Asian event organisers embrace hybrid solutions with open arms

Hybrid or virtual events are the new normal, but experts caution that organising an online event is very different from a virtual one, with more to consider

Event technology, and the rise of hybrid and virtual events these past several months, has given the industry a lifeline by ensuring business still goes on in the pandemic.

According to CEO Veemal Gungadin, most clients are fairly new to virtual and hybrid events.

Hybrid or virtual events are the new normal, but experts caution that organising an online event is very different from a physical one, with more to consider

He said a recent survey the company conducted showed more than 90 per cent of event professionals have never organised such events before, but what was encouraging is that more than 93 per cent were prepared to organise one and are at the learning stage.

He commented was confident many clients will see the value in such events, even those who never believed in virtual and hybrid events but had to make the switch out of necessity.

Gungadin observed: “What surprises clients the most is that (moving events online) requires a whole new way of thinking. They have to think digital first and need a whole new set of skills.”

The organiser of the September 24 APACMed Virtual Forum, one of the first hybrid meetings to take place in Singapore where 50 on-site delegates will be joined by a larger number online, is sold on the concept.

Maryline Marquet, vice president, APACMed, which is working with Chab Events to produce the hybrid event, said she is able to expand her reach with five global CEOs speaking, compared to only one for its previous editions.

Marquet also noted costs will be reduced and she is optimistic of reaching at least the same attendance in 2019 with about 1,000 delegates from 31 countries, the event’s best showing to date.

She explained that as the Asia Pacific Medical Technology Association’s flagship event, all-out effort and high costs were involved in the past. With the 2020 cost being lower and the global reach better, future hybrid editions will more sustainable.

While seamless, powerful and flexible event technology is necessary, Oscar Cerezales, chief operating officer Asia Pacific and global executive president corporate division, MCI Group, pointed out that it is only an enabler and part of the whole equation.

He said: “We help our clients design the event without a full focus in technology as all platforms work. By design we mean applying our design methodology, applying neuroscience, defining new metrics, co-developing the business model, increasing engagement, and adding coding to connect the client’s technology with other technology.”

Prudential Corporation Asia, which formulated an all-digital engagement strategy to enable its agents to continue to learn and connect with customers during lockdown and social distancing in place, picked MCI Singapore to deliver broadcast digital experiences to more than 100,000 agents in markets it operates in.

As part of the preparations, MCI helped to set up a broadcast centre, conducted online speaker training and developed easy-to-use broadcast kits for speakers.

Cerezales said: “If you ask me what the main problem is for some online events, is the lack of engagement due to a lack of digital design.

“Digital event design and face-to-face event design are two different animals, where the content for the former has to be more interactive and engaging to overcome the lower attention span in the virtual space,” he added.

And while event organisers may have adapted to the disruption, as Kitty Wong, president, K&A International opined that virtual meetings are two-dimensional and cannot replace the five senses used in face-to-face communication.

Wong said: “Technology can support, but it cannot replace social interaction”, adding that online events can be costly with production, scripting, directing and rehearsals to create audience engagement, otherwise efficiency is low.

“In general, people do not know how to be on camera,” she observed.

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