It will no doubt take some time to recover from 2020 and the impact it had on the events industry – and whilst some light can be found in the positives – the embracing of technology, the creative solutions and the wider audience reach to name a few, there were unfathomable challenges and a general feeling of “it’s just not the same.”

Many event organisers turned to platforms such as Zoom and MS Teams, as well as other online-event systems which are designed to drive engagement and replicate some of the connection and networking opportunities of ‘real’ events, but the results were varied, with differing levels of satisfaction for everyone from the delegates to the sponsors.

What does 2021 look like for the event industry?

Organisers, attendees and sponsors alike are all trying to plan for 2021 – some are taking the plunge and committing to fully virtual events from the off, others are holding on and keeping a very close eye on the ever-changing guidelines before confirming their plans.

Perhaps this year, more than last, the industry will have more challenges, harder decisions and a bigger test of their creativeness and ‘out-of-the-box’ problem-solving as they start to reshape their events programme and hopefully transition from a fully virtual world, something that we’re keen to support with at AYRE.

Event organisers will need to be more organised and tactile than before, ready to adapt and change plans at the drop of a hat, (or should we say, press conference?) with a Plan A, B, C and D in the bag. Attendees and exhibitors will be expecting a step-up from the last-minute virtual events of 2020 and a more professional and engaging experience – if this really is ‘the new normal’ then amateur-efforts and unreliable internet connections will no longer cut it.

Do we dare to dream of face-to-face conferences in 2021?

Whilst people are itching to get out of their spare-rooms-turned-office and back to meeting clients and colleagues in the flesh, understandably, event organisers are facing tricky decisions and lots of anxiety. How do we keep people safe at events? What about the reputational damage which could come from a virus-outbreak at my event? What if local and regional lockdowns scupper my plans, close my venue or put a stop to delegates and speakers arriving safely? – maybe we should just stay on Zoom, it’s safe there!

At AYRE, we don’t believe that launching full steam ahead back into events is the right decision – it’s irresponsible, not just for our client’s reputations and delegate safety, but also for our industry’s sanity. Now is the time for taking it slow, treading carefully and considering a ‘hybrid’ approach.

Hybrid Events

‘Hybrid Events’ have been a bit off a buzz word over the last couple of months, (we’ve definitely mentioned them once or twice) and they come in many shapes and sizes. We’ve seen lots of happy couples host hybrid weddings where their chosen 30 have celebrated with them in person whilst the rest of the guest list have watched on, sipping their champagne from the comfort of the sofa. We’ve also supported our clients to deliver hybrid events with no attendees and just the speakers and hosts coming together in our purpose-built studio to professionally stream their conference or show directly to their delegates. 

The number of people that come together physically, compared to the number who log-in to watch can vary depending on the type of event you hold, your venue and government guidelines. It might be that you gather your key speakers in one space or studio so that you can produce the show from one location, or you might consider inviting your VIP guests to an in-person event and enabling the remainder of the guest list to join virtually.

It’s important to think creatively about how you can make the experience just as fun and engaging for those who aren’t able to attend in person as those who are.

Let’s take award dinners as an example...

Award Dinners feel like a distant memory, with lots of moving parts and people they were mostly abandoned during 2020, but there are ways to replicate the format through a hybrid event and create a memorable experience for both your in-person and virtual guests.

Whilst your guests are arriving and preparing to take their seats, your virtual guests could be recreating their own meal with a live chef demo, using ingredients you have supplied ahead of time. You could even encourage a little friendly competition with an award for the best final presentation. Alternatively, you could provide takeaway vouchers, send place-setting kits with name badges and favours so your guests can set the scene at their own dining table, or even have a mixologist on-screen giving tutorials on how to make your own celebratory cocktails.

Any live entertainment can be captured and streamed for your virtual guests to enjoy at home and when it comes to the awards themselves, whether they are at home or in the live audience, award presenters and winners can appear on the screen for everyone to enjoy the anticipation and reactions.

The trick is in the tech...

Naturally, we would say this, but, the capability of the technology really is the key driver in making your hybrid events a success. The main priority, a strong internet connection, is essential for delivering a seamless, high-quality stream and it’s important to use a streaming platform that your virtual attendees feel comfortable and confident in using.

Enlisting the help of a professional, experienced team will enable you to deliver a more exciting production with a variety of content, including spotlighting different speakers and guests on-screen, providing multiple camera angles and incorporating presentations and pre-recorded segments. Having the right equipment ensures the visuals and sound is just as impressive for those at home as it is for those in the live audience – especially when it comes to capturing your live entertainment.

At AYRE, we want you to feel excited, not overwhelmed by the potential of hybrid events, and so whether you’re at a loss of where to start, or know exactly what you want from your events this year, please drop our team a call to see how we can support you to deliver the best events and experiences.

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