Erica Spoor Nov 18, 2020 9:08:44 AM 8 min read

Redefining Events in 2021: How To Think Beyond the “Hybrid” Experience

Through all the tumult and agitation our industry has endured in 2020, events appear to be weathering the storm. Corporate events have completely reimaged large, multi-day conferences that previously hosted thousands of people in order to deliver impactful experiences in a remote world. We’ve redefined brand engagement on new platforms, completely reinvented formats and delivered audience experiences in unique and creative ways. 

As event strategists continue to evolve and test the limits of their creativity during this time, we keep asking ourselveswhat’s next?

In anticipation of the “return to in-person events” (which can sound elusive or even ominous), there have been many discussions about what 2021 (and beyond) will bring. References to a “hybrid” experience—one that theoretically serves both in-person and remote audiences simultaneously abound. Yet how we define this as an industry is still all over the place. 

Here’s how I think we need to challenge the current rhetoric:

  1. Acknowledge Digital Is Here To Stay
    If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that there are many ways to connect, engage and get business done remotely. How quickly we’ve become conditioned to expect digital options. I believe this will never go away. If anything it’s accelerated the digital event strategies and plans for most organizations. In a recent survey conducted for one of our clients, we found that 30% of respondents would prefer to always attend remotely even if in person were to resume safely.  Incorporating a digital component into B2B events can no longer be an afterthought or an addendum—it must be core to strategy. 

  2. Think Integrated Not Hybrid
    This term has been used rather casually, but I’d like to rethink the word “hybrid” and exchange it with “integrated.” We’re not talking about simply taking a traditional in-person event and bolting on digital modifications and add-ons or even replicating all content into a digital format. The objective is to create a relevant, compelling experience for both audiences and not force-fit a hybrid experience. This is not a new concept, of course, but we are evolving it into something even better. We’ll need to look for those meaningful intersections and be thoughtful about which experiences are best delivered digitally or in-person.
    (Keep an eye on our blog for more on thisI’ll be sharing my thoughts on specific content that should be in-person vs. digital).

    There is no question we still need human connection, but in the interim, multi-leveled digital experiences are helping brands continue to serve loyalists while tapping into new audiences. 

  3. There’s No Need To Lose All The Gains From 2020
    Digital events in 2020 have resulted in unprecedented engagement and record-breaking attendance. They also cost less—a benefit that is not lost on leadership--yet require more people power and different skills to execute. We’ve learned quickly what works digitally and what doesn’t, what audiences will consume live vs. on-demand, and that combatting digital fatigue requires constant innovation. We’ve seen a large sector of individuals—from millennials to C-suite executives—who either couldn’t (budget, timing, physical limitations) or wouldn’t (socially introverted, don’t see the value in events) previously attend in person events engage digitally.  There is no question we still need human connection, but in the interim, multi-leveled digital experiences are helping brands continue to serve loyalists while tapping into new audiences. 

  4. An Integrated Event Calls For a Dynamic Strategy
    This is a transformational time period for everyone around the world. Conditions are changing daily. Given the number of “known unknowns” we’re all facing, your event strategy must remain dynamic and allow for changes and fluctuations in real-time. We recommend implementing a short-and long-range plan. Everyone should plan that the short-term scenario will likely be digital-only, while planning for an eventual return to in-person gatherings where digital will always be an expected part of the experience.  Defining this new, integrated event experience requires a diligent focus on what matters most to your organization.  Are you going for brand awareness and market reach or customer engagement and adoption? These are very different objectives that warrant completely different approaches. It’s easy to get distracted by what others are doing, but the most important thing you can do is stay focused on what your organization expects to achieve and the needs of the audience you intend to attract and serve. This foundational principle has not changed despite the fact that many other things in our industry, and our lives, have.

Consider using these questions as a discussion guide with your team: 

  • How will YOU define “the new integrated” event for your organization? 
  • What are the objectives you’ve targeted and the results you seek?
  • How can you best serve the needs of your audience? 
  • Who and what truly warrants an in-person experience and who and what can be better served through a digital engagement?  
  • And lastly—but most importantly—how will you measure success?

As always, Impact Point Group is here if you need help facilitating this discussion or creating your new strategy. Visit to see how we help teams build creative, aligned and effective event strategies.