On 14th July, Hubilo hosted their first virtual event and presented the next generation of virtual and hybrid events. In the past 18 months, we’ve seen a rapid evolution of virtual events regarding event technology platforms and online experiences. Hubilo’s Events Reimagined has lifted the bar and demonstrated the advancements made in recent months and what the future holds.
The event had a winning formula to create a captivating virtual event experience, also referred to as the Netflix effect. It had world-class online entertainment by Drag Taste, prominent industry and non-industry speakers, with the headline speaker Gary Vaynerchuk. The attendees could test the many features the virtual and hybrid event platform Hubilo provides, including chats, polls, leaderboards, networking rooms and breakout rooms. A wide choice was available to keep attendees captivated to learn, engage and network.
Vaibhav Jain, CEO & Founder at Hubilo shared, ‘What Hubilo has invested over the last one and a half years in building is industry’s largest suite of engagement and gamification features that allow event organisers to get creative and push the boundaries of what the virtual and hybrid events can do. To hook and WOW audiences.’
The educational sessions were highly informative, and I want to share some of these highlights with you in the following paragraphs. The sessions have been edited for brevity, so if you want to re-watch the entire experience, you can still do so.
Hubilo creates experiences that are unique to virtual audiences
Vaibhav Jain, CEO & Founder at Hubilo, spoke about The Radical Reimagination of Engagement and the fast pace of how the events industry is evolving, ‘In the 90s, there were three things that set into motion the revolution in the events industry: webcams, the internet and the web ex (which introduced the webinar). It’s easy to look at this technology and laugh at its simplicity, but back in the 90s, webinars had transformed businesses. Before 1995, the idea of virtual presentations or webinars did not exist. Today, webinars are a highly powerful marketing tactic that many marketers across the world use to foster connection with prospects, audiences and their employees.’
Vaibhav continued, ‘Today, we have evolved. We have high-speed internet combined with advancements in video and audio technology. The experience that we receive now is unmatched by any physical event. The future now is enabling connections and engagement in ways we could never have previously imagined.’
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have experienced video fatigue, and that’s an indicator that our attendees mention as well. Event planners are currently at a crossroads; according to Vaibhav, ‘Event planners can examine the statistics of video fatigue and think that the solution to engaging their audience is to return to live events. But look at how many people we have at our virtual event today. Event planners simply cannot afford to ignore how scalable the virtual solution is; if we had done this event in San Francisco, there would only have been one fifth of the audience.’
‘The problem is not the venue or the cost. The problem is us. Us as an industry and us struggling to define what an amazing, engaging event can truly look like. Even before the pandemic hit, Hubilo was in the event space focusing on increasing attendee engagement at large in-person events. We know what attendees and organisers are striving for, and more than anything, they are seeking a connection.’
‘Connection isn’t unique just to events. People are meeting their most fundamental human needs virtually. Online, people are finding love, taking care of their health and being provided with endless options for entertainment that keeps them hooked for hours. We can create experiences that help people find business connections online in an experiential way.’
Vaibhav shared how Hubilo bridges the magic of in-person activities with the data and personalisation opportunities of virtual events to create the next level of hybrid events. ‘First, it’s necessary to learn about the completely digitally transformed audience and identity how many and what segments prefer virtual and, secondly, determine who prefers virtual vs in person and why.’
‘As the next step, gather all that data together from the virtual event platform to inform what engages these segments online and in person. Then, just start testing. See what’s working at a micro level because what worked for one event might not for another. It’s necessary to measure what’s working for different segments and geographies at a micro level. Then, analyse what is working for your unique audience and your brand.’
‘We are now reimagining human connectivity through the events of tomorrow. Plugging into an event has become as easy as logging into a LinkedIn account. The working culture has been redefined during the pandemic. What work–life balance means is completely different now. People want in person again, but they don’t want it as it used to be. People will not come when it’s inconvenient, expensive and impersonal to them.’
Vaibhav compared virtual events to social media, which has ‘changed the entire advertising space. In 2009, Myspace was the first company in the social media space to begin stealing a real share of marketing budgets, such as from television and radio. The hype of growth of social media marketing in a matter of less than five years flipped the entire marketing spend pyramid—all of that because social media provided a personalised experience, engagement that is addictive, deep audience data and solutions not available elsewhere.’
Does this sound familiar? YES.
‘Virtual and hybrid events in 2021 have the opportunity to grow like social media by listening to audiences more carefully. People want to attend events that are exciting, engaging and personalised. Events need to be sufficiently agile to respond to rapidly changing market conditions, and event planners must adapt to new technologies.’
‘Every organiser globally is including a virtual component to future-proof their event. Virtual events help event organisers to reach almost 10 x the audience, multi-fold ROI for all stakeholders involved and drive engagement more than has ever been seen for in-person events. Hubilo is building personalisation at scale, where every attendee will receive a VIP experience, contrasting with a physical event. It’s time for the events industry to radically reimagine the possibilities of virtual and hybrid events.’
‘Hubilo delivers a platform built for big and audacious ideas. We want to push the envelope when it comes to reimagining events and create experiences that you just couldn’t imagine would take place physically— experiences that will be unique to virtual audiences.’
Delivering the event platform of the future – Hubilo’s new features
Shailesh Hegde, Head of Product at Hubilo, provided a current platform overview and revealed new features.
Shailesh presented how event planners need to rethink connecting online, ‘We all seek connection, but we sometimes need a tool that helps us get there. This is why when we set to reimagine events at Hubilo, our goal was not to bring more connection to people because people are connected through their phones and social networks more than ever before. Our goal instead was to find and remove barriers to connection that have kept people from connecting sooner.’
Hubilo has some of the most outstanding features. First, it begins with a minimalistic navigation experience that makes it easy for the audience to stay focused, thanks to the side panel and top navigation. The ‘Happening now’ function shows what is happening live at the event across sessions, lounges and booths.
Second, for engagement (an important goal for event planners), there’s an event feed where attendees can post questions, conduct their own polls, introduce themselves, upload pictures and book meetings with fellow attendees or speakers. Attendees can chat with multiple people at the same time, similar to social media. For the main sessions, each session room has its own chat, polls and Q & A option so that all conversations can be captured in one place for maximum engagement. Event organisers can also arrange for breakout sessions where they can run product demos or panel discussions with the same features.
Third, for networking, Hubilo offers a dedicated lounge where the connections happen. Hubilo has refreshed the look, feel and quality of the video and audio experience and, therefore, offers a premium experience for the virtual and physical audience to be able to connect. The lounge has virtual sofas, and that’s where serendipitous encounters can happen because attendees can ‘see’ someone and stop by to say hello or begin networking with a stranger.
Fourth, to boost engagement and introduce a competitive spirit and gamification, event planners can use the contest feature and leaderboard to recognise and reward those with the highest engagement.
Fifth, organisers can brand their events accordingly to give their event an exclusive and distinctive look. The branding can be on the event page but also in lounges and breakout sessions.
Sixth, the Hubilo platform is mobile friendly. Attendees can attend Hubilo events from anywhere in the world from a device of their choice. The mobile experience has been highly optimised to provide all the feature sets that are on the web experience; this approach is particularly suitable for hybrid events where virtual and physical attendees can connect.
And finally, customer support is provided to help organisers before, during and after the event, with an average support time of 30 seconds.
There are more exciting features rolling out that were revealed for the first time at the event
First, there is a new ‘Group Selfies’ feature, which aims to mimic the way a speaker takes a selfie with the audience. Second, the ‘Share a Moment’ feature allows attendees to take clips at the event and share them on social media. This ability can be particularly attractive to marketer audiences, who can produce more user-generated content for their social channels (no need to screen-shot events anymore!)
Third, advanced, AI-powered matchmaking will allow attendees to connect with like-minded people and also be connected with similar sessions, lounges and rooms.
Fourth, tagging in chat allows people to tag others in a chat as well as other entities, and that can direct attendees from one part of the event to the other more easily.
Fifth, the Hubilo broadcasting studio has overlays and the ability to play videos, thus making it a highly orchestrated experience for organising the entire event. And finally, the introduction of better emojis that attendees can use for reactions; this feature will help event organisers and speakers determine what resonates with their audience.
Why Are We Doing Events Like It’s 1995?
Dahlia El Gazzar, founder and tech evangelist at DAHLIA+Agency gave a keynote entitled, ‘Why Are We Doing Events Like It’s 1995?’
According to Dahlia, ‘The problem is that event planners are designing events as they were in the 90s. But the audience has changed, and that includes new databases, the mental state and personal and professional life situations. These changes require a better understanding of the audience and what they want.’
Dahlia shared, ‘People are mentally exhausted at the moment. Event planners were spoiled before the pandemic because events worked. Attendees came, the majority was happy, events happened, money was made, and then it stopped because event planners weren’t exploiting the chaos and hamster wheel that occurred last year.’
‘It’s necessary to exploit chaos. That has to be part of the event planner’s goal and mission as a professional; someone who produces events and experiences because they are in the business of developing experiences that create a statement. Event planners are in the business of creating events that resonate and hit home in both the heart and mind.’
Rather than putting together an event strategy, Dahlia suggested developing an event ethos for the team and event/brand. Event planners should ask themselves, ‘What is it that they are in?’ According to Dahlia, event planners are in the business of empowering, bringing energy, endless curiosity through engagement, empathy, enchantment, entertainment, helping people evolve, education and enhancing personal experience.’
‘To achieve this event ethos, it’s necessary to focus on the Cs: content, connections, conversations, community building, as well as anything represented as a continuum. It’s important to get better at listening, designing, measuring and repeating the good aspects. Think about the return on engagement, social, connections, but more than anything, be empathetic and humanise the events.’
Additional thoughts about the event
Although the event was virtual, it also showcased several examples of how the platform can be used in a hybrid setting. For example, the event was co-moderated by Rachel Moore, Director of Global Campaigns at Hubilo and Teresa Al Dente, CEO & Founder at Drag Taste. Rachel was in a virtual studio setting and Teresa in Lisbon. Having such synergy between two moderators—one live and one virtual—is highly dynamic for both live and virtual audiences. Another example is a virtual lounge, where virtual and physical attendees can meet for a chat, demonstrating what’s possible to achieve in a hybrid setting.
There is still a misconception that virtual has replaced live. Virtual events deliver an experience that is not possible in a physical setting, but they don’t replace live events. Both can be used for different purposes, achieving different objectives and reaching specific target audiences. Attendee expectations are increasing fast, and if just 12 months ago, it was sufficient to reach everyone on a Zoom call, this is not an option anymore. Not only have technology platforms evolved, but also regarding the production, sound and video experience, it’s necessary to provide a seamless experience. Further, many suppliers have adjusted their services to support virtual production; therefore, it’s important to work with the right suppliers who understand the dynamics of virtual and hybrid events and how to achieve the desired goals.
And finally, disrupt or be disrupted. Virtual events are not taking away from live events, which are seeing a comeback, but virtual events are not going anywhere. Such events can complement live events and enhance the experience, strengthen brand loyalty and create anticipation to attend an event or visit a destination in the future. As Gary Vaynerchuk noted in his keynote, ‘Don’t put yourself in a vulnerable position. Fall in love with AND (virtual and live) and fall in love with BOTH (virtual and live). There’s so much you can do. Get OR out of your vocabulary.’ More about Gary’s insights in the next post.