A word that strikes fear into the hearts of live events professionals around the world. A single word that dictates lives, both private and at work. It determines how people travel, and whether they attend events at all, and as a result, it determines how we plan events. What are our backup plans, and what happens if there is a lockdown, or a rumoured lockdown?

Initially, 18 months ago the plan was to ‘wait’. But we couldn’t wait any longer. So we started organising events, but they were ‘socially distanced’ and mask wearing mandatory. Following that, negative tests and covid vaccinations. So what is the next ‘normal’?

There is a lot of controversy about treating people differently based on whether or not they are vaccinated, although I suspect this will become quite normal. Perhaps there is a compromise where event access can be achieved with either a double jab or a negative test. This does not tick all the boxes though.

The corporate world is no longer based in ‘the city’, whichever city you are in. Instead now, it’s on Zoom, Teams or Webex. Families have moved out of the cities and it’s a big ask to bring someone back in for an event. There needs to be a more permanent solution.

Hybrid events – the best of both worlds. Live events give us the advantage of face-to-face, which can’t be denied. People can meet, shake hands, look in each others eyes. This builds trust, rapport, familiarisation, there is huge value professionally from the watercooler chat, and personally from these kinds of social interactions. Virtual events give us reach and longevity that has really proven it’s worth throughout lockdown. There was a concern that virtual would tempt people away from the live event, and the evidence does not show this.

Both types of events are delivered differently. Live – people want to mingle, chat, socialise. Virtual – short, sharp chunks. Mixing them together is another story, it isn’t easy. But it is possible. And it is the new normal.