The answer to all these questions is both simple, and complicated: hybrid events.
Simple because it just makes sense to combine all the best elements of physical events, like great content, powerful imagery and sets, and outstanding presentations… with the best of the ‘virtual’ world: slick studio technology, interactive mobile apps, rock-solid streaming platforms.
And complicated, because to do that well is a real challenge.
At VWV, we began very early in lockdown to scour the world for the best technology, and converted our facilities in Kyalami into two permanent broadcast studios, fully equipped for multi-camera shoots on customisable sets.
Then we started learning, the hard way. Because this new hybrid science is fraught with challenges that never existed when everyone was in the same conference room, or theatre, or stadium.
There are literally hundreds of streaming platforms, all with different strengths and weaknesses. Audiences are a combination of a handful of people in the broadcast studio, small groups in remote locations, and individuals behind laptops… all experiencing the event differently. Clients are more terrified of cameras than they were of large audiences. And because Zoom calls are free, it’s difficult for clients to understand that great results will cost money.
But at the core, hybrid events require the same disciplines and rigour that make physical events so compelling: Great creativity. Thorough preparation. Non-negotiable rehearsals. Bulletproof technology. Talented hosting. Flawless timing.
And once we’d settled on those standards, and once we’d helped our clients understand the ‘new normal’, we went back to making magic!So, are hybrid events here to stay? Once again, there are two answers: For all those concerts and sporting contests and brand activations and motivational conferences and product launches and any other event that depends on the unique dynamics created by large audiences, absolutely not. Those kinds of events exist because there are live audiences, and nothing will ever replace that.
But for the countless gatherings that don’t require group acknowledgement or inspiration or motivation, like AGM’s or board meetings or company updates, yes, hybrid events are here to stay. In the USA they have a term for those jaunts away to fancy hotels in Vegas or New Orleans just for a meeting: it’s called a boondoggle. The procurement department will be on the lookout for boondoggles, and saving fortunes in wasted flights and hotels and expensive dinners.
And what does all this mean for experiential agencies like VWV? Quite simply, a different business model, where we never lose our capacity to conceptualise and produce amazing large-scale events and activations, but we embrace a different set of skills and technologies that allow us to produce supremely professional hybrid events.
And that’s exactly what we’ve done!