Rethinking Hybrid and Online Events

To say the last few years have been unprecedented is both true and overstated. There is every fatigue imaginable and likely a few more we haven’t considered and still we gather to do our work. So what do we make of the huge changes we’ve all experienced when it comes to convening a group and the subsequent backlashes to all of the tech that has been the foundation of our gatherings (both professionally and personally) for the last few years?

There is the “I’m never doing an online event ever again!” response. Get me back to the 4 day jam packed conferences where I get to meet up with colleagues, eat boxed lunches and hold the app – give me a booklet so that I can dog-ear or sticky note the sessions I’m planning to attend. Keep your virtual backgrounds and save your tips on how to use a ring light without them reflecting in my glasses for someone else.

There is the “why do we ever have to meet in person ever again?” response. I’m cozy, I’m connected, I’m effective and efficient, and the “dig out” from my job and home responsibilities is less onerous compared to when my only option for a conference was the multi-day, once a year event.

For most of us we’re likely somewhere in the middle of either of the above. Maybe we’d like to connect in person for some things, but we generally get the same information from most information sessions whether they are online or in-person. Yes, it would be nice to get out of our day to day and be exposed to new ideas, but do we have to leave our city or region to do that?

It is exciting to see that new types of hybrid professional development events are happening. It used to be that a hybrid event meant that you’d have an audience in-person and an audience online with speakers often giving the same presentation twice to two difference audiences. If you attended online you might only get a subset of the content being presented at the physical location and you might have to pay an extra fee to watch the recordings of those sessions when they were available sometimes weeks after the event concludes. Much of this can still be an effective and practical solution to address the needs of your audience.

However, we are starting to see a new style of hybrid event where the more social and networking opportunities of an in-person conference happen regionally or in the closest big city, the information and learning sessions take place online either live or pre-recorded (possibly with a live Q&A), and then a closing session that might be broadcast from one location to those same satellite locations or the option to attend from home watching via computer. Organizations find this option also effective and practical and has the added benefit of low impact on attendees and the environment. A few great examples of this “new hybrid” are the Allied Media Conference and the California Small Farm Conference.

How are you thinking about your events in 2023? Are you considering various hybrid approaches, focusing on in-person, found new opportunities with online only? We’d love to talk with you to help you plan your events. We focus on taking the production role off your plate so that you can focus more on the content and people.

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