It’s hard to do hybrid events well: CES official top

Skift grip

If the past two years have proven anything, it’s how difficult it is to produce a hybrid event, but for CES, being one of the biggest events in the world, the demands and expectations are twofold.

Andrea Doyle

“How do you effectively connect online attendees and bring them back to your event?” asked Sean Perkins, Vice President, Marketing, Consumer Technology Association (CTA), producer of CES, at Skift Meetings’ recent Event Tech Innovation Summit. Integrating offline and online events is the next step in the evolution of events, he said, adding that the inherent challenge is the seamless blending of event and marketing technologies.

Following the Covid pandemic and subsequent shutdown, CES 2021 was forced to adapt, and it took place entirely online, with this year’s hybrid show.

“We’ve learned that it’s hard to run an all-digital event and it’s even harder to go hybrid,” Perkins said. “We had expanded to digital audiences at the same time, live streaming almost everything on our platform. We also captured additional content during the show which we streamed to our digital audience to consume later.

Engaging both in-person and virtual audiences can be challenging. “You have different workflows, different skill sets, a lot more producers, digital production showrunners, and moderators than you didn’t have when you were just producing an in-person event. We had to reassess our staff and put them in positions they didn’t have before. We had to train staff in new roles and pivot where they spent their time in planning and on site,” Perkins said. “When we went all-digital for CES 2021, everything was on deck – staff learned new skills, but that was everyone we had in staff working on a medium. Now, with the hybrid, you can do more with less, which makes the task even more difficult.

Year-round commitment key

CES 2021 was consumed in a variety of ways, Perkins said. For example, about 40% of the CES 2021 audience returned after the show to watch additional content. Additionally, in-person audiences for this year’s show were more likely to return and consume digital content after the show. Digital registration for CES 2022 provided access to approximately 50 live-streamed conference sessions, keynotes, select Media Days press conferences, and the opportunity to engage with exhibitors.

“Over the years we have livestreamed all of our presentations and about 100 of our programming sessions. We have always been concerned about cannibalization. However, we have learned over the years and throughout the pandemic that you need to go live and extend your reach to as many people as possible. Therefore, we have syndicated keynotes and selected sessions to our media partners.

A popular keynote that aired live this year featured US DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaking on the future of transportation.

Year-round engagement is what the future holds, Perkins said. “Why not organize contextual events focused on what was discussed at CES?” he asks. “It’s an interesting trajectory to see where we were in 2020 and where we are now.”

Perkins shared with the audience the history of CES, which began in 1967 in New York, before moving to Chicago, focusing on broadcast and television manufacturers and retailers. Now held every January in Las Vegas, it has widened its reach to include companies like Impossible Foods, the maker of all-plant-based meat and dairy products, which debuted the Impossible Burger at CES, earning a unprecedented media coverage for the company, from Space Tech to cryptocurrency and NFTs.

“There’s no other place you want to be in January than CES in Las Vegas,” enthused Perkins.