hackathon events in Europe. In 2020, it hosted its “Connected” event virtually, bringing together a global audience. Plans for today are to have a hybrid event that will be hosted online but additionally add physical hacking hubs around the world for people to meet.

The leading automobile fair Automechanika is also offering a digital format this year, with a compact physical exhibition for networking when you feel comfortable. Given the supply chains damaged by the pandemic and the consequences of Brexit, hybrid events enable automotive brands such as Bosch (Bosco index: 637) to meet with customers again.

Many live events and festivals have been canceled or postponed to 2022 due to uncertainties. However, as one of the largest festivals in the UK with over 60,000 visitors at each venue, the Reading and Leeds Festival continued in 2021. After speculation about the continuation of the event, the organizers made sure that certain precautions were taken to make people feel safer. Both festivals hosted testing and vaccination centers which encouraged their younger audiences to get the sting during the event.

Although restrictions have been relaxed, experimenting with new technology is making hybrid events an option well beyond the pandemic. The Swedish band ABBA has prepared for digitization for their comeback tour. The tour will take place in a physical location, but the band will not perform live and use artificial intelligence to create younger hologram representations of themselves.

The combination of virtual and personal experience currently makes it possible to host events and conferences and to give some members of the public the freedom to do what they enjoy.

Ultimately, virtual and hybrid events are not becoming the new normal as the face-to-face interaction and overall human experience of events cannot be replaced. However, they are a way to reconnect with the audience and help the industry recover – a major milestone in the future of events.