Innovating with Phygital Events: Combining Digital and Physical Worlds
Today, it has become commonplace for events to go beyond their physical locations into a hybrid space that combines both the physical and digital worlds. However, the hybrid event model comes with multiple challenges and costs that can frustrate even experienced event organizers. From hidden costs, coordinating an event for two audiences with different expectations, and staffing issues…the list goes on! To alleviate this, there is a switch toward a new event format, known as a “phygital”, which carefully introduces digital elements in an in-person event to complement the on-location format.
Phygital events are an extension of the development of pioneering phygital experiences in retail and marketplaces, that aim to make in-store experiences more enriching and transformative. Similarly, phygital events offer attendees a unique combination of physical and digital experiences, making them an exciting option for marketers and event professionals. Here, we explore the benefits of phygital events and what it takes to create a successful one.
What are phygital events?
As mentioned, the number of event professionals who feel comfortable, and capable of organizing multi-audience hybrid events is low. Hybrid events can have so many elements to execute properly, resulting in concepts that quickly outgrow their budget and require a lot of creativity to make them unique.
The feasibility challenges of hybrid events, combined with the enthusiastic return of in-person formats, have made phygital events an attractive option.
Phygital events may best be understood as primarily physical events with digital add-ons, chosen to create a more immersive and interactive experience for attendees. Digital components are included to complement what attendees are experiencing in person, rather than used to expand the event beyond its physical setting. Those events are becoming increasingly popular due to their ability to offer a more engaging experience than purely virtual events and extend the life-cycle of an in-person event.
The possibilities for phygital events are endless. Attendees can experience a wide variety of interactive elements such as augmented reality, virtual reality, smart AI technology and more. Companies can use these elements to create a unique experience for their attendees.
The Benefits of Phygital Events.
Phygital events have been gaining popularity as organizers have realized the many advantages they offer. Phygital events can provide a more engaging and flexible experience that can reach a much larger audience.
1- More immersive experience
Phygital events are the perfect blend of physical and digital experiences that create an incredibly immersive experience. By combining the best of both worlds, phygital events create a unique atmosphere that cannot be replicated in a physical or digital setting alone. For example, phygital elements such as adaptive experiences that respond based on an attendee’s profile through the use of smart badges (seen here in the Germany Pavillion at Expo 2020) or via biomarkers (lights changing from a participant’s heart rate). The creation of immersive environments helps in creating a memorable experience for attendees through interactive elements such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and ai-technology attendees can interact with the event content in new and exciting ways.
2- Increased Engagement
Phygital events offer attendees a much more engaging experience than traditional physical or digital events. Through the use of interactive elements and digital tools, attendees can interact with the content in meaningful ways. Some examples include using AR and VR technology to encourage your participants to interact with booths and exhibits through gamification, or to ease way finding within the venue. More simply, you can use digital tools to lead Q&A sessions in a simple way or introduce an event app to your event on which you can run giveaways during your events. Creative digital additions to the in-person experience help to keep attendees engaged and interested in the event content, leading to increased levels of participation and satisfaction.
3- Flexible event format
Another key benefit of the phygital format is increased flexibility. By combining physical and digital elements, organizers can easily tailor the event to attendees’ needs, and make adjustments based on their expectations and preferences. The use of digital technology can help attendees pre-select sessions at your event that might interest them based on their profile and expectations. Organizers can then use those preferences to adapt the event in real-time, for example, should they find considerable interest in a particular session, it can be moved to a larger room, or a special Q&A or add-on session can be added to the program.
4- Higher event reach
Phygital events offer an exciting new way to reach a wider audience. By combining physical and digital elements, phygital events offer event organizers an incredibly powerful way to engage their audience. Using immersive technology and proposing a creative and memorable experience will help your event stand out. Returning to the gamification example mentioned earlier, these elements can be packaged, so they are easily shareable on social media, for example with a 3-D photo booth, or digital trade show game that can be played on-site. Interactions like these encourage participants to share their experiences beyond the confines of the event location. The more it stands out, the more likely people will want to participate in your event and talk about your event with others.
5- Gather more data
Knowing the key elements that made your event a success is essential to being able to continue organizing events that are remembered. To do so, you need to gather data about your events, the participants, and the content produced at your event. Introducing phygital technology at your event is a sure way to gather your data easily for your marketing and event team to analyze. Moreover, the phygital format allows for a customized experience for each participant: depending on their interest, the sessions they attend, or the content they interact with, AI technology can be used to suggest similar content they’d appreciate or send them customized CTA.
6- Stay on top of the digital innovations
The hype for event technology has increased since 2020. While most people think of event tech as including event platforms, marketing solutions, or digital event ticketing, they tend to forget about a whole new category: on-site and sensor technology. These can include smart technologies such as RFID technology to reduce queuing time, facial recognition for faster check-in, and sensors to visualize interior traffic control and building conditions. Phygital offers unique experiences to attendees by introducing technology that aims to enhance their event experience.
Overall, phygital events offer numerous advantages for organizers and attendees alike. With increased attendance, engagement, flexibility, and reach, it’s no wonder that these events are a great choice for event producers to provide even more value to their attendees. For event organizers looking to maximize their reach and engagement while incorporating the latest event technology, phygital events are an excellent option.
Are Phygital Events the Future of the Event Industry?
In recent years, events have evolved considerably in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The changes were felt across all aspects of the industry. They are seen in event formats, but also changing the goal of events, roles of event organizers, and how businesses interact with their clients and communities. One learning that everyone agrees with is that the most important goal of events remains to provide value, whether in digital or physical spaces.
Since the event technology landscape has expanded considerably, many expected hybrid formats to become the standard after pandemic restrictions faded, and it was safe for attendees to meet in person once again. However, experience has shown that the hybrid event concept, while an option that has lots of potential, remains a big commitment for organizers that is not accessible for every company and budget.
But that doesn’t mean that the lessons learned from digital events held during the pandemic are soon forgotten. Indeed, after two years of relying on event tech to continue producing events, many event attendees, sponsors, and exhibitors expect digital elements, even with the return of the in-person event format. This is why we can expect the phygital format to become increasingly popular. Phygital events provide a unique event experience by introducing event technology that makes the attendees’ experience more interactive and convenient. A number of the most useful phygital event extensions were part of events before the pandemic began, for example, smart badges or sensor technologies. Today, they’ve become even more sophisticated and useful for event organizers.
Event Technology For your Next Phygital Event
As mentioned previously, the event technology landscape expanded a lot over the past few years. From virtual reality to interactive technology, there is no shortage of technology options that one can include to bring a creative flair to their event concept. With the right technology in place, event organizers can create a seamless and integrated hybrid event experience that allows attendees to feel like they are part of the action. But what technology to choose? The following are some of our favorite digital technology options that you might want to integrate into your event.
1- Sensor technology
While sensor technology is mostly known for its industrial applications, these technologies have considerable and growing potential also in the event industry. Adding sensors to your events can empower organizers with live data reporting and analyzing, which help you evaluate the impact of your event in real time. Based on these insights, organizers are able to adapt the content and management of their events during the event itself, adapting it to your participants’ preferences. For example, you’ll be able to reassign staff to one area if there are more people than expected, manage entries and exits, and address potential bottlenecks. This intervention can go a long way to making the attendees’ experience as flawless as possible.
2- Smart badges technology
Adding smart badges at your event can be an effective way to make networking simpler and more efficient. Before the event, your attendees would share their interests and contact information, and networking preferences, which would be stored on the smart badge. When worn during the event, the badges can notify attendees if they’re nearby another attendee that aligns with their preferences. The badge helps your participants easily identify someone with similar interests, making it more likely to get in touch and stay connected, as the smart badge can share one’s contact information with one another automatically. Moreover, smart badges definitely help with the check-in process if you have a digital check-in in place. No more waiting before entering the venue!
3- Augmented Reality Technology
Augmented reality is an exciting technology that allows one to enhance their physical space by adding virtual elements to it. It often doesn’t require the use of any additional hardware than the phone in your participant’s pockets. With the use of a web or mobile application, one’s experience can be completely transformed. AR Technology has lots of potential in an event. It can be used to make the most of a trade show booth: if you don’t have enough space to showcase all your products, exhibitors can use AR Technology to expand their space, highlighting more products, or specifically tailoring the display to each attendee’s specific preferences. It could also be used to help someone find their way to a booth by supporting navigation and way finding information within your venue. AR also has great gamification potential: you could make the attendees’ experience more interactive by organizing an AR treasure hunt, for example.
4- RFID technology
RFID, or Radio-Frequency Identification technology, is one that many of your attendees will already be familiar with, but one that can be used much more extensively in the event space. It has considerable potential when it comes to your event’s check-in experience, but can also be used for cashless payments onsite, which would participate in reducing the waiting time at many booths. RFID readers can also be used at booths to register interest or to request digital product information, lowering the amount of paper and consumables used. These technologies allow organizers the opportunity to create more hands-free and touchless events, improving hygiene. In addition, it also gives event organizers lots of insights into the attendees’ behavior, which can help them understand what people really enjoyed or not.
5- Artificial Intelligence
AI technology is something that is becoming more and more popular and accessible these days. Adding AI to your events can be a great complement, both for event organizers and event attendees. For example, AI can be used to optimize the event flow, manage registrations, and even analyze attendees’ behavior. AI can also be used to provide personalized experiences for attendees, such as providing real-time recommendations based on their interests and preferences. Another new avenue involves bringing AI into the event planning process, as text-based machine learning can equip organizers with suggested event themes, marketing materials, content suggestions and more. These tools help lighten the work of event professionals, who are then able to add a distinctly human touch.
Overall, there are many different technologies available, whether you’re looking into AI or wearable smart technology, which would help you enhance your participant’s experience while giving you lots of useful data. Knowing which one to choose will depend on your event, the location, what your event goals are, the kind of data you’d like to collect as well as your budget.
The Bottom Line
Phygital events are a great way to bring people together in a unique environment. They feel fresh and new while relying on trusted technologies. This event format allows for interactive and engaging experiences for event attendees. By combining virtual and physical elements, phygital events bridge the gap between traditional events and digital experiences, allowing for engaging conversations and meaningful connections. They also provide a great way for organizations to engage with their customers in a meaningful way and share value with them. With the right technology and planning, phygital events can be used to create an immersive, creative, and unforgettable experience for all participants.
PIRATEx Digital Marketing Manager