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Collaboration key to partnership between organisers and tech companies

by Cameron Roberts

One of the roadblocks to successful hybrid and virtual events is that organisers and tech companies seem to be constantly at loggerheads. Organisers want more clarity in pay structures and networking to operate as if they were in-room. Tech suppliers on the other hand are usually blamed for issues beyond their control, think internet connection and sound quality.
So, bringing the two groups into the same room must be madness, right?

That’s what took place at Hanbury Manor on 22 November at the Digital Event News (DEN) Tech Summit. The event brought together more than 100 event organisers and tech suppliers from the virtual and hybrid event industry to communicate their frustrations and find solutions.

A view from the organiser
One of the biggest difficulties, organisers told the first day of the summit, was choosing between the hundreds of available tech platforms to host virtual events.

Ed Tranter MD at 73 Media said: “Because with 813 platforms, I think it is now. They’re all very varied in their pricing. It makes it very complicated for us as organisers to know which one to go with, how to manage it and also manage interaction and engagement.
“Part of the challenge is that every time you speak to every platform it’s all ‘Oh 100%, we actually were designed for that’ because they want the business. The challenge then is really genuinely selecting something that works properly for the needs of your audiences that you’re building the event for.”
Tranter joined a panel of organisers from within the events industry, including Narmeen Kamran, event director of Desert Island Events, and David Parker, commercial and events director, at the Royal College of Physicians.
During the session, organisers revealed how suppliers had included ‘hidden costs’ for what they considered to be basic services.

Pointing out the potential in virtual and hybrid events, Tranter added: “We’re delighted that live events are back as that’s what we’ve always been about. But this [hybrid events] has opened up a new opportunity in the last two years to engage with our audiences, build our businesses, build data and build real community, which is what we as organisers really want.”
Panellists discovered they shared similar experiences.
David Parker said: “The discussion was great, we covered various areas whether it be association, exhibition or venue, the views were amazingly the same. The key takeaway for me is that hybrid isn’t working yet, but it could.
“In the future I’m going to get all the information bit about the content before the event. I’m going to look at it, listen, learn and then I want to talk to people about it.
That’s why physical conferences will survive, but in a different format.”

A platform for excellence
Platforms were given a forum to talk about how they interact with their clients to create successful hybrid events during the second day of the summit.

Tech platforms said they needed to be involved on a wider scale within event organisers’ plans, adding that the data insights they provide should be a big draw.
Lionel Scurville, account executive at Hubilo said: “Some really good points were raised about feeding into event organisers’ creative plans. You should be looking at trends, looking at the metaverse, looking at AI.
“Those are the next steps that we’re going to experience in this industry.”
Scurville joined Chris Mitchell, VP of global operations and customer services, at Notified; Andy Johnston, visual conference BDM, at ON24; and Bo Shields, co-founder and platform director of Totem to discuss what role tech providers will have in the future of events.
Platforms and organisers discovered they could learn from one another. Emily Smith, marketing director EMEA at ON24, said: “There’s a lot of lessons we’ve learned both as event organisers and tech partners, specifically around how best to run a live event.
“There are definitely some disruptive technologies out there at the moment that are bringing physical and digital worlds closer together and designing kind of channels specifically for virtual audiences as well as physical audiences.
“So it is really interesting to learn from each other and understand what everyone’s gone through the past 18 months or so.”

Food for thought
The key goal of the event was to collaborate to create better virtual and hybrid events. With attendees, speakers and vendors alike interacting with one another in a space designed for honest conversations about the roadblocks in our industry.
Narmeen Kamran highlighted the importance of interweaving the two experiences in a hybrid event, using close collaboration with the tech platform. “Really you want to create a separate schedule for your virtual and in-person events. But it’s equally important to ensure they interlink,”
she said.
Some of the best practices included ignoring the platform, focusing on the event itself and working backwards according to Gavin Newman, CEO, ivent. Newman said: “Imagine you’re running an in-person event, what happens at it? It’s then our [tech partners] job to translate that into a digital event.”

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