The way forward for occasions: How business conferences and large gatherings will work after the pandemic

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Blending the physical and digital: A crowd at The International, Valve’s Dota 2 eSports tournament, in Seattle in 2017, three years before the pandemic. (GeekWire File Photo / Kevin Lisota)

The pandemic had a seismic impact on in-person meetings and events, requiring organizers and attendees to adjust to a whole new reality.

The aftermath could prove even trickier, creating a hybrid audience, with some people attending virtually and others in the flesh. 

Allie Magyar, Hubb CEO

But remember this: “Hybrid just means that there’s a variety of different experiences. It doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be at the same time.”

That’s one takeaway from our conversation with Allie Magyar, the CEO of Hubb, a Vancouver, Wash.-based company that makes technology for virtual and in-person events. A veteran of the events industry, Magyar has run some of the world’s biggest tech conferences, including Microsoft’s Ignite, for which she was the lead planner.

She said it’s important not to lose some of the best aspects of digital event experiences in the transition out of the pandemic.

“Not only do I learn from the speaker in a digital experience, but I learn from every other person that’s attending that session,” she said. “This is what I learned when I implemented this. This is how I feel. This is my key takeaway from this.”

GeekWire File Photos / Kevin Lisota

A recent announcement from Salesforce about the future of the Dreamforce conference is a good example of what to expect for large-scale events, Magyar said: A unified event consisting of regional gatherings in multiple cities, with an accompanying digital experience, with in-person attendance requiring vaccination.

As we emerge from the era of social distancing, many people in tech and other industries are asking what events will look like, and how they’ll work.

Our team at GeekWire is asking many of these same questions, as we look ahead to the next installment of our own tech conference, the GeekWire Summit.

  • What should the virtual experience be like? How can it be blended successfully with the experience for people there in person?
  • Do people really want to sit in a ballroom listening to sessions, or will they want to interact and socialize with their peers after 18 months in seclusion? 
  • What types of health and safety precautions will need to be taken?
  • How will this new hybrid world change the business and finances of events?
  • Will people still be willing to travel long distances to big events?
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Magyar answers these questions on this episode of the GeekWire Podcast. She also offers her input on events like ours, and talks about Hubb’s transition through the pandemic, expanding into virtual events technology, after focusing largely on in-person events before the pandemic.

Hubb’s business grew 500% last year, Magyar said. It is currently #115 on the GeekWire 200, our index of the Pacific Northwest’s top privately held companies, up 12 spots from the prior month, reflecting its recent employee growth.

Founded in 2015, the company has raised $9.44 million in funding, according to PitchBook. Its largest funding round was a $6.3 million investment in October 2018, led by Five Elms Capital, with participation from previous investors Oregon Venture Fund and Elevate Capital.

Listen above, and subscribe to the GeekWire Podcast wherever you listen.

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