The expression ‘the best-laid plans…’ carries the connotation that one should not expect for things to always turn out to plan. This has proved to be the case for many virtual event planners over the past 18 months and with today’s postponement of International Confex until the end of the Summer, it looks set to continue being a mantra for hybrid as well.
Cvent was due to host its first hybrid seminar at ExCeL London during the second day of International Confex.
Conveniently entitled, The Hybrid Dilemma: when virtual meets reality, our panel of in-house experts were looking forward to debating the technologies, techniques and talent needed to stage blended virtual and in-person events.
Today, the immediate dilemma we face is whether or not to transition the seminar to fully virtual, find an alternative venue space or postpone and stage the event alongside Confex come September.
It may not have been the dilemma we originally had in mind when coming up with the session title but it does flag-up a few interesting challenges that hybrid event organisers will be frequently faced with.
The first is ensuring that physical guests and speakers are kept safe.
International Confex was due to take place from 22-23 June, but given the rise in cases of Covid-19, the organiser felt that the safety and confidence of visitors, exhibitors and staff was the primary concern.
The in-person element of our seminar may have only been 30 people strong but it would be irresponsible event planning if we were to forge ahead at the same venue where a rise in cases, presumably in the locality, has forced the decision to postpone.
How many event planners therefore would now do a quick pivot straight to virtual and let the registered in-person audience know that they can now engage with the session from the safety of their laptop screen?
After all, event planners are fully ‘crisis ready’, armed with virtual and platform-based skills to ensure speakers are dialled-in and/or pre-recorded content is delivered digitally.
It’s tempting but if we’re not prepared to ‘walk the walk’ with hybrid events, do we have the right to ‘talk the talk’?
Event delegates will only feel confident of attending the in-person elements of conferences and education sessions once they’ve seen how our industry leaders can guarantee the staging of safe, live, accessible and engaging events.
We want to move the industry back towards a future where venues are more than just studio space, production involves stage as well as broadcast technical know-how, catering doesn’t always have to be delivered via Deliveroo and networking occurs both face-to-face and in the chatroom tab.
Maybe we’re not quite ready for a return to in-person events yet - but we’re not far off.
The dilemma for a lot of people attending ALivex last month (staged by Mash Media across the floors and bedrooms of the Royal Lancaster hotel in London), was what to do when you met an industry colleague you’ve not seen for 18 months - is it impolite to refuse that outstretched hand-shake when others are hugging or backing away uncomfortably?
It’s clear that the hybrid dilemma is currently much more than simply getting the best out of your chosen platform while applying the rules of TV broadcasting in front of a live studio audience to your physical venue set-up.
For as long as the dilemma over whether or not it is safe to travel or attend in-person remains a priority concern, everything else can wait.
In the meantime, Cvent has plenty of resources to help you pre-plan for a hybrid future and we look forward to welcoming you to what hybrid could look like very soon.