The dust is settling, and as dust so often does after big events, it has cast a new layer over the old, pushing it one step into the past.
The pandemic has changed the way that work has worked and how work will work forever. This has interesting consequences for many industries such as transport or property management, with much of the work in those verticals taking on a hybrid approach.
How will events like seminars and trade shows work in the future? How will hybrid attendance influence planning, presentation and participation? What new services and technologies will presenters need to make their presentations work for both on-site and remote attendees?
As we live through a period of demographic shift (Millennials now account for around 50% of all workers, rising to 75% in the next few years) we’re also living through a period of technological investment into how we do business. So, it’s unsurprising that a growing number of events and activities are now being planned with a hybrid audience in mind.
At this new breed of corporate gatherings, people physically attending will continue to have face-to-face contact and access to presenters for questions and discussion. However, this is balanced by an increased emphasis on remote participation via digital broadcast streams with rich chat and interactivity tools as well as through social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.
Some speakers are also incorporating digital display screens during their talks so that they can share content from other parts of the world using hand gesture control systems like Microsoft Kinect. In this regard, the distant digital audience can have a more direct interaction with a presenter or host during a presentation than the in-person audience does.
Additionally, there may be ‘virtual booths’ where companies show off their products via video links rather than physical presence. Internet speeds and technological shifts will come to a point in the next decade where a multi-camera setup on one end and an AR app on the other will allow a group of attendees to participate in a product demo in HD real-time, from anywhere in the world, just by using their smartphone and an RFID tag.
The hybridisation of attendance, and by extension, experience, may ratchet up the planning and consideration for organisers, but for presenters and audiences, it’s going to bring new opportunities.
Your ability to sell widgets to Steve in Spokane, or Delia in Delaware, is no longer dependent upon them coming to your show or open day in Gera, Germany. They can save money and interact remotely, watch the day’s keynotes in their pyjamas, with a cat in their lap, then talk to you at length in high definition as they review a fully 3D AR representation of the new triple buffed Magni-Sprocket 6000.
They can ask questions, see product demos, do everything you both need to do to find out if the solution is a good fit, without having to occupy the same 3m3 of recycled convention centre air.
One of the key things that changes with hybrid events is attention span. No longer can you get the audience in, lock the doors and talk for two hours about the 18 shades of indistinguishable grey you cycled through before settling on the 19th. A large segment, potentially the majority of your audience, is no longer captive. In fact, it’s likely that your audience’s attention span has been reduced from hours to minutes.
That means the length of time they’re going to be with you will depend on how well you can keep them engaged. You need a presentation style which reflects this: no more monologuing. Instead, shift to shorter talks in smaller chunks that are information rich.
Think about the Ted Talk model: 15 minutes that relies on strong narrative style to educate an audience. That’s going to hold attention, but it’s also going to be distinctly shareable, in its entirety, after the show or event.
Attention change also reduces the importance of conference stages and grand presentations. Instead of a glum siren sound calling the attendees to listen to one person in, there may be multiple session going on across the space. A tapestry of microlearning sessions taking place all over the physical and virtual space offers attendees the chance to distil what they want to get out of sessions in a format that fits.
People attending physically might have to put in a bit more legwork, but they too get to take in the moments of interest that make their attendance valid, especially with direct access to speakers as a result of being where they are.
The other path to change that acknowledges remoteness and interactivity is the Virtual Interactive (VI) session.
Let us say that you run a cookie factory that sells across Europe. You have a number of options to get your cookies under the noses of distributors and food service outlets on the continent. You could invite people to your factory for a tasting session. This is a highly personal experience but one that requires travel for your targets. It’s not necessarily something they want to do for cost or health reasons.
Instead, you could send them a box of cookies to try. That’s nice, and they can have them with a cup of tea during the morning meeting. However, you lose that personal touch, the interaction.
A VI event combines these two ideas.
You set up your event and once your registrants are confirmed, you send them an interactive tasting kit. This has cookies with ingredient lists, flavour notes, manufacture details and some instructions for the virtual session.
As the virtual session unfolds, your Chief Taste Officer (CTO), along with his Flavour Chief Deputies, talk your audience through each cookie, adding context and knowledge to the cookie-eating process. Then, get them to cleanse their palette and it’s on to the final secret cookie packet, a brand-new concoction your participants are the first to try.
Ok, so maybe not exactly all that if you don’t sell cookies, but you get an idea of what you can do to create personality and interactivity with remote participants. You can involve them and work with them to explore products and applications, without having to be in the same physical location.
If you package things correctly and design the end-to-end experience with participation in mind, it can be as engaging an experience as an in-person event – and may even offer cost savings and greater ROI.
Whether you’re migrating your event to a post-pandemic landscape that needs to work atop a mix of physical and digital attendees, or porting promotional activities to a pure digital experience, Mulberry MC has the know how to help you.
Whether it’s organising events that incorporate digital and physical participation or designing remote experiences that connect you with your audience, we make your business-to-business activities feel personal.
If you want to broaden your audience by including hybrid marketing activities, reach out to our team.
Mike McConnell is a Creative Director at Mulberry Marketing Communications. An award-winning full-service B2B communications agency based in London, Chicago and Melbourne. He has years of experience creating and editing written work alongside developing ideas for a diverse range of clients across multiple formats.