The Future of Hybrid Venues

As hybrid experiences continue to make waves in this ever changing industry, venues are taking on new shape. Incorporating an in-person audience with virtual often requires two different locations and two different event experiences.

With most associations familiar with in-person venues, the idea of a completely different venue experience online is going to have a huge impact on how events will look and operate moving forward.

What will change and what will everything look like? First, let’s take a look at how far we have come:

January, 2020:

It has been over a year since the World Health Organization first declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic. This led to a full shutdown of all in-person events and trade shows.

February-March 2020:

The start of many virtual event platforms and event production companies specializing in digital experiences. For many associations, they decided to team up, go virtual and give it a try.  

April, 2020:

Mask mandates were put into place. Around this time, the event industry was forced to accept digital or potentially lose their business.

May-November 2020:

The industry learned, succeeded and failed together. Digital connections continued to be developed because they had to, but for a lot of people they began to realize how beneficial these on-screen environments were.  

December, 2020:

What do the reports and data say? Was the shift set in stone? Check out some of these statistics from December of 2020 to early 2021:  

  1. According to the Post Covid-19 Event Outlook Report, an overwhelming 93% of organizers plan to invest in virtual events moving forward. Virtual conferences and events have opened the door for impressive reach and showed how resilient the events industry is. They have kept events going during the pandemic and will become a part of hybrid events in the future.
  2. The global virtual events market size was valued at USD 94.04 billion in 2020 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23.7% from 2021 to 2028. The increased adoption of communication and collaboration tools across various industries, such as education, manufacturing and construction, healthcare, and retail and e-commerce, is expected to drive market growth.
  3. In fact, 73% of event planners now think hybrid events will continue to be more common in the future—up from 67 percent when asked in May—while those who think this is just a temporary trend have gone down accordingly by 6%.

July- now:

The lens has shifted to chatter about 365-day experiences. Associations continue to talk about hybrid as a component moving forward and digital event softwares are beginning to build year-round platforms.

We have come a long way, but what's next? Here are three things that might change the most moving forward:  

The first thing that changes will be a broad acceptance of hybrid.

It's time to stop debating; the benefits to digital connection are known and will continue to be incorporated by event planners, desired by attendees and used to tear down physical barriers.

Take a step back from the event world and consider your everyday life with technology. How often do you video call or text a friend, do you watch a little television before you go to bed, do you have a GPS in your car or an Alexa companion in your home?

We live in a hybrid world. Take a look at your in-person audience before the pandemic. If you look through a few of those old photos, there’s a good chance you will see people on their phones checking emails, scrolling through social media, and exchanging contact information.

Before the idea of hybrid was coined, we were already living it.  

Secondly, for the in-person venue, things should return to how we are used to, but expect a lot of associations to encourage technology use.

The idea of an event companion mobile app has grown exponentially. All the information about your event experiences, even if you attend in person, will go digital.

For those attending digitally, they are using technology to connect. To make things hybrid, the in-person audience must dive into digital components with their digital attendee counterparts so everyone can stay connected.

The age-old business card, although still valuable to pass along important contact information, is becoming outdated and going virtual. Contact information, event itineraries, guest lists, connection opportunities, and networking experiences can all be accomplished online.

Ticketing will change too! Get those smartphones out and that QR code ready, because that is how you will attend any event. If your event uses a companion app, that's where your ticket will be housed, along with a vast community of engagement surrounding the total event experience.

Likewise, a lot of sports like Major League Baseball, which houses 30 teams in 29 states, has committed to full digital ticketing due to the pandemic and that could very well be here to stay.      

Lastly, with growth still to come, the virtual venue might have a permanent home as year-round digital experiences continue to grow.    

The biggest change is the start of year-round platforms that can host associations’ communities, events, and networking experiences all 365 days out of the year.

The next integration for events will experiment with different ways to blend the virtual and in-person environment: the dawn of the hybrid venue is here. Currently, “despite the interest in live-only events in the future, 68% of the group now thinks that hybrid events will continue to be more common than before the pandemic.”  

The hybrid venue is the key for the event industry moving forward, but with that comes a lot of growth and opportunity. The future could be full of people in-person chatting with people all across the world from a smartphone.

Although the hybrid venue might look a little fuzzy, technology will be the cornerstone to make that vision successful. When we embrace that technological change, it will lead to some awesome hybrid events that can take people beyond tomorrow.