Is hybrid worth it? Convention centres ask the question

The International Association of Conference Centres gathers participants online to weigh the pros, cons and future of hybrid events.

Convention centres agree that moving forward, hybrid will still remain but that investment in virtual platform technology may cool down.
Convention centres agree that moving forward, hybrid will still remain but that investment in virtual platform technology may cool down. Photo Credit: GettyImages/metamorworks

Globally, hybrid events continue to be in demand for convention centres although investment in the area is likely to taper off in the near future.

That was one of the key findings from a recent webinar hosted by the International Association of Conference Centres (AIPC), which featured participants from across Asia, Europe and Africa. 

During the webinar, AIPC CEO Sven Bossu shared findings from a 2022 member survey: ‘Overall, how well have hybrid event models (with a mix of in-person and online elements), been working for your longest, most important clients?’ Of those surveyed, 30% responded 'excellent' or 'very good', while 31% said 'good' and 28% 'fair'.

Some centres said demand for hybrid remain, but mostly within the association sector, with corporates opting for in-person gatherings. Others said the word ‘hybrid’ tended to have a negative connotation, reinforcing the trend for people being keen to return to live meetings.

Large organisations appear to still be in ‘Covid-mode’, according to International Conference Centre Geneva, leading to a high number of requests for hybrid meetings as not everyone is able to travel. However, the venue also said that while every meeting has a hybrid element, this will pose continued IT challenges in the future.

An Asia-World Expo in Hong Kong spokesperson expected exhibitions to take place on a smaller scale in the future, while incorporating hybrid elements. A number of event organisers had also talked about placing elements of an exhibition in the metaverse — an area the expo is open to explore.

Representatives from Cape Town International Convention Centre, which offers its own platform for hybrid events, said that while there was an appetite for considering hybrid, there had not been a huge uptake when requests had converted to actual events. They noted that clients in the region were very keen on meeting face-to-face.

RAI Amsterdam Convention Centre, meanwhile, touched on the need to provide digital plug-ins for clients and said it was looking at creating an in-house online studio that could be flexible towards client needs.

The webinar also examined the best way to approach hybrid events, with participants agreeing that sourcing the right partner was vital, alongside setting out clear goals, such as knowing whether the event is using hybrid as an add-on or to extend the event’s reach.

Bossu said: “Design your proposed programme before you select your virtual platform. Not all virtual platforms are created equal. At first glance, it’s easy to assume they all offer the same basic features and capabilities. However, when you delve a little deeper you may discover attendee caps, simultaneous session restrictions, limited gamification, and minimal engagement, networking and branding opportunities.”

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