Table of Contents
In corporate sectors, organizations are seen to explore virtual meetings and hybrid events for the purpose of accomplishing certain objectives. These include addressing issues that are involved with remote locations on a timely basis, reducing time spent off by employees for meetings, trimming travel expenses and finding alternatives with regards to currency exchange differentials amongst certain destinations (Gebhart, 2014). Associations make use of hybrid conferences in the form of strategies for providing greater number of audiences with the accessibility of pleasing and iridescent interest in live conferences in future. Hybrid and virtual events have been seen to be trending in an upward direction. Virtual meetings and hybrid events provide benefits in the form of accessibility from anywhere in the world and greater happiness without incurring any cost related to travelling, accommodation, food and beverage. Emerging technologies have been making it more convenient in delivering interactive as well as engaging experiences (Gebhart, 2014).
The aim of the paper is to critically evaluate the trends of virtual and hybrid events in the meeting industry. The paper provides a discussion of the technological trends in relation with hybrid and virtual events. A critical overview of the acceptance of the trends in the industry of event management has been provided. The impacts as well as influences on the industry in the future are explained in the paper.
In virtual meetings, participants coming from differing locations communicate as well as interact directly with one another and the speakers. Examples of virtual events include virtual Tweet-ups, virtual industry events as well as virtual sales presentations (Pearlman and Gates, 2010). While certain tweet-ups have taken place in person amongst the users, increasing numbers of people have been hosting virtual tweet-ups for becoming acquainted with new people holding similar interests. Currently, many organizations have been putting on virtual industry events, which allow attachment of their collateral within the virtual environment, chatting with other employees on the curated message boards and displaying their videos to the digital audiences (Pearlman and Gates, 2010). The venue for sales presentations has been increasingly seen to shift away from being physical and investments in virtual systems have been gaining higher importance. Hybrid events are known to combine face-to-face events along with virtual accessibility for the remote participants (Company Webcast, 2018). For example, at Barcamp events, each and every attendee is known to be encouraged for sharing information along with the experience of the event through public web channels that are inclusive of blogs, photo sharing, social book, and the key meeting spaces marking Twitter, wikis and IRC (Shapiro, 2009).
The demands for virtual presence at the live events have been growing steadily within the meeting industry, pertaining to greater connectivity globally. Increasing availability of bandwidth in the commercial as well as residential places has been allowing video streaming to emerge as a vital part of regular lives of people (Morell, 2010). Therefore, video content has become a standard necessity for events and higher number of customers has been requesting filming components for allowing live streaming along with video for ensuring that their messages reach as far as possible (American Express, 2018). The technology for accomplishing this objective has been becoming ubiquitous. Previously, it took an entire studio along with numerous equipment as well as a hard line internet connectivity for the management of events. Currently, hybrid events are delivered in a simplified manner through mobile applications (Getz and Page, 2016). Such expectation levels have been driving the events industry for delivering efficient solutions for hybrid and virtual events.
With respect to hybrid and virtual event technologies, the main meeting spaces have been equipped with premium video calling hardware, which allows individuals to output the needed streaming formats directly from the controllers, irrespective of the input device as well as format. This has been enabling individuals to link live streaming engines that are based on either software or hardware (Getz and Page, 2016). These are potential of relaying to a vast range of platforms, which are inclusive of committed and secure hosting as well as storing the footages for replay in the form of videos on demand service. Communiqué Conferencing, Inc., which is a company, is known for being a global leader in conferencing and in providing virtual events solutions to Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) as well as the large international business leads. The company has been offering different organizations with highly effective as well as cost-efficient methods for meeting, training, selling and marketing its remote clients, partners and workers (Bloomberg, 2018).
Apart from meeting and event industries, healthcare industries have even been making use of hybrid and virtual event technologies. In the year 2011, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had organized the foremost hybrid event of the government and had introduced an immersive virtual form of the Public Health Informatics seminar (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016). The state and domestic partners who were remotely located along with the public health IT co-workers had been able to gain knowledge of the complete sessions as well as other coinciding activities in a simultaneous manner with the in-person occasion. The hybrid event was known to be well perceived by the attendees, which was evident from 1,865 online registrations, and the traditional conference had averaged around 1500 (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016). The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) had sponsored the event for the workers, state, domestic groups and associates for experiencing activities distantly during traditional conferences without the need of spending money on travelling and lodging or posing negative effects on the environment (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016).
Advantages of Hybrid Events
While numerous businesses might think that webcasting is potential of damaging their participation in events, it is actually helpful in increasing engagement. Through the provision of alternatives to onsite attendance, the ones, not being able to attend because of travel costs or timing, have been exposed to the opportunities of enjoying the experience of conferencing (Shapiro, 2009).
Converting Webcast Attendees to In-Person Attendees
If businesses are able to secure strong speakers, organize interesting panels and provide their attendees with networking opportunities along with the main constituencies, the online participants will think that attending personally in the following events might be necessary (Shapiro, 2009).
Education and Promotion
Hybrid events provide the participants with alternate means of attendance. Archived webcasts can be utilized in the form of an educational and promotional equipment (Shapiro, 2009). Parts of the conferences related to sales and marketing tools are edited and re-purposed for attracting future attendees or using them as an educational reference for the new employees and members of the organization.
Advantages of Virtual Events
Saving Time and Money
The most obvious advantage offered by virtual events is related to savings of costs. It is possible to deliver similar great content to the audience at lesser costs, since business have to worry less about airfare, accommodations, food and entertainment. Moreover, planning of face-top-face events is time taking to a large extent (Pearlman and Gates, 2010). A major advantage offered by virtual events is that they are potential of consuming lesser time in deployment.
Virtual events are potential of reaching people with similar content irrespective of their location around the world. Moreover, the experience does not cease when the event ends. It is possible to record live virtual events so that the attendees can go back and access the shared contents with greater ease as well as with their new teammates (Pearlman and Gates, 2010).
Technologies related to virtual events have been continuing to improve, which means that individuals are less likely of experiencing crashes, glitches as well as freeze-frame foolishness that were faced in the past (Pearlman and Gates, 2010). Moreover, when people operate along with corporate event planners, they are more likely of getting access to state-of-the-art technologies as well as highly efficient technicians for ensuring that the virtual event does not face any problem.
Disadvantages of Hybrid Events
Inexperience with Hybrid Events
For the organizational leaders, who are new to the virtual environment, it can possibly be daunting for learning every detail about hosting a hybrid event. The difficulties of creating content, marketing events, finding appropriate speakers as well as the right platform are seen as only minor steps in the processes related to planning (Miller Tanner Associates, 2018).
Limited Infrastructure and Staff
For particularly smaller organizations, possessing limited employees can increase their difficulties related to research, planning and organizing an event along with having to carry out the daily responsibilities (Miller Tanner Associates, 2018).
Managing Technology and Hybrid Event Logistics
Technology increases the possibility of hybrid events, but it is itself known to be complex. There are many issues such that as when an individual attends any event, the person does not even realize if it is taking place in real (Miller Tanner Associates, 2018). One common problem concerning this issue is the insufficiency of bandwidth for events.
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Disadvantages of Virtual Events
During using internet as a communication line, there are high chances of being faced with technical difficulties. This can include anything starting to video lags, disrupted internet connections, mismatched audios or even total loss of videos (Damer, 2008). During live broadcasting, the risks for every such problem are automatically increased, since people rely completely on the internet for connecting to the audience.
Compromised Personal Connection
Although webinars provide individuals with the chance of seeing the faces of their audience, it is not always the case. While presenting before fewer audiences such as during meetings, people do not have the luxuries to interact closely with them (Damer, 2008). However, the bigger the number of audience grows, the less likely it is that people would be able to make personable connections with others.
A major challenge of having a virtual audience is getting their attention. When tasks are operated online, the viewers can multitask and have multiple windows open in addition to their presentation. Because of this, they might miss important information, which can be of potential of compromising their understanding of the presentation and this is perceived as a challenge of virtual events (Damer, 2008).
It has been found through several surveys that adding of virtual attendees with the help of live streaming sessions during physical events is not a loss proposition. It is hard for people in viewing each other when they are not present face-to-face. However, there are always chances of people getting to attend events virtually, when they are not being able to be present there physically (Shapiro, 2016). Not only does the virtual audience grow on a yearly basis, but also possessing hybrid accessibility has been motivating higher number of people to be present at the physical versions of the same event in the following years.
Over the next few years, it is expected that hybrid and virtual events will no more be an industry innovation and would rather be an industry standard. With the help of careful designing of the hybrid experience and making use of 3D immersive technologies, the hybrid set-up is expected to develop into the structure, which would be the most capable of fulfilling the needs of the participants and reflecting the changes in the industry (Yeoman, et al., 2014). While the events industry has traditionally been known to be reticent in the implementation of new technologies, the conception of hybrid and virtual events, in the simplest form, has been known to exist for nearly 10 years. Because of fluctuations in the macro environment, concerns like economic instabilities, terrorism along with increasing fuel costs have acted as drivers for change. These have been affecting the abilities of the delegates in being present at the events. Amongst these situations, the fact persists that technology is gradually catching up with the imagination of people. People have currently been seen to experience a rapidly evolving technological period and the costs are falling drastically. It has been viewed as a perfect outburst of technological aspects that has led to the emergence of hybrid and virtual events. While the hybrid and virtual events have already started being implemented and have been explained as a fast growing segment of the industry, adoption by people has been seen to be slow with just 30 percent organisers making statements that they would be utilizing virtual and hybrid events in the coming days (Yeoman et al., 2014).
The meetings and events industry has evolved beyond its reach as a result of the emerging event technologies along with the influence of Millennials over the last few years. The new focus revolves around developing greater multidisciplinary business events, integrating education and entertainment and engaging attendees in innovative ways and on differing levels. The major transformation in the meetings and events industry in the future days is expected to be centred on the delivery of business events that engages the attendees in highly multidisciplinary ways. For the last few years, the meetings and events industry has emphasized on two trends, which have affected the strategies of meeting design above everything else, specifically the emerging technologies related to events and the growing generation of Millennials (Yeoman, et al., 2014). There had been a growing consensus about the same in the year 2016. In the current period, event technology is perceived as inherent in all aspects of meeting experiences pre-to-post. The conception of hybrid meetings combined with live as well as virtual experiences has been thought to be meaningless in the coming years (Yeoman et al., 2014). This is because digitalization has taken up the responsibility of completely reshaping each and every industry. Event technology is no more perceived as a force, which is driving changes rather an established pillar of all events.
Hybrid and virtual events are known to be an integral part of the events and meetings industry. Hybrid and virtual events have been seen to follow a rising trend. Emerging technologies have been making it more convenient in delivering interactive as well as engaging experiences. In the current period, hybrid events are known to be delivered in simple ways through mobile applications. The technologies used in hybrid and virtual events have been evolving with time. There are various advantages as well as disadvantages of hybrid and virtual events. The advantages of hybrid events include increased participation, converting webcast attendees to in-person attendees and education and promotion. The advantages of virtual events include saving time and money, increased accessibility and improved technology. The disadvantages of hybrid events comprise of inexperience of individuals, limited infrastructure and staff, managing technology and hybrid event logistics, whereas the same in case of virtual events include technical difficulties, compromised personal connection and divided attention. In the future years, it is expected that hybrid and virtual events would no more be an industry innovation and would rather be an industry standard. The major transformation in the meetings and events industry in the future days is expected to be centred on delivering business events that has been seen to engage the attendees in more multidisciplinary ways.
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