Digital Events - Is going Hybrid the Future?

A Follow-Up Chat with Prof. Dr. Sven Prüser

With the unexpected impact of the global pandemic, the event industry has faced numerous challenges. However, this has also opened up new opportunities and potentials for event organizers who turn their eyes to digital solutions

In the fast-paced times of digital transformation, many find themselves wondering how to plan and produce a successful hybrid or digital event. For most industry leaders, the answer is simple.

Among event professionals, there is no doubt that the future of the event industry is going to be hybrid with a large component of digital features. This way, digital extensions will improve the physical event experience and influence it even more in the future.

After the successful Volume 1 of the Deep Dive Series, Prof. Dr. Sven Prüser was kind enough to answer some of the remaining questions from the viewers of the live panel discussion.

Which incentives do you think will be used to encourage companies and people to attend in-person vs digitally?

S.P.: On the one hand, content. Significant content is much more relevant than any technical gadget. The better the content, the better the contacts, the more likely it is that someone jumps in. On the other hand, networking. Networking is too important to miss any opportunity. So I hope that networking opportunities will be offered everywhere in the digital and analogue world. That is until now nothing new. However, people have become and will become even pickier. The decision about which event to attend, will be taken much more carefully, because the value of time and time spent together also increased due to the pandemic.

What is your opinion about multi-hub meetings?

S.P.: The idea is not new. Nevertheless, I guess multi hub events will be more common in the near future. The difficulty is only to carefully take into consideration that different parts of the world are located in different time zones and the content needs to be adjusted according to the respected local needs.

What do you think about hybrid events including several "public viewing spots" and not only having one on-site location and one digital extension?

S.P.: For some purposes an open access approach might be useful. E.g. if you want to recruit young talents and/or if you want to initiate a dialog with the society. However, most events increase their value if they are a closed shop for insiders (and those who want to become insiders). Nevertheless, hybrid provides the opportunity to combine both formats. In this sense, for me good hybrid meetings will be the ones which will reach a significant audience already in the run-up and maybe even more during an extended follow-up.

Digital events have also offered new opportunities for inclusion. People are not forced to travel to on-site locations and can choose to access the events remotely. Which opens up the event participation opportunities massively. Do you also foresee that inclusion tools such as real-time interpreting will increase in your events?

S.P.: Yes, absolutely. On the one hand, it kindly applies social pressure on those who are not engaged or aware of these important aspects. On the other hand tearing down barriers becomes more and more easier (and cheaper), so you can integrate every time more and more digital components into events.  

We talk a lot about digitalization, but what impact will this development have on the analogue part, the exhibition hall - just less and somewhat smaller? Or shouldn't we also rethink or at least adapt the use of exhibition halls?

S.P.: For the next five years the demand for space will be lower than 2019. The demand for Broadband supply and the like will increase. However, the most relevant demand growth will take place in the sector of relevant data (e.g., visitors and their preferences). The more we know about our counterparts, the better it is going to be for the events in the future.

Is the trade fair location Germany in danger because Asia and the USA are more successful in fighting COVID? Could the big fairs move from Germany to Asia or the USA?

S.P.: Yes, it is. Furthermore, outside of the EU the regulators handle privacy more pragmatically and do not see it as 'an end in itself'. Therefore everything from the digital world which supports success is much easier implementable compared to the EU. This gives the rest of the world a competing edge.

How important will augmented and virtual reality solutions be for hybrid events? Are they nice to have or must have options?

S.P.: VR, AR and / or MR will only become significant features for events if the event's relevant audience is already prepared for these technologies. For some events mixed reality tools will be helpful. The bottleneck is the visitor's access to broadband and computing power. 

Prof. Dr. Sven M. Prüser (born 1962 in Bogotá) started his career in 1989 as strategic consultant for trade show organizers. After finishing his doctor’s thesis (‘Network Marketing’) he joined Messe Berlin 1996. There he became responsible for IFA, Europe’s leading consumer electronic show. The successful engagement for IFA provoked Deutsche Messe to ask him to take over and build up the international activities of the group of companies in 2001.

After tripling the international business, Deutsche Messe placed the responsibility for its most important event, CeBIT, on Mr. Prüser in 2006. He successfully professionalized the concept of the event, which was the leading ICT Show at that time, and reorganized sales structures as well as marketing activities. After nearly 20 years of operations in the trade show business and its related industries he decided to return to academia to spend more time on researching on the impact of digitalization on the industry and especially marketing.

He is a Professor for Business Administration at the HTW Berlin, University of Applied Sciences.

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