To hybrid or not to hybrid



# tags: Events

In December, IAPCO and AIPC published a joint research paper on hybrid. It provides a unique insight on how the thinking on hybrid has evolved over the last 18 months.

The paper, called “Hybrid Events, just how profound a pivot?” is based on over 30 interviews with industry though leaders, 75 articles, 30 reports and a wide array of other information sources. This article gives an overview of the key insights.

The first insight is there are still a lot of questions around what hybrid exactly is. This may come as a surprise, given that for example sports have been using hybrid for decades. The final F1 race in Abu Dhabi, which took place on December 12th, is a great example: a combination of live, digital and broadcast, delivering a great experience on all fronts (the fact that the title was decided in the last round might have helped). As a result, there is also no clear view on the value hybrid brings, although there is a shared view on the key benefits, such as reach, data exploitation, sustainability, etc.

The second key insight is that – as an industry – we are in a state of flux: transitioning, but not very smooth, uniform or organized. The current state has 5 key characteristics:

  1. Market definition still lacking

  2. Demand for live persists

  3. Technology not there yet

  4. Feature demands increasing

  5. Business models in flux

These five characteristics are of course interrelated: the fact that the market landscape is still unstable has a direct impact on business models. The key reasons for the current state are the speed with which solutions have been defined and implemented, the diverse background of the solution providers and of course the lack of experience.

Here, it’s important to note that hybrid is a new offering, which needs to be included in an overall value proposal, which is in the case of organized events is still about economic growth and social transformation.

The third key finding is about the solutions themselves and the resources needed. The initial outburst of solutions – early in the pandemic, thousands of them were developed – is now followed by a major market concentration in 2021, resulting into higher quality and proven tracks records. Organizers also have a better view on requirements – not only from the interactive side of things, but also when it comes user assistance, set-up, analytics and – very importantly – cyber security. There is also a better view on resources needed and this proves to be quite substantial. Basically, successful hybrid events will have 3 teams: one running the live event, one running the digital event and one coordinating between both.

From a convention center point of view, flexibility is the key word. To quote one of the persons interviewed: “We have a platform, but we are platform agnostic, as we aim foremost to accommodate the client. If that client has his or her own ideas about the program ana a platform preference, we facilitate.”

The fourth set of findings are about the user experience and what customer think of hybrid experiences and can be summarized as follows:

  1. Choosing a provider or partner can be challenging. The search and evaluation process is more complex, also because it involves market players – which can be established names – who are now entering the events space. In addition, there are no established quality standards and not all providers have actual event expertise

  2. Creating interaction is very challenging, especially for exhibitions or with very large audiences. Certain elements of a live event can simply not be translated into digital.

  3. While data analytics is a key benefit, the concerns about security, privacy and data ownership remain

And finally, there are the business models. The paper describes nine (9!) emerging business models, from the “one stop shop” (or Swiss knife model) to subscription model. All these models are being tested and implemented by different market players across the globe and so far, no dominant model has emerged. Definitely an area to continue to watch.

While the paper does not provide the ultimate answer to all the questions related to hybrid events, it does provide some unique insights, also when it comes to opportunities around education, eco-system creation, reaching unserved markets, etc. Hybrid is definitely part of the future of organized events and will allow to evolve to the next level of creating unique experiences.

© Sven Bossu Opinion