Events are back – but different.
It’s great to see in-person events slowly coming back across Europe. I missed hearing that murmur of the crowd in the exhibition hall that grows louder as you get closer and turns into the buzz of a thousand different conversations as you enter the room. The chance to meet prospects and customers, to network and catch-up with industry colleagues - that can never be matched by on online event. But there can be no doubt that the future of industry events and conferences has changed as a result of the pandemic.
As a result of isolation, we saw the rapid rise of the virtual event as organisers and brands quickly looked for ways to continue to operate.
At first most of us were just grateful to be able to attend remotely via webcam and share a glimpse of the events that we used to be able to attend in person – even though the quality of the experience was generally poor. But we adapt and technology was soon deployed to create more effective virtual exhibition areas, to deliver more engaging keynote speeches and product launches. The experience was still not quite as good as being there in person but it had advantages. Attendees could drop in and out of the event at the touch of a button - without having to commit to travelling for several days. Event organisers could reach a wider global audience and be more versatile. So, as we transition back to a more normal world, how will the event industry react?
I think the future of the event industry will be hybrid. Delegates will want to return to certain live events for the face-to-face contact, sales and marketing and networking opportunities…but not all events. I think they will also value the ability to pick and choose the events they attend in-person and the ones where they just virtually join to see an important keynote speaker or attend a relevant panel debate.
The hybrid approach will also suit event organisers. In-person events are certainly more profitable but they will also want to continue to extend their global reach and audience by selling virtual delegate attendance.
This all points to the need to be able to run hybrid events with delegates attending in-person and virtually. The challenge for event organisers to make this a long-term sustainable business model is to ensure that delegates enjoy their experience however they attend.
It creates a new challenge for event organisers. For example, just livestreaming your event will not be enough. Virtual attendees do not want to be distant observers, they want to feel part of the event and require a dedicated focus. Evidence already shows that attention spans of virtual attendees are shorter, they need content to be delivered in faster and more engaging ways.
Fortunately, the effective use of technology will be the path to achieving successful hybrid events. The latest glass-to-glass production solutions used in the broadcasting world are also ideal for bringing the same high levels of production quality to virtual conference events and product launches.
These glass-to-glass solutions are made up of studio and PTZ cameras with robotic control systems and at their heart the latest generation live production platforms such as Panasonic’s KAIROS. This gives AV professionals creative freedom by supporting seamless broadcasting on numerous devices and feeds, in any source, format, scale, screen and mix, without loss of quality. More than a switcher, the platform can also perform routing and screen management functions. With multiple screen layouts built through one simple user interface, KAIROS helps AV professionals improve live and virtual productions by easily inserting virtual or augmented reality and presenters for the virtual audience.
This latest technology can also enhance the experience of in-person attendees at events. Combined with the latest projectors, hologram and display technology, high profile speakers at one event, for example in North America, could be replicated simultaneously in hologram form on the stage of events in Europe and Asia.
The troubles of the past two years were a major disruption to the events industry but in time it may be viewed as a period where the disruption fundamentally changed the sector. Where the use of the latest technology and a change in delegate behaviour combined to create a new landscape of hybrid events. One which may prove to be much better for both attendees and event organisers alike.
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