Episode 8

full
Published on:

13th Feb 2023

Should my conference be hybrid? Is hybrid the new normal?

Should my conference be hybrid? It's the new normal, but people are worried about the expense of producing a hybrid conference now that we can go back to in-person. Is that really the right thing to do? Isaac and Nessa get into it on this episode. Get more at geteventlab.com

Timestamps

00:00 Intro

02:12 Do we "have to" do hybrid events now? 

05:00 Is the industry abandoning accessibility?

10:57 Tweet mentioned in today's episode: @Tarja_pk on Twitter 

12:26 Does every event need to be in person? 

16:19 We've been building communities online for over 30 years, why is everyone acting brand new when it comes to events? (aka a tangent about LiveJournal)

24:48 Recap!

Key takeaways

Should my conference be hybrid? It's the new normal, but people are worried about the expense of producing a hybrid conference. They want to go back to what's easy. But the ways that we can really embrace these audiences and serve them better are by first understanding them, designing an experience that is inclusive, and using a mindset toward accessibility. Finally, figuring out not just how you can jump on the bandwagon for whatever event trends are happening, but how you can really create something that is best catered to you and to your audience's needs.

If you want to explore even more, visit geteventlab.com and nab a free copy of the questionnaire our clients use to set the foundation for incredible events, right from the start. Learn more at geteventlab.com  

Next episode: Can I really get conference speakers for free?



This podcast uses the following third-party services for analysis:

Chartable - https://chartable.com/privacy
Transcript
Isaac Watson:

How do you as a leader of a growing community, Truly make a

Isaac Watson:

conference or event that has impact, a gathering with purpose and an attendee

Isaac Watson:

experience that knocks their socks off.

Isaac Watson:

An event that leaves your audience in awe and wondering where

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you've been their whole life.

Isaac Watson:

Make It Kickass is the podcast that explores these questions by uncovering

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the strategies, tactics and tools that we use every day to bring

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our clients' conferences to life.

Isaac Watson:

I'm Isaac Watson, executive producer of Kickass Conferences, and we are

Isaac Watson:

here to help you make it kick ass.

Isaac Watson:

Hey everyone, it's Isaac Watson here, executive producer of K House Conferences,

Isaac Watson:

and I am here as usual with Nessa Jimenez.

Isaac Watson:

Say hello, Nessa.

Nessa Jimenez:

Hi everyone.

Nessa Jimenez:

Welcome back.

Isaac Watson:

Nessa is our operations manager and we are back with

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another episode of Make it Kickass.

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Excited to dive into yet another common question that people ask us, which

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is the focus of this whole season.

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And today we're gonna be talking a little bit about, or maybe a lot

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about hybrid events because that is of course, hot on everyone's minds.

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So one of the questions that we get asked.

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Quite frequently, especially from people who used to run in person events, pre

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pandemic and also from people who are considering starting something now

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that we've been through this remote situation that we have been dealing

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with for the last couple of years is, should my conference be hybrid?

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Are hybrid conferences the new normal?

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The people ask us this all the time.

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So we wanna dig into that a little bit.

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And Nessa, I'm gonna turn it over to you to tell us, like when we hear that

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question, what do people actually mean?

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What are they really asking?

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. Nessa Jimenez: So when people bring that

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they actually are asking is, that sounds super expensive and super complicated.

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Can't we just go back to the old way, how it used to be?

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Or why can't we go back to normal?

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Or what they want.

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Us to A to answer is why do we have to do it as if like an obligation, right?

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Why do we have to have an online option?

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If you could just go back to in person, like, why add this new

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thing on if we don't have to?

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And lastly if I do have an in person only event, what do I do now with this

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broader audience that I got from being online for these past couple of years?

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How do I serve or address them?

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Because now that it's going back to in person I dunno what to do with them.

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If we were to dig into this a little bit deeper, let's

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figure out what some of the problems.

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that are underlying these questions, like, why, what is really happening

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that's causing this stuff to bubble up.

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And I think that one of the things is people think about hybrid events

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in particular is that they either misunderstand or they don't quite

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care enough or care deeply enough about accessibility and inclusion.

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It.

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I think one thing that was became very apparent throughout the pandemic and the

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shift to online gatherings and events and and whatnot, is that the ability

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for anybody to connect to your event from wherever they are geographically,

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economically, wherever is a massive bo to inclusion and accessibility, and we.

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We saw audiences balloon beyond what was previously possible

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with an in person event.

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And I think that a lot of people, especially those who were organizing

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in person only conferences for a long time, were blinded to the fact that

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they That it actually costs a lot of money to attend an event in person, right?

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It's not just about the ticket price.

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And we've gone through this with our clients previously when we're

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thinking about how do you set ticket prices and budgets and how

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do you adequately market an event?

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But it just costs a lot of money.

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You have to pay for airfare.

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If it's not in your own city.

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You have to pay for a hotel.

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You've got the meals, you've got the ticket, you've got all the other things.

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There's just a lot involved with it.

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And having an online.

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Destroys all of those extra expenses and makes it far more economically accessible.

Nessa Jimenez:

Yes, because accessibility isn't just about physical, maybe a

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disability that somebody has, right?

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It's also about financial accessibility, which has.

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Up until now hasn't really been part of the conversation, but yes.

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All of a sudden people could attend these events all around the world that

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they could never have attended before.

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So there, there was an explosion of participation and To your point of

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misunderstanding or not caring, in the past couple of years, especially that

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first year in that first pivot where suddenly people were needing to take

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the online, the in person event, and in a couple weeks make it an online thing.

Nessa Jimenez:

Accessibility was used as a huge selling point, a huge marketing point, right?

Nessa Jimenez:

And it annoyed us because it was very . It was very blatant because people

Nessa Jimenez:

who never talked about accessibility before, all of a sudden that was like

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their favorite word and they were using it to sell tickets to their events.

Nessa Jimenez:

And go and behold now that things are coming back to in person.

Nessa Jimenez:

People have shown their ass because they didn't actually care about accessibility,

Nessa Jimenez:

cuz all of a sudden these online options are gone and all of a sudden

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they don't care about giving, making something more accessible to people.

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And that goes to show you that they really do not care or they just don't

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understand that you've gone from creating something that is accessible to so many

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more people to nope closing the door.

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So many people now, and that's gross.

Isaac Watson:

What's interesting though is that on the flip side of this,

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of these questions, there are some people who do care enough about it to

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know that it's important and to feel obligated to keep their, like anybody

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who pivoted online from a, from an in person conference through the pandemic,

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realized how much more accessible.

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It was just through the nature of doing it.

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And so there are some people out there who are like, Yeah I get it.

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It's important.

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And also it's expensive to do a hybrid event.

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Or they're questioning, Should I just do all online from now on?

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Or is there an in person possibility?

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Where's the balance between that?

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So I think another one of the issues.

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underlying this line of questioning is just this kind of core lack

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of understanding or really knowing what an audience's needs are.

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I think it as a community leader or an organizer or any, anybody who has

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some influence over a group of people in a space like this, if you don't.

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Truly understand what your audience is looking for.

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It's gonna be really hard for you to make an educated decision around

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how you can fulfill those needs.

Nessa Jimenez:

Correct.

Nessa Jimenez:

And we're seeing a backlash because of that misunderstanding, right?

Nessa Jimenez:

There are conferences that have announced that they're coming back in person.

Nessa Jimenez:

They are not having an online option.

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They are not doing any kind of like covid safety related stuff at all.

Nessa Jimenez:

And we're seeing online the backlash that they're getting for that.

Nessa Jimenez:

And there's a lot of people that are just straight up

Nessa Jimenez:

refusing to support or boycott.

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An example, an easy example, which is wild to me because of just

Nessa Jimenez:

the essence of their business.

Nessa Jimenez:

So Twitch Con recently announced this year that they're doing the.

Nessa Jimenez:

The conference, they're gonna be in person and they just announced

Nessa Jimenez:

that there's gonna be absolutely no like covid safety stuff at all.

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They're not gonna do any checking, they're not gonna no mask, anything like that.

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Obviously there's been a huge backlash from a lot of people, especially

Nessa Jimenez:

because if you don't know what Twitch.

Nessa Jimenez:

Their whole thing is live streaming of events.

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And people make their livelihoods like every couple days they

Nessa Jimenez:

stream for an online audience at their homes and whatnot.

Nessa Jimenez:

And it is really wild that Twitch cut is doing that because.

Nessa Jimenez:

They already know way before the pandemic how to do online

Nessa Jimenez:

events and online communities.

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Cuz that's straight up what they are and like a lot of people are boycotting and

Nessa Jimenez:

they're like, we're not gonna attend.

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Not just like fans and people that watch Twitch, but a lot of their

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content creators are like disabled people are people that have health

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issues are people that are.

Nessa Jimenez:

One of the reasons they started streaming on Twitch was because they

Nessa Jimenez:

couldn't go to in person things.

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So they started streaming and they found an audience.

Nessa Jimenez:

So it is absolutely wild that they made that decision and that was clearly.

Nessa Jimenez:

They do not think about their users and their audience because

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a lot of people are mad at them.

Isaac Watson:

Yeah.

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I think understanding your audience is any, anybody involved in community

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leadership or running a business should know that understanding your

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audience and your customers and your clients is first and foremost like the.

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Key thing to have in your arsenal to that informs your marketing, it

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informs your product and service delivery, all of these things.

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And yet so many people completely forget to think about that when it

Isaac Watson:

comes to making decisions around hybrid events in particular.

Nessa Jimenez:

Yeah, and I wanted, I saved a tweet that I wanted

Nessa Jimenez:

to bring up today because it is so relevant and it's so awesome.

Nessa Jimenez:

Like the thread, the responses and the conversation it's caused This

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comes from at Tarjah underscore pk.

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And they tweeted this Yeah, I think it was yesterday.

Nessa Jimenez:

It says, "As an accessibility advocate and disabled person, it's

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really sad to see no online slash hybrid options for upcoming events.

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Neither for the audience nor the speakers are we ditching a big

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part of the community again".

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There you go.

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And this was in response to an announcement from another conference

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that they wanted to participate in, but they can't because they're disabled.

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And this year they're no longer going to accept any online participation.

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So there you go.

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There, there is no reason to.

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Look at your audience, right?

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And ask that question and really think about that.

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What do they need?

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Do they need online access?

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Because the truth is not every event does need to be online, right?

Nessa Jimenez:

There are some that just don't work or it doesn't make sense, but.

Nessa Jimenez:

If your audience needs it, then why are you not doing it?

Isaac Watson:

Yeah.

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And by contrast, not every event needs to be in person either.

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And I think that's part of the risk of this line of questioning around, Oh,

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does it need to be Hybrid is hybrid.

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The new normal is that hybrid isn't the only option.

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First of all and that there are a lot of factors that go into deciding whether

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or not that's right for you or which format is right for your audience.

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So that kind of segues into the other, one of the other key problems that

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feeds into this line of questioning for me, which is this kind of short

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term versus long term thinking.

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Process.

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I think it's really easy to think about what people need right now

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and to not really think about how, what you are creating with your

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conference how that will influence your community over the long haul, how

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that will influence their ability to connect with other community members.

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And how that affects your growth and your your goals and things like that.

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A lot of these questions come from this shorter term mindset of

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okay pandemics quote unquote over.

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And so now we're going back to in person and that is just a shortsighted way

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of thinking about things because as we think about global audiences and networks

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of connected people and all of the things that the internet has provided for us

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over the last couple decades there's a lot more at play from a long term

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perspective than just trying to figure out what to do with your conference

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this particular year or next year.

Nessa Jimenez:

And we don't know if next year.

Nessa Jimenez:

There might be another lockdown for something else.

Nessa Jimenez:

Like we have no idea that's life.

Nessa Jimenez:

So it's really awkward to be like, Yeah, this year we're going back to

Nessa Jimenez:

in person, and then next you coming back like, Oh, nevermind we love

Nessa Jimenez:

you, the online people again come back that's, no, that's not cool.

Nessa Jimenez:

Yeah.

Nessa Jimenez:

And yeah.

Isaac Watson:

And there's so many other factors that influence this too.

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Like we, we touched on the cost to attend an event in person, right?

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But even outside.

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A pandemic.

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There are so many other factors that can influence those costs.

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We look at how fuel prices have skyrocketed in the last year.

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That's true because of global conflict, right?

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What happens when flights become completely inaccessible financially

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for most people, or if they're making those decisions to purchase flights?

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Nine months in advance instead of three months in advance

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because the fairs are lower.

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What happens as our climate continues to shift and the younger generation

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becomes more conscious than they are now even about where they choose to

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travel and how they choose to travel.

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All of these things are gonna influence the long term effects o of

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the event industry on whether or not we're gathering in person or online.

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And all of these things should be considerations that you make

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when you're thinking about your long term community growth.

Nessa Jimenez:

And that's a great transition to another point.

Nessa Jimenez:

That we've talked about a lot is this idea of normal's real life or in person events.

Nessa Jimenez:

That's the normal, right?

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So that we wanna go back to normal and this idea of there is a way

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of doing the thing and anything outside of that is, is abnormal.

Nessa Jimenez:

Right?

Isaac Watson:

I think this had me thinking about.

Isaac Watson:

First let me say, there is no normal, there never has been.

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When you're, especially when you're talking about community building,

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it is constantly a state of flux.

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There's an adaptation, there's technology, there's modes of communication.

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All of this changes.

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But even amidst all of that, I think back to some of the earliest communities that

Isaac Watson:

I was part of when I was in my early twenties and high elder millennial here.

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But I was big into live journal.

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Which was Yes, me too.

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And anybody who was involved in a forum or even dating

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way back to AOL chat rooms.

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And I cq, is that what it was called?

Isaac Watson:

That

Nessa Jimenez:

I think it was called that.

Nessa Jimenez:

Yeah.

Nessa Jimenez:

But I was totally there too.

Nessa Jimenez:

Yes.

Isaac Watson:

We have been building communities online for decades,

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and I think back to these live journal communities that I was a

Isaac Watson:

part of and we were all connected online and we'd be posting regularly

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and sharing and everything.

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And then I was part of this community of Portlanders it was called Damn

Isaac Watson:

Portlanders , and they started hosting monthly meetups in person.

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We would get together at a pub or whatever to meet each other in

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person, and that was this in person connective tissue that would chain

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us along, but everything in between.

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Was all online.

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That was a hybrid experience.

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That was an ongoing long term hybrid experience.

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And I made friends that way.

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I met some really weird people that way.

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But that was part of the joy of it.

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And I think that we're in some respects we're starting to lose sight of those

Isaac Watson:

types of really integrated community spaces that that were trampling out.

Isaac Watson:

In this attempt to go back to this normal of in person events?

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I think in a lot of ways in person events were just easier, right?

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Because you didn't have to worry about masses of people coming

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from all over the internet.

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You just had the people walking into the physical.

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Excuse me, to the physical space.

Isaac Watson:

And community building is not a normal process.

Isaac Watson:

There's no status quo.

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It's a constant state of evolution and adaptation.

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And I think if if you aren't thinking about what your audience needs and how

Isaac Watson:

they're willing to connect with each other, it's really hard to make decisions

Isaac Watson:

around how you're gonna gather them and in which formats to do so effect.

Nessa Jimenez:

in contrast, your experience with live journal.

Nessa Jimenez:

Like my live journal experience, I made plenty of friends

Nessa Jimenez:

that I never met in person.

Nessa Jimenez:

And I never knew their real names.

Nessa Jimenez:

And those were completely valid friendships and right, like community.

Nessa Jimenez:

But then again there's people my age, like I live in Puerto Rico now, and

Nessa Jimenez:

there's people my age and younger that not I, I would say, Their introduction

Nessa Jimenez:

to the internet and like online communities was like maybe a decade ago.

Nessa Jimenez:

And they're the same age as me, so their experience is completely different.

Nessa Jimenez:

Like they're just now starting to learn about these online worlds

Nessa Jimenez:

of it, is just as valid to know somebody online and call them a friend

Nessa Jimenez:

as it is to know someone in person.

Nessa Jimenez:

I agree with you in this idea of we need to stop acting like in real life

Nessa Jimenez:

is the only real one or the only.

Nessa Jimenez:

Only valid version, especially since the beginning of the internet.

Nessa Jimenez:

We know that's not true cuz we've been using the internet for

Nessa Jimenez:

this since the beginning, right?

Nessa Jimenez:

I don't know why we're so stubborn about it, but there is a, there is

Nessa Jimenez:

like a conference or like an event establishment, like a mainstream idea

Nessa Jimenez:

that they're very stubborn to change.

Nessa Jimenez:

And I think that they've lasted a long time.

Nessa Jimenez:

But we need to break that down and move on.

Nessa Jimenez:

Yeah.

Nessa Jimenez:

Yeah.

Nessa Jimenez:

It's okay to do things online.

Nessa Jimenez:

It's not taking away from anything.

Isaac Watson:

Yes, exactly.

Isaac Watson:

Let's talk about some of the ways we can break that down.

Isaac Watson:

Absolutely.

Isaac Watson:

Yeah.

Isaac Watson:

So we've talked a little bit about these underlying issues.

Isaac Watson:

And some of the problems that, that breed these types of questions is when we

Isaac Watson:

work with our clients one of the very first things that we do is dive deeply

Isaac Watson:

into understanding who their audience is, what community they have, and

Isaac Watson:

what they are building, so that we can then make decisions influenced by that.

Isaac Watson:

If we don't understand who these people are, then how can we.

Isaac Watson:

Begin to to create something special for them, right?

Nessa Jimenez:

Strategy first, Then strategy starts with research.

Nessa Jimenez:

You have to know who you're talking to, who is part of this community,

Nessa Jimenez:

and what do they care about.

Nessa Jimenez:

And then from there ano.

Nessa Jimenez:

What we do is we design an experience that is inclusive, designed for that community.

Nessa Jimenez:

And for what their needs.

Nessa Jimenez:

Cuz again if most of your audience wants to join online, then why are you

Nessa Jimenez:

insisting on doing an in person only?

Nessa Jimenez:

That does not make any sense.

Isaac Watson:

By contrast we've been working with a client who was trying to

Isaac Watson:

do online stuff for a very geographically concise group of audience members.

Isaac Watson:

And they weren't doing it very effectively.

Isaac Watson:

And so the answer in this case was to go back to in person to be able to really

Isaac Watson:

fulfill that particular events needs.

Isaac Watson:

So that to me really underscores this core importance of

Isaac Watson:

identifying what's right for you.

Isaac Watson:

Your audience and not just duplicating what you see everybody else doing

Isaac Watson:

or what, especially what tech telling you that you should do.

Isaac Watson:

We've talked about this before, and a lot of people continue to talk about

Isaac Watson:

this, but the event tech industry absolutely exploded during Covid.

Isaac Watson:

And then now what we're seeing is this kind of.

Isaac Watson:

Constriction of things where it's like, Oh yeah, an app for everything.

Isaac Watson:

A platform for everything.

Isaac Watson:

Everybody wants to do hybrid or they all have these new solutions,

Isaac Watson:

but now it's constricting.

Isaac Watson:

and rebalancing, but I think it's even more important now than ever not

Isaac Watson:

to buy into what they're pushing as marketing for these these like hot

Isaac Watson:

new ways to create community and to really focus on identifying what is

Isaac Watson:

right for you and your audience rather than just doing what everybody else.

Isaac Watson:

That they should do.

Isaac Watson:

And that's something we do through our event lab process.

Isaac Watson:

It's understanding who your audience is, figuring out what what are the ways in

Isaac Watson:

which we can meet those goals, and how can we design an event format and and

Isaac Watson:

create this blueprint for something that will really help you achieve that.

Nessa Jimenez:

And as a final thought for this, I just wanna say that accessibility.

Nessa Jimenez:

Accessibility is not a selling point.

Nessa Jimenez:

It is not a marketing strategy.

Nessa Jimenez:

It is not a thing that you use to sell tickets and then not care

Nessa Jimenez:

about, like accessibility is an obligation to create a space that

Nessa Jimenez:

serves as many people as possible.

Nessa Jimenez:

And it's not cool to all of a sudden abandon these people who finally

Nessa Jimenez:

are able to access a bunch of things they couldn't before to then

Nessa Jimenez:

just drop 'em like they're nothing.

Isaac Watson:

Yeah would add that accessibility and inclusion are a

Isaac Watson:

mindset more than they are a tactic.

Isaac Watson:

If you can understand and set your, set yourself.

Isaac Watson:

To really grasp the importance and the value that accessibility and inclusion

Isaac Watson:

bring to you and to your community, then any efforts you make to be accessible and

Isaac Watson:

inclusive are gonna be more authentic and be better served to your audience members.

Nessa Jimenez:

All right, so why don't we bring it on home and give

Nessa Jimenez:

a bit of a recap of today's episode.

Isaac Watson:

All right, so this core question we've been digging into today

Isaac Watson:

has been, should my conference be hybrid?

Isaac Watson:

And it's hybrid, the new normal.

Isaac Watson:

And we tore that apart.

Isaac Watson:

We tore that apart.

Isaac Watson:

By identifying that really people are asking that they're worried about the

Isaac Watson:

expense of producing a hybrid conference.

Isaac Watson:

They want to go back to what's easy.

Isaac Watson:

And what they know or they don't really know what to do with this broader Audi

Isaac Watson:

online audience that they've cultivated throughout the remote life that we've

Isaac Watson:

experienced through the pandemic.

Isaac Watson:

But the ways that we can really embrace these audiences and serve

Isaac Watson:

them better are by first understanding.

Isaac Watson:

Then designing an experience that is inclusive, using a mindset toward

Isaac Watson:

accessibility that is going to be more holistic and authentic to

Isaac Watson:

those audience that audience's needs.

Isaac Watson:

And then figuring out not just how you can jump on the bandwagon

Isaac Watson:

for whatever event trends are happening, but how you can really.

Isaac Watson:

Create something that is best served to you and to your audience's

Isaac Watson:

needs rather than just doing what everybody else is doing.

Nessa Jimenez:

Thanks for listening to the podcast today.

Nessa Jimenez:

I hope the discussion about hybrid events helps you kickstart your strategy

Nessa Jimenez:

and helps you figure out like what's best for your event and your community.

Nessa Jimenez:

But if you want more, you can head on over to geteventlab.com where

Nessa Jimenez:

we have a free copy for you of the tool that we use with our clients

Nessa Jimenez:

to help them answer these questions.

Nessa Jimenez:

That's geteventlab.com and I will see you next time.

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About the Podcast

Make It Kickass
Community Event Mastery
Make It Kickass explores how leaders of growing communities can make conferences with impact, gatherings with purpose, and an attendee experience that knocks their socks off. We uncover the strategies, tactics, and tools we use every day to bring our clients’ conferences to life. If you've ever wanted to host a life-changing conference, this podcast is for you.

Find us at kickassconf.com or geteventlab.com

About your host

Profile picture for Isaac Watson

Isaac Watson

Isaac Watson is the founder and Executive Producer at Kickass Conferences, an event strategy and production studio based in the Pacific Northwest. Isaac helps community leaders develop and deliver transformative events for their audiences and inspire them to build a better world.

A maker and introvert at heart, when he’s not working his magic behind the scenes in event strategy and production, he’s usually at home in Vancouver, Washington working on remodeling projects, gardening, cooking, learning to sew, and building LEGO.