Hybrid is the way — but nothing beats face to face as of yet, said Freeman APAC managing director, Debbie Evans, about the future of international conferences during a hybrid event in Singapore last month.
"Business can be done and connections can be made in a virtual environment, even if they may not be as brilliant compared to live or face-to-face interactions," she said.
In partnership with the Infocomm Media Development Authority's (IMDA) Open Innovation Platform, SACEOS co-hosted the first of IMDA’s Rebound & Recover series at the 8,500sqm space at PIXEL, a space selected for its ability to facilitate the hybrid event experience.
"Online has become our lifeline. And it's been important for us to work with IMDA and take the next step to chart what the future will be for a Covid-safe world," said SACEOS president, Aloysius Arlando.
Bill Bannear, MD of consultation agency, ThinkPlace added that the pace of learning is far more dramatic online, and urged event planners to innovate and take action. "Get out there, start acting, start testing and engaging with the real world,” he said.
Although hybrid events are an effective response to ongoing Covid restrictions, there needs to be a more sustainable approach, with panellists citing the cost of hybrid events is at least two to three times higher than regular events.
But cost isn't the only factor.
According to panellists, clients are looking for events that can deliver the 'feeling' of an in-person meeting as much as possible. Right now, technology doesn't cut the mustard — especially in terms of video quality and streaming.
Integrating digital and storytelling skills is therefore essential for hybrid events. “You need someone who is good at broadcasting and figuring out the IT; the streaming system is not that simple,” said Adam Piperdy, CEO at Unearthed Productions.
As well as acquiring new skills, Piperdy said collaboration is critical — even if it means working with the competition.
"We’re running out of budgets and grants. So the best thing to do now is to look at what people are doing in the industry and to start collaborating," he said, pointing to how sharing expertise to build a faster, more effective solution is essential for progress.
There’s also a realisation that people don’t want to leave their homes all the time to attend in-person events anymore, with reasons ranging from health concerns to wanting to spend more time at home with family.
Nevertheless, the MICE industry continues to demonstrate incredible fortitude, despite the ongoing pandemic and its countless hurdles. “The pivoting, the transitioning, the relearning, the reskilling has been incredible,” noted Evans. “I think this says something about the resilience of this industry in particular."