While Covid-19 will likely become endemic, there are elements we can control to optimise for the hybrid events of tomorrow, noted Aloysius Arlando, president of the Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (SACEOS).
Speaking at SHATEC’s APacCHRIE 2021 conference last week, Arlando said that among the many uncontrollable factors that pose a challenge to recovery, hybrid events represent a "sweet spot" for the industry.
"We are an experience economy," he said. "How do we [create experiences] safely but also give the power of consumption to our customers in an environment of varied restrictions, and still continue to make business?”
While face-to-face meetings can never be replaced, virtual and hybrid events have the potential of reaching even greater audience numbers, and making events more accessible and equitable.
Online the new lifeline
With hybrid the new mainstay, organisers have to master the challenge of creating content that is captivating and collaborative; a cinematic experience that will engage the digital community.
According to Petrina Goh, commercial director for Singapore, CWT Meetings & Events, this requires more than just a good web conferencing tool.
There’s also (1) elevating the conversation, (2) marrying client’s objectives with audience expectation, and (3) covering the 3Cs: captivating, cinematic, collaborative — because the behaviours of a physical audience vary greatly from a virtual one.
“A good planner should be able to create an engaging programme and content that resonates, be it gamification, interactive presentations, or shipping meals to attendees’ homes in order to meet that return on time, investments and expectations of audiences.”
Another aspect that many organisers fail to properly consider is the helpdesk.
Rod Kamleshwaran, partner and MICE consulting firm, Gaining Edge Australia, noted that “virtual attendees are often stuck and need help, we need to give the same sort of support online”.
A viable hybrid business model?
The jury’s still out on what defines a sustainable and profitable event in a Covid-safe environment, but there's still room for growth and experimentation.
“Look at digital events, strategy, keeping abreast of new virtual technology improvements and evolutions," said CWT’s Goh. "Also, when people attend an event, there's a lot more data to analyse — it’s something we’ve not tapped into [fully]."
And what if the 'new normal' brings more uncertainty?
“We become agile,” said Arlando. “Have the ability to dial your business model up or down because we don’t know what other variants will come out — we have to be prepared for this battle between vaccine roll out and variant mutation.”
Collaboration within the MICE ecosystem can also help mitigate risk. Arlando advised working on pilot projects and MVPs (minimum viable products) “because it’s important to understand and learn fast, and hopefully fail fast along the way”.