Last week, The Drum returned to holding in-person events following a year of abstaining. And while the world resumes its pace, it’s clear that the old model for hosting live events is no longer sufficient and that embracing a hybrid approach – where attendees can join in person or online – is now required.
Having tested this approach for the Chip Shop Awards and The Drum Awards for Marketing, many lessons have been learned along the way, which we share with you here.
The Drum’s team had to adopt a more flexible approach knowing that Covid restrictions could change at any point and impact how these events were organized.
The events took place at The Drum’s newly launched event space, The Labs, where we test-drive new ideas and technologies, so it was an apt opportunity for showcasing the new venue space and giving tours of its CornerShop offering, which features a number of pioneering tech installations.
Pulling off hybrid events after a year of the pandemic required a lot more work than initially anticipated.
Throughout lockdown, The Drum held a number of online festivals, panels and events with great success, but the social element of hosting people in one space was missing. So using the venue’s new bar and giant roof terrace helped encourage people to attend in-person.
In accordance with the UK government’s Covid guidance, groups of 30 people were allowed to gather for work purposes so long as they adhered to appropriate social-distancing measures and wore face masks as they moved around the building.
The Drum team was on hand to make sure attendees stuck to these rules. There was a separate sign-up link for attendees registering to attend in person and online, which helped with capping numbers in the venue.
Hosting a hybrid event requires a lot more work to pull off both the live and online versions to a high standard. And it can be more expensive to run both simultaneously as in-person events provide drinks and snacks for guests and require more technical kit.
The Drum’s co-founder Gordon Young explains: ”Doing a live show is a lot more complicated than just hosting something online. It requires a lot more production kit – we had to think about the lighting, sound, set building and auto cue systems. And that was just for the live side of things.
”Online, we also had to have someone managing the Zoom rooms, which held all the award nominees and sometimes contained over 100 people. They had to make sure the winners came in at the right time and check that people weren’t too drunk to appear on screen.”
But there were many gains to be reaped from this hybrid approach.
”Operating in this way meant that the events were really focused on the work instead,” says Young. ”We realized that these events won’t just be viewed by the people attending the live events, but that people can and may refer back to them in the months to come. They can be used as a resource to learn from.”
While it is a global title, The Drum wouldn’t have previously attracted quite as many international marketers to its UK award shows. By opening up the event offerings online, however, more people from overseas could enter and attend. Both events also had more judges and juries from different countries than previous years.
”The Drum’s awards are global and we didn’t want to root these events geographically in one place,” explains Young. ”Hosting a hybrid event meant that people around the world could become a lot more engaged with our awards. The Drum Awards for Marketing, for example, had entries submitted from every continent.”
Both award shows also opened up their entry criteria to allow people of different levels to submit work, enabling the events to be more inclusive and representative of people working in the industry.
The Drum’s recently launched Labs building is available to rent or hire for events. Feel free to get in touch to find out more.