Virtual events, why hybrid is the solution of the future •

Virtual events, why hybrid is the solution of the future •

At a time when France has entered its third lockdown, and the measures are toughening in various countries in Europe, let us look at what has been happening over the past year.

One year ago, the whole world, including France, entered its first lockdown. Many of us were new to virtualization: Zoom meetings (and variants) for large-scale telecommuting, widespread online courses for students and pupils, webinar blooming, and the first events migrated online. In this regard, the first online exhibitions were then rudimentary imitations of traditional exhibitions, they were often online directories of exhibitors, with a simplistic 2D navigation, and poor in interactivity with text chat as the only means of communication between exhibitors and visitors etc… We can call it the Virtual Exhibition 1.0 (or VE 1.0).

We also quickly discovered the advantages of this digitization. For exhibitors (becoming e-exhibitors), the booths can be set up very quickly and very simply, just by downloading files (photos, videos, PDF documents, etc.). No more trips to the other side of the world for the salon team, no more time differences, also no more the presence on site of the entire team for the duration of the show. Members can work from home and continue with other duties when there are no visitors at their booth. The same goes for visitors (or e-visitors), no need to book the hotel rooms and take the plane, train, car, etc., to spend a few days or even a week away from their families … everything happens on their computer, tablet or smartphone. Comfortably installed in their armchair or sofa, each e-visitor can switch between visits to the booths or watch a conference. We see notable and interesting differences between traditional physical events and online ones, which in turn impact the behavior of visitors and exhibitors, a phenomenon that we will come back to in a future article.

The explosion of the Covid one year ago has pushed the world to change paradigm, and to reinvent itself. In this context, virtualization was, and remains, the alternative to replace traditional events, should the current situation remain critical, especially in Europe. In less impacted countries, in Japan for example, the latest editions of Nepcon [1], the largest electronics fair in the country, were in hybrid form, by combining VE 1.0 and the physical booths. the Japanese government had requested companies to limit the business trips of their staff, whenever possible.

This version 1.0 had the merit of replacing, and in a hurry, all those physical exposures as economic life had to go on anyway.

Since then, some innovative companies have put on the market much more efficient platforms in terms of user experience and interactivity, such as 3D navigation, VR mode tours, voice or video conversation, meeting rooms. public and private, multi-language conferences, advanced networking functions and calls for partnerships based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) [2]. This new generation of platforms offers what we can call Virtual Exhibition 2.0 (or VE 2.0), as it goes beyond traditional exhibitions, and lets us envision the solution that could be offered tomorrow, in “the life after.” When most of the world’s population will be vaccinated and allow us to “live again” as before.

Indeed, recent studies have started talking about this “life after”, and believe that virtualization will stay, but in a more evolved form discussed above. Because, at the present time, the virtual solution is an imposed solution, tomorrow it could be a chosen solution by many people who, having had to rethink their life during the past year, to replace part of the visits that could be done differently, precisely thanks to this technology having developed a lot since and mentioned above.

There are several reasons for less business travel in the future, less but better.

  1. Health risks: Most likely, we will all have to live with viruses in the future. Bill Gates predicted it in 2015 during his famous conference at TED 2015 [3]. After Covid-19, there will be more new ones that will emerge and spread, why not Covid-24, Covid-29 etc, given the globalization of world economy and supply chains. If new incidents arise, and unlike 2020, we will be ready this time and can immediately switch these exhibits online, and life goes on!
  2. Personal choices: the virtual has developed and offers people freedom of choice. When you can visit a salon 10,000 km from home and attend the conferences live, why waste a week as we did before? especially since EV platforms offer solutions with equivalent face-to-face interactivity? Much can be done now by this VE 2.0. Many will want to spend more time with their families now that the solution is available (and was not there before). Also, it is also out of personal conviction, less carbon footprint and more ecology, more concern for the planet that we will pass on to future generations.

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References:

[1] Nepcon Nagoya in October 2020, and Nepcon Tokyo in January 2021,

[2] This is the case of Must (net-must.com), the young French startup member of French Tech Paris-Saclay, which will offer more and very soon, thanks to its artificial intelligence engine, networking possibilities between visitors and / or exhibitors, for better networking efficiency. As hybrid concern everyone, Must is also a real opportunity for young professionals who understand the importance of networking. With the multitude of virtual conferences organized on the platform throughout the year (check the list on Must website), everyone can familiarize her/himself with this world of networking in Hybrid 2.0 mode. There is nothing better than having the vision from qualified experts to be updated with latest development in technology, to boost entrepreneurship mind, projects and more… and finally be informed to be more credible in a talk with professionals

[3] “The next outbreak, we are not ready” Bill Gates at TED 2015