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Skills gap and high costs leave associations wary of hybrid

Many association event professionals acknowledge the benefits of hybrid events but claim the barriers are too high to successfully run them.

A report from Eventsforce, which looks at the impact of hybrid association events and the challenges and opportunities they bring, revealed 49 per cent of respondents were unsure if hybrid events had a future.

The ‘Are Associations Ready for Hybrid Events?’ report polled 124 association event professionals to understand their position on hybrid events. Although 59 per cent of respondents said they are planning on running hybrid events in 2021-2022 and almost all respondents (90%) understand the advantages of running successful hybrid events, the scepticism and concern surrounding the mixed format was evident throughout the report.

While half said hybrid events would allow them to be more strategic in how they serve members, the main reason stated for being deterred by hybrid was higher costs and lack of budget (73%).

Another 68 per cent feel hybrid carries too many risks with no guarantee of success and 59 per cent said hybrid is too time-consuming a complex to execute well.

Almost half of respondents (42%) stated a lack of understanding, skills and experience was behind their refusal to plan hybrid events. And even if they were familiar with running hybrid events, the conundrum of choosing the correct online event platform still looms for 37 per cent of respondents.

Creating programmes and agendas for hybrid events was another issue for 56 per cent of association planners and 41 per cent are also concerned about how they should staff both events to avoid prioritising one audience over another.

The results show that there are also concerns around hybrid revenue models – with more than one in three struggling to decide how much to charge virtual attendees. Despite the uncertainty, 55 per cent said in-person event attendance would cost more. Many planners reported having issues finding sponsors and exhibitors that want to invest in hybrid events.

This financial concern is highlighted by 64 per cent of respondents who said they had experienced a fall in revenue from events, with only 4 per cent claiming to have seen an increase in revenue in the same period.

Other impacts include a fall in the number of members (32%) and 11 per cent reported they now had higher costs to keep members engaged.

Though it’s not all negative as 19 per cent of respondents said the association has attracted new members as a result of reaching out to wider audiences online.

Another 11 per cent said cost savings had been made through online events as venues, transportation, and other in-person event expenses were reduced.

While the benefits of hybrid events are evident, the specific skillset to successfully run them and lack of budget are preventing association event planners from meaningfully explore the hybrid option.

The full report can be read here.

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