EXCLUSIVE | Piyush Gupta, Kestone: The future of events is hybrid

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Piyush Gupta, President, Kestone, in an exclusive piece for MediaBrief, writes about how hybrid events are transforming the events industry, why they are popular amongst marketers and audiences, the hybrid events tech trends that will drive marketing in the new normal, and more. 

Piyush joined Kestone in 2005 as a fresher in the operations team and moved to manage pivotal clients for Kestone. In 2012, Piyush took over the role of President and was assigned the responsibility of running the organization.
Under his leadership, Kestone has aggressively pushed for digital marketing and developed its own set of IP-driven events. He also invested in overseas foray leading to the successful establishment of offices in Singapore, Dubai, and the US.

Among all the great things that happened to event marketing in the past year, virtual events have already topped the list, hybrid events being the second.

Now that marketers have realized the potential of virtual events, they are taking things a notch higher with hybrid events – an emerging trend that is not only here to stay longer but will grow and thrive exponentially.

What is a hybrid event?

A hybrid event is a combination of a virtual event and an in-person event. While a hybrid event has a traditional event flow, a virtual component is added for a more immersive audience experience.

In a typical hybrid setting, the actual physical sessions happen in front of a small percentage of a live audience, while most of the audience is connected remotely. The blend of this physical aspect and remote aspect happens through a virtual platform.

Hybrid events and their impact on marketing

When almost all businesses are struggling with their reduced marketing budgets, ensuring maximum return always seems challenging. With new event tech, especially hybrid brands can literally expect more ROI than a physical event, that too by spending lesser. 

This is mainly due to the fact that a hybrid event will cut down a lot of operational bottlenecks and wastage associated with complete offline arrangements. On a virtual event platform, brands don’t have to think about costs associated with delegate flight bookings, hotel stays, or refreshments.

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One can instead focus on more engaging ways to connect with the audience and creating more relevant and value-added content. 

Besides, hybrid events can make an overall marketing engagement more intuitive. The virtual component forms the basis of a good hybrid event and an AI-enabled platform increases the engagement quotient manifold.

In a hybrid event attendees are diverse, some are attending in-person while a large number of audiences attend remotely. In this scenario doing justice to everyone’s preferences is often a challenge. But an AI-enabled platform makes it really easy to drive insights which makes a hybrid event more targeted and engaging.

Hybrid events are also effective as a marketing tool when brands want to follow a more personalized approach. While the primary task of hybrid events is to blend the offline and online elements, offering flexible preference-based options to audiences will actually make the difference.

This is important because in hybrid events the audience is attending from diverse locations and devices, so everyone wants the best experience wherever they are. Personalization is also important in a hybrid event to create a platform for effective networking, a reason for which most people register.

Earlier, after spending considerably on production, audience generation, speakers, and other logistics, brands still had limitations in terms of outreach. Those who went for that had to shed extra to get an entire big event LIVE streamed. But virtual events and hybrid events have practically ended all these.

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With smart digital branding and flexible customization features, the production of hybrid event primarily involves the creation of engaging experiences and seamless content delivery.

Besides, virtual event platforms for hybrid events have integrated LIVE streaming capability which makes it really easy to take any kind of event to a larger audience, anywhere in the world. With integrated social connect a hybrid event makes engagements more conversational, thus making the audience feel more connected.

Every initiative has its own share of obstacles and challenges. In offline events there are operational challenges, in virtual events, it is mostly technical, but in hybrid events, both operational and technical issues need to be addressed to make the entire engagement absolutely glitch-free.

In this regard, it is important to gauge in advance how well a team is equipped to handle challenges in real-time. It is also important to keep other things in perspectives such as the infrastructural capability of an agency and expert tech support to make a hybrid event truly successful.

How to choose the right hybrid event partner?

Today options are everywhere. But the question is how to choose the right hybrid event partner. While a lot of brands take technology capabilities into consideration, the success of hybrid events depends largely on how integrated an event is.

Since in-person experience is an integral part of a hybrid event, it is always good to go for agencies that have a strong background in executing physical as well as virtual events. There are lot of new players offering hybrid services, but a truly integrated agency can make the real difference.  

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The smart ones who took no time to shift to virtual, are the ones who are thriving. Virtual events have proved time and again that it is not just an alternative, but a much viable and effective option than a physical or offline engagement.

With hybrid events gaining momentum and physical gathering seeming a distant dream, brand marketing will enter a completely new realm of growth and we can’t wait to experience what the future has in store for us.