For years, the main focus of events was to bring people together in person in a physical setting. Whether it was for learning, networking or socialising it didn’t matter. The general idea was to encourage people to leave their homes, travel and meet as many people as possible at the event.
Whilst there were virtual and hybrid events, they were very few in number. They were a small minority in comparison to the sheer number of in-person events, exhibitions and conferences.
A bloody nose from Covid-19
Well, that was the position until Covid-19 came along and gave in-person events a bloody nose. The virus stopped events, travel and crossing borders. And it did so with effortless ease. This was (and is) a deadly disease that appeared from nowhere. It continues to exert a stranglehold on the events and other sectors and will continue to do so until there is a vaccine available to help people live with the virus.
Not surprisingly, in recent months, there has been an explosion of virtual events and technology suppliers have been hard at work improving their offering to help event planners. This activity has led to changes that are bound to impact the decision making of delegates for future event attendance.
In addition to virtual events, there is now focus on hybrid events being the new normal post-COVID. Hybrid events offer the perfect solution for delegates. These events combine both in-person and virtual components. And that is their beauty.
Coronavirus brought with it for most people real levels of anxiety and stress. Whilst some people have played down its effect, the majority of people have treated it with utmost caution. Stress and anxiety are, of course, not helpful for people’s mental well-being.
How can event formats affect attendees’ well-being?
Unfortunately, stress can appear in different forms for people. Some people would be horrified to have to speak in public, whereas others would welcome the opportunity with open arms. Even with events, you can inadvertently create anxiety levels in delegates by asking them to undertake activities that make them feel uncomfortable. For an extrovert, the idea of talking to everyone in a room would no doubt energise them. However, ask an introvert to do the same thing and you will get a very different response. They may well ask you where the exit is!
In very broad terms, extroverts are talkative and outgoing, while introverts are quiet and private. Introverts replenish their energy levels when they are in quiet environments. Unlike extroverts, they find socialising and busy environments overstimulating and too demanding.
Whilst that is very general and the understanding of personality types is a complex subject, it is sufficient for the argument that follows.
The brilliant news for all event delegates, and some of this is due to COVID, is that their choice is now front and centre. It is no longer hidden by the avalanche of in-person events being the only game in town. Virtual events and the virtual component of a hybrid event go toward offering choice for delegates.
Hybrid events work for the people that want to go for the meeting of other people at a physical location. There are many people that cannot wait until the country lockdowns are lifted and they can go out again.
Hybrid events also work for the people that enjoy the virtual format. They can choose to attend the virtual programme and can connect from anywhere as long as they have a web-link.
But wherever you are on the extrovert-introvert personality continuum, hybrid events continue to offer choice.
For example, whether you are more extrovert than introvert you still have the choice of attending a hybrid event virtually. This is especially useful for those times when diary conflicts arise.
And if you have never ever wanted to go to networking functions at in-person events, now you don’t have to. You can enjoy the virtual programme and not have to leave your home.
Having choice is not without its challenges. According to research, It is commonly assumed in affluent, Western, democratic societies that by enhancing opportunities for choice, freedom and well-being are enhanced.
However, the relationships between choice, freedom, and well-being are complex. The value of choice in itself may depend on culture, and even in cultural contexts that value choice, too much choice can lead to paralysis, bad decisions, and dissatisfaction with even good decisions.
Hybrid events give positive choice
Having said that, in my opinion, more choice for event delegates is a positive thing. If delegates can choose which elements of a hybrid event they go to, the more in control they will feel which adds to their sense of mental well-being. Without hybrid events, their only option would have been to have attended an in-person event.
Regardless of whether you agree with my argument that hybrid events help promote a healthier mind, one thing has become crystal clear, event design is more crucial than ever. Events need to be produced that maximise the opportunities for all personality types.
By offering hybrid events you are giving greater choice and in my book, that means you are helping with the mental well-being of all delegates.
Paul Cook will be moderating a panel on The Future of Venues at IBTM World Virtual this year as part of our IBTM TV content stream.
Find out more here.
You may also be interested in…
- In-Person vs Virtual Events: No Contest
- How are organisers infusing technology in events?
- Can tech innovations really improve our meetings and events?