by Earl Murtagh-Naughton – Head of Marketing
While many people are still longing for a return to in-person events, the reality is ongoing social distancing protocol means there will still be limited capacity in hotels and venues throughout and Ireland and the UK in the future. The truth is we have also gained far too many benefits and technological advances during the pandemic to simply walk away from virtual events.
Some of those benefits include bigger audience attendance, time and cost savings, greater flexibility, greater opportunity to gather analytics, increased creativity, and improved feedback so it’s easy to see why a hybrid approach is the preferred option going forward.
There are also many challenges facing hotels hosting events post-Covid including facilitating larger audiences, implementing health and safety protocols, and catering to online guests from abroad.
With this in mind, we at IMS are working hard to help both hotels and businesses hoping to host events to prepare for every situation.
Adjusting to the new norm
The world we once knew is very different since the pandemic hit and it is still evolving as everyone continues to adapt to the new norm and work around restrictions in their social, education, entertainment, and working lives. Events and conferences were amongst the first sectors to shut down over a year ago and have yet to fully return.
Thankfully however the hospitality and events industry were already busy innovating pre-Covid, embracing new technology, and seeking new ways to communicate. This allowed for an easier transition and because events were forced to move to a virtual platform in 2020, audiences grew and this means when in-person events return there will still be a need for a virtual element in order to retain these larger audiences and to accommodate those who cannot travel.
This type of hybrid approach will bring together the best of both worlds with hotels able to host in-person events, business meetings, AGMs and networking conferences, etc while still adhering to social distancing regulations in a post-Covid environment.
Preparation is key
Events, exhibitions, meetings, and conferences are huge businesses and a major driver for the hospitality industry. It’s not surprising then that hotels and venues keen to adopt grow and learn from the pandemic welcoming new technology and using a mix of virtual and face to face experiences to help minimise disruption and ensure that events in the music, sport, and business sectors can go ahead even bigger and better than before.
Whether it’s a company conference, a fashion show, sporting event, or a trade show the most important thing is to make sure you have the right team behind you to help you recognise future opportunities and make sure your event is successful.
At IMS we can be your perfect hybrid/virtual events partner and help you to use a multi-faceted approach to help clients to adapt to new telecommunication advances and develop new hybrid concepts. We can also help prepare you with the skills needed to deliver a successful in-person event while also helping you manage the experience online for a larger virtual audience both here in Ireland and abroad.
Embracing the technology
It’s also important to acknowledge that while some changes to meeting protocols introduced during the pandemic were temporary, some will be here to stay. Businesses and companies all over the world have invested in technologies like Zoom and new technology and will be keen to continue to utilise these while also saving money on travel expenses with staff no longer having to travel to every meeting or conference.
International business travel will also be slow to return so adapting to cater for those who would have ordinarily travelled from abroad will also be crucial going forward.
The industry has also upped its game when it comes to the online experience using better cameras, sound, and technology and individuals are also adapting and becoming more proficient at using them.
Hotels are also investing in the latest audio-visual equipment to make sure they can improve experiences for business guests and cater to larger hybrid events. High-speed, high-bandwidth Wi-Fi with a stable connection and spacious work amenities and event spaces with optimum sound insulation, video conferencing capabilities, and appropriate backdrops are just some of the important elements that will need to be provided by hotels hosting an event or welcoming business guests. Hotels will also need to be able to host video-linked or live-streamed conferences and provide suitable neutral spaces where business guests from home can use to connect with their colleagues abroad.
Armed with this new technology and knowledge means there is growing optimism for the meetings and events industry in the year ahead as it continues to re-invent itself going forward. The future of events is exciting and at IMS we are ready to support you with your next event or meeting whether you are hosting them or facilitating them.
Creating impressive hybrid experiences
While some people will undoubtedly miss the old way of doing things, the truth is the industry is constantly changing and the pandemic just served to speed up the process and if we are to maintain the larger audiences we attracted during Covid and also continue to operate safely a hybrid approach is the best way to move forward. At IMS we can help companies to recognise the new creative changes and responsibilities needed to do this and help the industry not only recover but also prosper while ensuring attendee confidence and safety.
Providing a mix of in-person and online guests, hosting the same events two or three times for smaller groups throughout the week and staggering attendee arrival and departure times are just some of the ideas that could help with social distancing and health and safety protocols in the future. Other protocols could include increased PPE, taking attendees’ temperatures, opting for online content over printed brochures, contactless payment options, QR codes, a change in food and drink presentation, and more outdoor spaces. Some features that have proved popular during hybrid events meanwhile include sponsored breaks and games, real-time chat, interactive apps, and on-demand viewing for those who missed the event.
IMS can also help increase interactivity for those taking part online with question and answer sessions, live polls, group breakout rooms, event-specific hashtags, and many other unique virtual experiences. Another crucial element to any hybrid event is the technical team who are there to help you plan, set up, and manage your event and troubleshoot throughout the day. We can help ensure streaming and connectivity and creativity continue throughout your virtual event.
Looking to the future
Even as things slowly start to return to normal, digital alternatives will need to stay in place for the foreseeable future and may need to be adopted permanently as cutting-edge technology makes it easier for attendees to network with each other. So preparing for the future is critical during this time of transition and IMS are here to help and make sure the events industry not only survives but thrives with this new approach at the helm and we can help provide you with everything you need to know about how to engage with audiences and build your brand.
You can contact our team at IMS and we will be happy to help you prepare for your next event regardless of your location or budget and we can also help you navigate any challenges associated with hosting the perfect hybrid experience.