Before the pandemic, if you asked me if I was a live events or virtual guy, I would have laughed. I mean, what other types of events existed back then?
Before joining twine as Head of Partnerships, I was involved in the production of around 300 live events, most designed for meeting professionals. Imagine voluntarily pursuing the grind of finding dates free of conflict, nailing down facilities, negotiating F&B, A/V, tech, parking, etc. so you can showcase the latest in illusions to a group of discerning magicians. I loved it!
Then in March 2020, we postponed all live events, and eventually cancelled them when reality set in. We turned to attending demos for every virtual platform in order to offer value to our attendees and retain as much sponsor revenue as possible. We executed a handful of virtual events, and despite our best efforts to maintain high quality engagement, attendees felt disconnected and sponsors felt unseen. Providing high quality education virtually was surmountable, but networking was an entirely different animal. We went from a honeycomb of engagement - to a barren landscape of isolation. The networking was on pause until someone cracked the code of networking & connection for virtual events.
The digital transformation triggered by COVID-19 is enabling a new kind of hybrid event and networking experience; one that lasts weeks, not days, and is turning episodic events into year-long communities. In-person is happening again but Delta is changing event organizers' plans on the regular.
I attended my third in-person event (since March 2020) this week. Maritz Global Events produced NEXT& in Seattle. So what was it like?
- Full general sessions and lively concurrent education
- A rush towards face to face networking with old friends and clients they love was priority
- A “People First” mentality emphasizing collaboration, transparency and technology that will give us a baseline for negotiation
- A hilarious realization that height is not a metric anyone considers on Zoom calls. When you meet them in-person, they are either way taller or shorter than you ever imagined!
EVERYONE wanted to network, swap stories, mentor each other, and display pride for an industry that is rising from the ashes. This Phoenix won’t look the same. Charred wings and bent beak, but no less beautiful. Instead, exuding a new understanding of the endurance and creativity that will shape the industry forward.
The NEXT& name is inspired by the improv comedy approach “Yes, and....”. Maritz Global Events made the decision to prioritize the in-person this time, but in this day of age, organizations must consider a hybrid component to their event. We often hear about the increased cost & complexity of hybrid events, but after a brainstorming session with Maritz Global Events team, we realized that we could quickly turn the NEXT& offering into a hybrid one, at very little cost. The hybrid element for NEXT& will be accomplished by leveraging twine for a post-event networking session for the Maritz Global Events NEXT& Community a few weeks after the live event. I suppose you could make the case that twine = the “&.”
Here are three reasons Maritz Global Events decided to turn NEXT& into a hybrid event via a post-event twine:
- Greater Reach: Given travel restrictions, budget cuts, and rising variant cases, not every member of the NEXT& community could travel to Seattle. twine will be embedded as an hour-long post-event session in the virtual event platform and promoted to not only the 450 in person attendees, but also the the 950 members of the community that were unable to attend the live event. By creating this post-event opportunity for connection, Maritz Global Events is able to offer engagement and content to the entire community, not just those who were on-site.
- Greater Relevance: Now that the live portion of the event has taken place, there is additional context and framing for important topics that this community needs to discuss. Maritz Global Events will utilize twine’s new small group features to encourage group discussions to generate new ideas, dig deeper into the ones that surfaced on-site, and allow for exchange of learnings. All of the conversation starters can be selected and customized based on what was derived from the in-person NEXT& Solution sessions.
- Greater Representation: By extending the shelf-life of their in-person event by adding a post-event twine, Maritz Global Events is also able to give their representatives and team another opportunity to get in front of their audience and stakeholders. With the lower cost that is afforded with a virtual add-on event, Maritz Global Events now has a great follow up opportunity for anyone they want to re-connect with, or anyone who they missed on-site. Being able to invite your audience to a post-event “reunion” gives your team a legitimate reason for continuing the conversation.
The simplicity of adding on a post-event, virtual engagement opportunity for your audience makes it a worthwhile endeavor. In-person attendees will be hungry to discuss & share what they learned, while virtual attendees can use this opportunity to cure their FOMO and feel like a part of the event. The post-event twine allows both to collaborate to promote greater transparency, empathy, and common ground for future events.
It’s an exciting time for #eventtech right now. This is no longer an argument between in-person vs. virtual. We are free to leverage the tools at our disposal to honor the value of in-person with the eloquence and flexibility of virtual.
So, all that to say…..I guess I’m a hybrid guy now.