For transparency, I attended the WebSummit as a guest of Siemens and this article was published in paid partnership with Siemens. Siemens is only paying for my time, not for my opinion.
As 2020 winds to a close. I think it’s fair to say that all of us have spent more time online looking into a camera in the past 9 months than we would ever have imagined. While it has been far from perfect and can be very tiring to be ‘on show’ all day, it has been a lifeline for many of us to do business, to stay engaged, to feel connected.
One of the key themes at this year’s WebSummit was around the Future of Work. We had our #SIEx #FutureWorkChat, Elisa Ronka lead one of the #FutureofWork panels and I attended a bunch of other sessions on the topic. Now while the “Future of Work’ has a huge scope, I had a particular interest to see what folks were saying around the future of B2B events.
So grab a drink and I’ll share my two cents.
When is comes to B2B events, there are three key drivers I see as to why Hybrid Events are here to stay;
1 – We’re not going back to ‘normal’
A common thread through all the sessions and chats was, no matter how optimistic one is in relation to vaccines and us dealing with COVID19, we will never go back to the old model where having to be there in person was the only option. 2020 has shown us that while not perfect, being there ‘virtually’ can work and opens up new opportunities. Today, ‘every event is now a global event’. You may want to have 1000 paying people in the room for the keynote. Good. But why not broadcast it as well to a global audience at the same time. Maybe you charge them as well.
As a company, you may have your staff doing in-booth presentations for whoever walks by. Why not broadcast these? All you need is a smartphone and an internet connection. We’ve all proved that the technology works and it does not cost much. Why would you not use it?
Now this has some implications. You would need to change how you plan for a physical event. How you lay out the booth may change, how you market your presence at the event will change. Before 2020, most of us planned physical and online events as two completely separate things. That’s not valid anymore. It’s about planning for a hybrid model.
2 – Data, data and more data
A major ‘a-ha’ moment for me was in one of the discussions, where people from the music industry, entertainment, gaming, tradeshows, conferences etc all agreed that they have been blown away with the amount of data you can gather from virtual events. Now I know gathering ‘data’ is a double-edged sword but bear with me.
Via many of the online event platforms, the range of date you can get back to see who clicked on what session, what topics really interested them, how long they stayed watching the session is very impressive.
When you take this data and apply some analytics, the possibilities to be able to follow up with a targeted messaging on a specific topic are endless. Compare that to the 500 badges you scanned on a physical booth but you have no idea if they were a potential customer, or they simply wanted the free giveaway.
This ‘data’ genie is out of the bottle and is not going back in. So, I’d expect that when we do get back to physical events, expect to see way more ‘engaging’ mobile apps for a physical event, simply to get this data. A hybrid model.
3 – Augmented Experiences
For those of ye that know me, you will know I’ve being trying out various new online tools, platforms, augmented reality and virtual reality (VR) solutions during 2020. Many of these come from different industries, like education, the gaming industry and so on. Even my wife’s been off meditating in VR environments.
But to be clear, while I’m a big fan of VR, I don’t expect us all to get a VR headset from Santa and on the 1st week of January we will all be off at a VR Energy event. That is not going to happen. VR ‘headset’ experiences are still a niche. But a growing one.
What I do expect to see is more ‘virtual’ environment’s, more ‘augmented experiences’ to become common. Think of having a QR code in the virtual booth, you scan it with the event app and you get an Augmented Reality (AR) model of the product in your home office via your phone.
And expect to see more AR headsets out and about in 2021. CES 2021 is just around the corner, so expect to see a lot of new tech & gadgets for augmented experiences making the news. And you very well may end up using some of them in 2021, either at a physical event or online. Again, a hybrid model.
Now you may think I am off in a world of my own? … Maybe I am 🤔
But stop for a second and just look at what Siemens have been up to this year. They pivoted very quickly to virtual events. In June for their Grid Edge Summit and their Mobility Day, some folks were in a studio using huge green screens, others in their home office, all merged it a virtual environment. Last month for #SPSdialog, more green screen tech with some intricate 3D animated models, plus you could go off and visit 3D virtual booths.
Then last week they had hundreds of people networking during an internal conference, each one running around on a virtual island with their own avatar.
If you do not believe me, just go to twitter and search for #SCC2020 #awesomecomms.
So as 2020 draws to a close, I honestly think the B2B ‘events’ game has changed. As we all adapt to our 2021+ #FutureofWork routines, as far as I can see, hybrid events are here to stay.
My two cents.