By James Brown
A number of prominent businesses will demand employees return to the office full-time this year. This might seem inconceivable when earlier this month 15 million COVID-19 cases were reported globally in just one week. But according to Harvard Business Review, hybrid work will be blamed for poor business performance.
Finding ways to create a competitive advantage from the new way in which we find ourselves working is a challenge facing businesses and organisations globally. But over the past 12 months, the extraordinary evolution in remote and hybrid working has helped to accelerate the change in how events are run – whether these are virtual, hybrid or in the metaverse. While some CEOs may look for a way to turn back the clock to January 2020, many are focused firmly on seizing the opportunities that the future of work brings.
Businesses and organisations globally that are leading the way with virtual and hybrid events particularly, are creating a sense of community online, using content-rich experiences that have permanently changed the way they engage with clients and external stakeholders.
Only 12 months ago, Zoom fatigue was used as an excuse for delivering poor event experiences. Now, event organisers are beginning to leverage augmented reality such as 2D and 3D graphic overlays to scale their virtual events from passive experiences to dynamic on-screen moments that are more reminiscent of watching the news on TV, complete with music, subtitles, cut-away shots and camera pans.
To complement these offerings, businesses like BP and Iberdrola are building out content ecosystems on their websites that their virtual attendees can click to during an event. In the same way that Netflix provides endless ways to binge on shows related to your preferences, brands are creating content that gives audiences ways to delve deeper into topics they’re interested in and subjects that are specific to whatever they click on. These deep content experiences are helping enterprises and organisations to build trust and educate their audiences. For businesses, it’s also a way to reduce the possibility of their virtual event being a one-off touchpoint with a prospect.
Inside virtual events, the experience has also come a long way. Organisers are surrounding their attendees with highly relevant content that’s pivotal to the conversations taking place on-screen. They’re actively involving participants by enabling them to download content directly from the event interface; click on links to their website, and book appointments with team members without needing to leave the screen. They’re filming their hybrid event and relaying it live to their virtual audiences.
Event organisers are also starting to move away from the passive, presenter-style front-on look and feel in favour of a more conversational approach between speakers where attendees are invited to take part in the discussion. For enterprises, these kinds of memorable, immersive content-rich experiences show they understand their attendees’ needs.
‘Building community’ through virtual and hybrid events is no longer solely about whether you provide a chat room, networking opportunities or if you’ve invited attendees to participate in a poll or Q&A. It’s about dissolving the boundaries between your business, stakeholders or clients to create ‘we’ experiences and show how like minded you are. Your virtual or hybrid event then becomes an entry point through which your attendees can experience your business or organisation in richer, more engaging ways.
According to a Deloitte Insights’ report that considers the permanence of remote work, people who can work from home would like to do even more of it. And with the virtual and hybrid meetings and events they attend becoming increasingly dynamic and rewarding, returning to the office full-time has never looked less appealing or necessary.
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