The health crisis has reshaped event management, shaken up old habits and disoriented people. Yet it has also given rise to alternative solutions. Still, technology is not everything. key4events has adapted its services to meet the new needs of those firms, global associations and professional conference organisers for whom it has worked for years. But it has also had to manage the human factor. Because when you go hybrid or completely virtual, there is a critical aspect that cannot be overlooked : interactions between participants.

Spotting the market’s new challenges

If you had told us a year ago that Covid would have as big an impact on our clients’ specifications as it has done, we would probably not have believed you. Now our teams have learned new tasks on the job, our technicians have been upskilled and our solutions – from our tool Register to streaming – have adjusted to the new situation.

With lockdowns and restrictions already affecting the world of work, we could not contemplate our clients’ events being abruptly called off. Three main types of operations gradually emerged in our day-to-day work : webinars, high-quality multiplexes and medical conferences in hybrid or virtual format.

From webinars lasting several hours to big international congresses lasting several days and transposed digitally, the different formats vary greatly, as do the challenges that go with them. So how has key4events been able to satisfy requests without overstepping the restrictions it has faced ? And above all, how do you support clients in this transition, which remains for them one of the most uncertain periods they have ever encountered ?

Towards a better understanding – and acceptance – of virtual event management

For the event management machine to keep on working properly, it has proved vital to educate our clients, to explain to them the challenges of these wholly new formats, to reassure them and to guide them towards fresh ground.

This digital turn can quickly disorient a professional conference organiser or a medical association event coordinator who is used to managing regular on-site congresses. They no longer have any on-site control. In front of their screen with the same view as ordinary participants, they lose access to the event’s backstage where they are used to working freely, whether going to look for the control room director, the technician or the key4events project manager to deal with any issue. They now have to phone up other players and manage operations remotely to organise an event that has become entirely virtual.

Over the past few months, we have often sensed these client concerns about ‘blind spots’. So we have tried to make our work as transparent as possible, revealing the backstage operations of key4events, which have been especially intense in handling all these new developments.

A keen desire to put the human dimension back at the heart of events

With on-site gatherings, our clients can easily assess the success of their events and measure attendance flow. But in virtual events, they have to wait for statistics to become available and learn how to analyse them properly to draw relevant conclusions. One question on everyone’s minds is : what are participants actually doing behind their screens ? And another : how are participants experiencing the event ?

We are beginning to answer such questions more precisely by tailoring our solutions to this new digital context more effectively by the day. Still, people are clearly eager to get back to on-site events. However glad participants are to see each other via our videoconference tools, the punchline is often the same : ‘see you next year in person!’.

In event management, interaction is important, even vital. For now, everyone is playing along with the virtual dialogue arrangement while dreaming of a return to on-site events in the coming months. Yet the situation has been altered. And a hybrid approach to events is emerging as a leading model. More and more, we will be using this mixed format that blends real-life meet-ups with digitalised content for all those who cannot attend a given event. At key4events, several scientific events have already opened the way of hybrid gatherings. These have included the Nice Shoulder Course, the Journées de la Pitié Salpêtrière and the Congrès Francophone de Cardiologie Interventionnelle.

What the future holds are plenaries that combine on-site speakers and others giving presentations remotely. What the future holds are live broadcasts of content in the four corners of the world without any restrictions. What the future holds are applications that internet users and on-site participants can enjoy to contribute to a given event in the same way. What the future holds is the prolongation of a conference via the digitalisation of its content.

But what the future holds above all is the safeguard of that bond in communities who have become accustomed to meeting up each year to enjoy discussions and develop their profession, expertise and specialities.

And in light of this appraisal, hybrid is our new normal.