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We know there is uncertainty out there right now, so we thought we would address it head on and inform our readers what we are hearing from our clients, and what we are seeing in the market. With various Covid variants now appearing many brands and agencies alike are at least making contingency plans for the “what if” scenarios that could follow as we head into the Fall and Winter months. At Bluewater we’ve long stated that hybrid events were here to stay and the current climate is only reinforcing that belief. Whether it be to expand the reach of the event or to account for those who are unable or unwilling to attend, we know that having a virtual option is vital for most brands and agencies.

Unpredictability & the Rise of Hybrid Events

As we ask ourselves what’s next for live events the answer is always being able to pivot seamlessly between a fully live event, a hybrid event, and even having a contingency plan for a fully virtual event at the 11th hour should that be what is required.

Of the live events that are happening, we are seeing many that have attendees that are waiting until the last minute to register, in an effort to determine the level of safety in their region of attendance due to rising Covid caseloads or the nature of the meetings. Many are registering as remote attendees as well initially in hopes that they will be able to flip their registration to in-person as the event comes closer.

In knowing this; content needs to be prepared that is easily transferable between the two environments. Remote participants have a unique set of needs and desires and exclusive content is often needed to keep them engaged. making sure that your agency or brand is prepared from a content perspective to transition seamlessly is the first step to success in an unpredictable landscape. Our Parallel platform makes it easy to account for virtual content and offers the ability to pivot in any last minute environments should the need arise.

Essence Festival Virtual Event

A Strong Demand for In-Person Meetings

With everyone having been largely remote for everything from work, to school, to even the way they grocery shop for the past year+ it’s safe to say that most people are wanting to venture out and interact with people again in a safe manner. The desire and need for socialization is strong in the event landscape. It’s hard to replace a handshake, or an in-person networking session, or even picking up some event swag at a trade show with a virtual experience.

Knowing the desire is there, companies and both their customers and employees are wanting to return to somewhat of a normal live event landscape.

The conversations we are having are leading us to believe that as we approach the end of 2021 and dive into what is sure to be an every changing 2022 that incentivized travel will once again return. As airlines and hotels within the tourism industry seek to recoup profit lost during the pandemic, they will turn to the corporate sector to fill that need. Small gatherings in boutique hotels or spaces that have plentiful, yet smaller capacity meeting spaces will likely be the focal points in the short term. We expect companies to have events that feature maybe 500 or fewer in-person attendees with virtual audiences that could range into the thousands accompanying them. Over time the in-person attendee volume will increase and the remote participants dip, but the hybrid model is here to stay.

Using Hybrid & Virtual as an Opportunity to Market

For those agencies and companies whose events are not their main revenue driver (think product or services based organizations), the increased virtual attendees in a hybrid or full virtual model far exceed what was possible in terms of reach in the pre-pandemic world. Despite often charging $1k or even $2k to attend an event in person, the event wasn’t the main revenue driver for the company, thus hybrid events can be looked upon as a marketing tool to expand the customer base. While some companies may look at an increased virtual presence as an opportunity to charge virtual attendees and create additional revenue streams, those that do it best might do it free or at least at reduced prices for virtual attendees.

For example, a recent software company held an event in 2019 (pre-pandemic) where it charged nearly $3,000 for an in-person seat at the multi-day event. The even’t had approximately 8,000 attendees who were largely potential customers mixed with some sales and marketing staff. This event showcased products and offered a vast array of Q&A opportunities and at the time they wondered how they could get more eyes on their offering.

Fast forward to 2021 and that same company launched a hybrid event where the virtual attendance was allowed to attend for free. The focus was more on marketing the products to a larger audience and less on generating revenue through live attendance (although they still did that at a clip of approximately 1,000 live attendees). The result was that 200k people attended the event virtually, a massive increase of eyes on the products they so desperately wanted to sell just two years earlier that only was able to reach 8k individuals. Needless to say the result of the event has created an increase in product sales they never would have seen with a solely in-person event.

Short Staffed but Still Needing to Execute

We know that many agencies and internal event teams simply aren’t staffed back yet to pre-pandemic levels. However, the demands of their clients and also the external stakeholders are still there. The need to deliver a successful branded experience, or event is stronger than ever These challenges mean that often event production help, or creative services that were done internally often have to be outsourced. In addition, maybe those internal resources you have are still able to get the job done, but you’re in need of gear and simply don’t have it internally anymore. These are real problems facing the industry today.

At Bluewater we want to be that sounding board for agencies and brands alike. While we can execute on an event from end-to-end, where we shine is often helping our agency partners and the brands they serve with detailed pieces of the event process. For some that might mean our creative team needs to get involved because yours is shorthanded. For others, it might mean ideation around a strategy you hope to deploy for an upcoming live event, and for others still, it might mean leveraging our virtual platform at the 11th hour as a contingency plan or hybrid option.

We know that finding the right people is important to the execution of events no matter the format. By having those end-to-end capabilities in-house at Bluewater, we have staff that is able to help you with whichever portion of the event is needed. We can be that team that helps you deliver in times when staffing challenges exist and the labor force is stretched.

Whatever the need is in the hybrid, live, or experiential spaces, we can be that partner that helps you deliver what your audience and your stakeholders are expecting….a premium, flawless, memorable event; no matter how it’s being offered.