Last week we hosted a webinar that explored ‘Working in a virtual world: Comparing the impact of virtual vs in-person events’.

In a jam-packed hour, the panel discussed the behavioural characteristics that underpin live vs. virtual events, their limitations and how we can use this information to create better events. They also explored what successful hybrid events might look like and where technology will take us next.

The panel discussion was based around our recently published white paper, Working in a virtual world: Comparing the impact of virtual vs in-person interactions, authored by panellists Diana Sanchez PHD and Tamara Skootsky from San Francisco State University

Here are 5 key things we learned from the session.

Using ‘intentional event design’ can help us create better events

Intentional event design very much relates to the goals of the event. Its being intentional about the features we use to allow people to engage and connect in order to meet those objectives.

Virtual and hybrid events allow people to find the avenues in which they want to interact, giving accessibility and flexibility to the event structure.

Virtual environments can create a more equitable playing field

One of the more commonly discussed benefits of virtual interactions is the ability to reach people who would not be able to otherwise attend in person.

In normal circumstances, this could be due to a number of reasons such as physical disability, illness, financial considerations, or time constraints; in the present moment, this also includes governmental restrictions and health recommendations. Most of these obstacles are resolved when people can participate virtually from wherever they are, whenever they want.

Successful hybrid events need to provide value for both audiences

Hybrid events aren’t new – Glastonbury is a hugely successful hybrid event, for example. It provides two separate experiences to two different audiences who are looking to take part in the event in very different ways.

What’s vital is to provide value to both audiences, providing exclusive content for each.

To create a successful hybrid event, it’s important to start with the objectives to first work out if they will be met by a hybrid experience, then hone in on the audience and find out what they want to get from the event and how they want to experience it.

Hybrid events provide an opportunity for guests to ‘choose their own adventure

As hybrid events begin to become more common, attendees will start to develop expectations about what they look like. Therefore, basic needs addressed, such as how to access the event, which platforms will be used and how people connect at these events – these factors will eventually create a sense of ‘norms’.

Over time, we’ll see more of a desire for integration between the two audiences – digital and in-person – they’ll want to connect and interact across the two worlds.

Hybrid provides an opportunity to offer attendees various options of how they want to attend an event and how much they want to engage.

Technology will help advance networking both virtually and in-person

Advances in the utilisation of technology at events will provide better opportunities for engagement and networking, this could be notifications that nudge you when you’ve encountered the same person multiple times or if you have similar interests.

Technology can also create ways to break the ice or start conversations, similar to the mechanisms we see in dating apps, for example, that also bridge the gap between in-person and virtual interaction.

Looking for more? Download the full white paper below or watch the full panel discussion here.