May 2012 . www.conference-news.co.uk . 23 HYBRID EVENTSll types of hybrid car have one thing in common: two power sources. Hybrid events also bring two power sources: digital and live marketing come together to provide a new kind of event fusion.However, when the worlds of digital and live marketing meet, the resultant hybrid event presents both challenges and opportunities for planners who struggle to understand the options available.The digital message does seem to be getting through, however, according to Vok Dams' German-based Institute for Live-Marketing. A 2009 White Paper from the company showed that 40 per cent of companies considered digital marketing to be a vital component in the execution of live events; with 49 per cent using digital marketing to extend the reach of their event promotion efforts. However, a caveat is that simple email marketing was the dominant tool.The trouble is, while these words and phrases are being bandied around, getting clear defi nitions can be a challenge. In a Meeting Professionals International (MPI) research report launched earlier this year, 60 per cent of respondents agreed they would recommend virtual or hybrid AOur very own original industry hybrid, Richard John takes a look at the latest research into hybrid and virtual eventsmeetings, yet a remarkable 75 per cent said they had no formal definition of these and 72 per cent had no policy for handling such events.For beginners, the new technology can be daunting, but essentially it's about considering what social media can be included in all phases of an event. Before the date, platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Linked In offer invitation opportunities. Additionally, the use of event apps offer a mobile dimension; and with smartphone penetration expected to reach 40 per cent next year, no organiser can afford to miss this opportunity.The same technology can be used during the event, with interactive event walls and online communities. There are new websites, such as Pinterest, and it is easy for a program such as Videobuilder can be used as a portal for relevant videos on Get your hybrid motor running
HYBRID EVENTS24 . www.conference-news.co.uk . May 2012May employees can connect to ETB via their browsers to take part in instant surveys, submit questions and provide feedback to presenters. Now anyone can submit a question via their browser - and they do, sometimes hundreds in a single episode!" Davies has also introduced roving reporters to get employees talking. "We reached the point where employees were getting tired of the usual suspects asking all the questions. So we came up with the concept of the ETB reporter to help manage the gap between presenter and audience," he says. The ETB has two reporters in every European location coordinating audience interaction. Each has access to ETB Live so they can pose attendees' questions to the presenters, while teams in Omaha and Dublin oversee all technical management. "We treat the ETB as a television show, not a business meeting," Davies adds.Just how motivated and informed are Ebay's employees thanks to the ETB? The 2011 annual survey indicates that a staggering 99 per cent of the audience believe ETB "keeps me in touch with Ebay Europe business strategy."Finally, a heads up: MPI is currently involved in research about hybrid events, with results out later this year, but of almost 2,000 responses, almost 75 per cent agreed that"ultimately all events will become hybrid because technology will be a part of every conference that we produce." Time to get on board. Yet some companies are streaking away from the pack. Technology giant IBM, set up a 'Virtual Events Center' in 2010 to "cluster the knowledge and learning around the optimal design and execution of virtual meetings". In just a year the centre had delivered 225 events across the globe. The stimulus was the dramatic downturn in the economy in 2009, which curtailed much of the traditional corporate travelling to live events. Consequently, many of the perceived challenges and barriers that surrounded virtual events were addressed in order to deliver the necessary standard of event.However, IBM's success shows the need for senior management commitment and understanding; it also demonstrates the new skills that event managers will need. Traditional areas, such as management of AV, F&B, accommodation and travel, all required in the past, now become much less signifi cant; instead knowledge about meetings architecture, bandwidth and virtual facilitation and engagement become de rigueur. And if you want to gauge just how big hybrid events can be, check out the YouTube videos for software giant SAP's 'Sapphire Now' events. The numbers are astounding, both at the real events and the virtual environments.The MPI report also showed that many organisations tentatively dipping their toe into the virtual and hybrid world are doing so without the necessary internal skills or technical knowledge. Consequently, much of the guidance comes from suppliers, who may have a vested interest in generating a degree of mystique about hybrid events. However, there are companies who can demonstrate the success that marrying the physical and digital together can achieve. Ebay's European Team Brief (ETB) is an interactive video conference uniting team members in designated viewing rooms every Monday morning. Attendance has grown to 700 in 12 countries. Ebay's Richard Davies explained the company wanted to create a far higher level of interactivity, and opted for Crystal Interactive's browser-based audience response tool. "This really works for an audience like ours where everyone carries a smartphone or laptop to the meeting," said Davies. "By using our internal Wi-Fi, Ultimately all events will become a hybrid event because technology will be a part of every conference that we producesites such as YouTube and Vimeo. Special aggregators like Friendfeed.com and Tumblr.com bundle the contents of different platforms. This is a relatively new area, that of 'content curation', but get used to it.And applications such as QR codes can be used to drive visitors to microsites and link to downloadable presentations. In the next couple of years, expect to see the development of augmented reality software; viewing an item through the camera of your smartphone will provide a combination of real and virtual scenario.After the event, the increasing capacity of internet, plus the development of 4G will allow for swift dissemination of video presentations and the ongoing curation of a wealth of expert knowledge, all delivered seamlessly to a screen near you. Expect discussion forums and online games to feature as activities to build and strengthen brand image.This new form of communication also requires the mastering of new skills. Organisers need to understand a large element of time should be spent exploring the digital universe, in order to fi nd out where the potential audiences are lurking. For the less techno-savvy that could be a challenge, but it can mean exploring blogs, forums, webinars, websites, networks, in fact any platform the target group is present. Both the MPI and Vok Dams research reveals that new rules are required for hybrid events. The online element needs careful design, building on the lessons learned from a decade of e-learning; skilled facilitation for getting delegates involved who can't be physically present; and then ensuring the effective dissemination of all this newly created, and curated, content.