What is a Conference?

A conference is a specific type of event that gathers individuals with a mutual interest to listen to an expert speaker or speakers. They are generally organised for business, academic, or political purposes and will usually be private, paid events. Customarily, conferences take place over a number of days and adopt a more formal nature.

Conferences exist under the umbrella of ‘events’ which can be used to describe any type of organized happening. They function as a fantastic tool for increasing awareness, be it for a brand, product, or general topic, and additionally serve as a significant opportunity for attendees to network with other industry professionals, often internationally.

Post-COVID-19 Conferencing Options

Whilst the various restrictions, logistics and general attendee apprehensions have changed the face of conference events, they have also opened up new possibilities and futures for the world of conferencing. So, what are the main options for conference events in the post covid-19 climate?

Live Conferencing

The appeal of live conferencing evidently still persists despite the trials and tribulations of the past year. The traditional benefits of in-person events remain a strong push factor for getting back to a live space, with 68% of entry-level professionals valuing face-to-face networking more than online. Yet, there are undoubtedly new challenges to overcome in the wake of the pandemic.

A live conference event is simply a conference held in a physical space where attendance is in-person. Prior to the pandemic, this was the customary format for conference events and had we not had the same gravity of impact that 2020 brought, then arguably, we wouldn’t even be considering the future possibilities for conference events at all.

As it stands, the pandemic has significantly altered our modern-day reality and compelled us to view things differently. Conference managers will now have to consider amplified traditional limitations as well as entirely novel constraints. Whilst there has been a lift on restrictions in recent months and assurances that we have seen an end to national lockdowns (in the UK), there is still a very real risk that such restrictions could return if deemed necessary, leaving organisers with cold feet as a result of the tentative fate that accompanies the live domain.

Live conference limitations don’t stop at the logistical level. It is now, more than ever, fundamental to consider the apprehensions of your audience. Although most of us would love to return to the normality of a pre-covid world, there is no doubt that the past year and half has been deeply unsettling and understandably there are persistent feelings of reluctance towards mixing and integrating in a crowded environment. There is also still hesitancy with booking travel arrangements and travelling in general. Lingering restrictions complicate this process and many individuals simply avoid the hassle by not committing to attending live events. For larger international conference events, organisers can expect to see a significant slice of this demographic subtracted.

Virtual (Online) Conferencing

Early 2020 saw many countries worldwide enter periods of extended ‘lockdown’ and during these initial stages of the pandemic the world was forced to adapt. Retreating to the security of our homes we found refuge in an online domain and consequently started operating in an entirely new way. Video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams saw a surge of interest and use during the 2020-21 COVID19 pandemic, and have very much become the norm of a modern-day working routine.

At the most basic level, video conferencing is a technology that allows users in different locations to hold face-to-face meetings without having to move to a single location together. However, the possibilities of virtual conferences are so much more than this. Limiting the definition of virtual conferencing to what is essentially, an online webinar, would be a massive disservice to what is, in actuality, an extremely exciting and opportunistic event space.

We now have the technology to create engaging virtual events. DBpixelhouse can assist with virtual event on-site integration, virtual event production, creating virtual event user interfaces, studio design and construction, and virtual event support . By harnessing the superpowers of virtual offerings: wider audiences, lower costs (environmentally & financially), far superior live data, and huge libraries of on-demand and live content, virtual conferencing unquestionably positions itself as an excellent alternative in the post-covid climate.

Hybrid Conferencing

With there being obvious benefits to conferencing in both a physical and virtual space, it seems only natural that event companies would try to combine these offerings by finding a way of bridging the gap between physical and virtual audiences.

Hybrid conferencing combines virtual elements to a live (in-person) event. This is more than just live streaming a physical event to reach wider audiences, and more about utilising technology in a way that enables both audiences to interact and share the experience together.

Hosting hybrid events maximises important event objectives through boosting engagement, doubling up on data collection, and expanding your events reach. In reducing the live capacity of an event, the total costs as well as environmental impacts are likely to be reduced and could save significant time and money, particularly if you’re hosting an international audience. The flexibility of hybrid conferencing events makes them a convincing option in a post-covid climate as they are not looking to completely replace traditional events, but add a layer of insurance.

That said, planning hybrid events creates a reasonable concern in effective execution. Hybrid events are just as mission critical as any other if not more. Of all conferencing options, hybrid is the only event type that requires catering to the needs of two separate audiences. It is fundamental that a hybrid event directs equal attention to both the live and virtual audience to ensure success. Failing to do so would make the precise hybrid nature of the event entirely futile.

Predictions for the Future

For better or worse Covid-19 has forced us to re-think how we organise and hold conference events. There is undoubtedly a new push to the virtual aspects of hybrid and virtual events in order to combat the current pressures. The events industry is at an evolutionary turning point. Live events certainly aren’t a thing of the past, but equally, virtual and hybrid events are here to stay.

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