Many companies, anxious to bridge the gap between virtual and in-person events have found that hybrid events pose an unexpected set of costs and challenges. This has prompted many to simply ‘wait it out’ in favor of in-person experiences. With greater logistical considerations, technological needs, and rising travel costs, hybrid events aren’t cheap, but the cost of not doing them may be even higher.
Just a few months ago, hybrid events were the clear answer — a gradual return to in-person events allowing us to dip our toes into the water without having to jump in fully clothed. While hybrid events address many of today’s meeting challenges, companies exploring them are running into costs they might not have expected:
Intensive Logistics. Hybrid is not as simple as piping a feed from your in-person event to your virtual audience. Creating an engaging experience for both audiences takes care and often more time and resources than do virtual or in-person events alone. In many ways, planners are creating two simultaneous events. While the expectation is that planners create these events at a lower cost, “the price tag of a hybrid [event] might be pretty close to that of an exclusively in-person meeting.” [source: MeetingsNet]
Technology. Hybrid solutions often require a bigger spend on technology in order to properly integrate multiple audiences and provide meaningful experiences. When you consider a virtual event platform, filming and broadcast production, and additional A/V needs, the costs can climb rather quickly.
Travel. For the in-person portion of hybrid events, travel challenges abound. If you’re fortunate enough to navigate the ever-changing world of travel restrictions, you’re then met with rising travel costs as transportation and hospitality sectors look to make up for 2020. According to WSJ, “There’s tons of pent-up demand, and when it spills out into bookings, prices in some markets will surge” and “hotels in prime destinations will seem maddeningly expensive.”
The Cost of Waiting
Considering the costs, it is understandable why many companies worldwide are leaning towards holding off on hybrid events until in-person experiences are deemed safe. But is this the best strategy? A major tradeoff to waiting it out is the toll it takes on your workforce, which can cost companies greatly in the long run.
Workplace stressors are as harmful as secondhand smoke and the global pandemic has exposed us to more than our fair share. It has been reported that ‘COVID-19 could result in a potential 50% increase in the prevalence of behavioral health conditions’ worldwide [source: McKinsey]. Conditions such as depression, anxiety and insomnia limit our ability to function effectively and can result in increased healthcare costs to companies, lower productivity and higher turnover. Related, employee engagement dropped to a record low of 31% in 2020 [source: Gallup], which also negatively impacts productivity and turnover.
Your people value a sense of belonging and need opportunities to meaningfully connect with each other. Whether virtual, hybrid or in-person (where safe), corporate gatherings and events support belonging, clarify goals and purpose, and ignite your corporate culture. Waiting could be detrimental to your workforce and long-term success, and who knows for sure when in-person experiences will officially come back. So what should you do?
Hybrid Done Right
Assuming in-person events are not an option, there are a ton of virtual experiences out there (including SongDivision) that provide highly engaging team experiences. If you’re considering hybrid events, here are three ways to get it right:
Find Common Denominators. It might sound simple, but what works for an in-person audience doesn’t always work for a virtual audience, and vice-versa. Plan your programming by finding solutions that benefit both types of attendees. For instance, limit segments to 30 minutes or less — this ensures that your virtual attendees stay engaged and poses no issue for your in-person audience (they may even find it refreshing).
Break with Purpose. Don’t just leave your virtual audience hanging during session breaks. Look for creative ways to enable interaction between virtual and in-person attendees. For example, send your virtual attendees to breakout rooms and pipe each room to screens setup around the in-person break area — allowing both audiences to network together. Or plan a series of Energy & Well-Being Breaks where virtual and in-person attendees come together to recharge and network using music.
Think Interactively. After a year of virtual meetings, we all have a newfound aversion to lecture-style events — like kryptonite to virtual attendees, they’ll be tuning out and checking emails in no time. It takes a lot to get hybrid audiences engaged, but you’ll be best served by allowing people to interact, have their voices heard and take part in the sessions. For creative ideas on generating engagement while communicating key messaging, check out SongDivision’s virtual & hybrid programming.
For many companies, the cost of waiting for in-person events may be too high. If you’re facing this decision, consider the mental health and engagement of your workforce and whether or not a few additional virtual and/or hybrid touchpoints might be just what they need.
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