Ricky Kapur, head of Asia-Pacific, Zoom, explains why hybrid events will continue to enjoy a substantial portion of the meetings pie thanks to its flexibility, inclusivity and how it circumvents quarantines and pre-event testings
Once considered an alternative to face-to-face events when the physical was simply not possible, virtual events have since taken on a life of their own.
Technology, experience, and to some extent, experimentation have expanded the possibilities of what and how virtual events can look like. In fact, the Asia-Pacific region is set to become the fastest-growing regional market for virtual events. With virtual events today no longer just an option but an expectation, the next stage of their evolution has arrived: hybrid events.
Over the course of the pandemic, event organisers have sought to break away from the traditional, pre-pandemic notion of virtual events. Think multi-day and multi-track support, ticketing options and even post-event data tracking – virtual events platforms have evolved to be fit-for-purpose, allowing organisers to scale and tweak on demand.
Some are even able to replicate live networking among attendees, speakers, and sponsors with virtual expo floors and topic-based booths that allow both one-on-one chats and the ability to interact freely with other participants – as if in person.
Yet, going virtual is only the first step of the equation.
As vaccination rates increase and countries in the region start to reopen, virtual events now need to evolve to meet a different set of demands. For one, there remains a preference for face-to-face communications, especially when it comes to physical networking.
However, organisations are not ready to give up the convenience, time and cost savings of hosting virtual events. Similarly, the potential of reaching wider audiences from around the world at a scale that has not been possible before is hard to reject. For attendees, flexibility is key, where they can better manage their work schedules and personal commitments around these events. The safe virtual medium also takes away any complexities around pre-event testing and quarantine.
Adopting a hybrid approach to events presents a win-win solution as it allows both organisations and attendees to zoom in on what matters most – the experience. Itâ€™s not uncommon to see advanced technologies like AI and AR/ VR come into play on the virtual platform, bringing features like live translation and transcription into the event experience. This helps to create a unique, inclusive and interactive experience for all, regardless of language preferences or needs. This in itself is hard to achieve in a purely physical setting.
Where inclusivity is concerned, the virtual medium has also allowed individuals with physical limitations to participate meaningfully at events from where they are. The physical aspect completes the experience, allowing attendees to continue enjoying the engagement and intimacy from live segments – but better, coupled with the increased interactivity, flexibility and scale that the virtual platform offers.
For organisers, ease of use shapes the experience of hosting and organising events. In fact, the tools that are required to enable such effective and engaging hybrid events are readily available. Employee town halls, for example, can easily leverage video communications platforms that are already being utilised on the day-to-day.
The integration of technology with events has been a gamechanger in the pandemic era, but the blend of physical and virtual channels is set to elevate the potential of events even further. From conferences and tradeshows to internal town halls and even mass religious celebrations, the hybrid approach brings together the best of both digital and physical channels to facilitate more engaging, inclusive and seamless experiences.
We saw how quickly employees around the world took to hybrid work. With hybrid events beginning to take centrestage, it might only be a matter of time until this approach becomes the default.
Ricky Kapur is head of APAC for Zoom, bringing over 25 years of experience to his role. Prior to joining Zoom, Kapur was vice president of sales and marketing operations at Microsoft APAC. Before joining Microsoft, Kapur served as managing director at Google where he was responsible for overseeing the growth of the Google Cloud Platform across APJ. He also worked at Oracle, Siebel Systems, Unica Corporation, and Chordiant Software.