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The last few years have seen significant changes in Australia’s property market, with house prices rising dramatically in major cities like Sydney and Melbourne. This rapid growth has priced many people out of the market, leading them to consider moving to more affordable regional areas.
At the same time, the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of virtual and hybrid events. While in-person events are starting to return, virtual and hybrid events are here to stay as they offer advantages like wider reach and lower costs. However, some event professionals may question whether they should continue investing in these digital formats.
This blog post will examine why more Australians are moving regionally due to rising property prices and why event managers should continue to invest in virtual and hybrid events as part of their offering.
Surging Property Prices Driving Regional Migration
Australian property prices have increased for years, but the market went into overdrive during the pandemic. According to CoreLogic home value data, national housing prices rose 22.2% in 2021 – the highest annual growth rate since 1989. Record-low interest rates, government incentives drove this, and lifestyle shifts triggered by COVID-19.
The biggest gains came in Sydney and Melbourne, where prices jumped by 25% and 15% respectively last year. But even regions like Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Canberra saw double-digit growth. This boom has put homeownership out of reach for many, especially first-home buyers.
Research shows that as prices rise in significant metros, more people consider moving to satellite cities and regional areas where property is more affordable. A 2021 Demographia survey found the median house price in the towns like Sydney was 9-13 times higher than in major regional centres in NSW and Victoria. Areas within commutable distance of capitals – like the Gold Coast, Newcastle, Geelong and Wollongong – have increased as people seek an affordable alternative.
While this urban-regional migration trend is not new, analysts expect it to continue as remote work untethers more people from living close to big city offices. A survey by the Regional Australia Institute found 35% of metro residents are considering a treechange in the next year. With prices forecast to keep rising in 2022, more Australians will likely leap to afford that first home or upgrade to a better lifestyle.
The Continuous Evolution of Events
COVID-19 triggered a seismic shift to digital and hybrid formats for the events industry. With in-person gatherings banned or restricted, everything from conferences to exhibitions and awards nights went online. Tech solutions helped organisers adapt through virtual event platforms, augmented and virtual reality, and tools for engagement and networking.
Industry figures show hybrid events (a blend of in-person and virtual elements) jumped from 28% of all events pre-COVID to 88% in 2021. Two-thirds of event profs surveyed by EventMB said virtual components gave their events a wider reach, and 65% said it improved attendee satisfaction—80% plan to continue with virtual or hybrid events to some degree.
This lines up with attendee demand. Surveys show most participants want digital engagement options to continue being offered. Benefits like less travel time and costs, health safety, flexibility to fit different time zones, and accessibility for remote or mobility-challenged attendees make virtual/hybrid appealing.
Yet some organisers question whether they should keep investing in digital capabilities given the return of face-to-face events. Concerns like tech costs, attendee dropout rates, and lower revenue compared to purely in-person events may make them hesitant. But exiting virtual and hybrid formats completely could be a strategic mistake.
Why Virtual and Hybrid Events Should Remain Part of the Mix
While nothing beats the buzz of live events, virtual and hybrid offerings have cemented themselves as essential for event managers. Maintaining these digital formats and capabilities will enable organisers to meet the demands of their audience, capture new opportunities, weather uncertainties ahead, and future-proof their business.
Here are five key reasons to keep virtual and hybrid events in your portfolio:
1. Offers More Choices for Attendees
Allowing attendees to join events virtually or in person caters to different needs and preferences. Some will be eager to network face-to-face after extended lockdowns, while others prefer remote options. Specific demographics, like working parents or those with disabilities, find virtual access more convenient. Offering choice suits more people.
2. Expands and Diversifies Your Audience
Well-executed virtual events allow you to attract a larger, more geographically diverse audience across Australia or worldwide. This is especially useful for niche industry events. With less need to cover travel costs, you can also reach more price-sensitive attendees. Virtual elements provide easier access for time-poor or budget-limited professionals.
3. Mitigates Risks of Disruption
COVID-19 won’t be the last public health or other crisis. Extreme weather, economic instability, geopolitical tensions – many risks could disrupt in-person events. Maintaining virtual/hybrid capacity helps hedge against cancellations, allowing continuity if gatherings get postponed or switched online due to unforeseen circumstances.
4. Improves Inclusion and Accessibility
Certain groups may be unable or unwilling to join in-person events regularly – people with disabilities or medical conditions, remote/regional residents, parents of young kids etc. Providing virtual access helps make your events more inclusive and accessible for different circumstances and needs.
5. Retains Attendees When Budgets Are Tight
In more challenging economic times, marketing and travel budgets often get cut. Virtual options allow cash-strapped attendees and sponsors to still participate without onsite costs. Though revenue per head may be lower, retaining more attendees and sponsors ultimately sustains your event through volatile conditions.
Tips for Sustaining Virtual/Hybrid Event Success
Evolving your events to a virtual/hybrid model takes strategic planning and effective execution. Here are some tips:
- Evaluate your audience – know their needs and preferences to shape your digital offerings—survey attendees before and after virtual and in-person events to gauge demand.
- Set KPIs – identify success metrics for virtual engagement like participant numbers, retention rates, satisfaction, interactivity etc. Track data to refine and optimise.
- Allocate budget – adequate resources are required to deliver robust digital experiences, e.g. platform costs, production, and content.
- Hybrid design principles – seamlessly blend physical and virtual elements e.g. include remote attendees into onsite activities via live streaming.
- Community – build an engaged community before, during and after with social media, messaging apps, forums etc. Encourage networking.
- Production quality – invest in multi-camera setups, green screens, overlays and graphics to emulate a studio production.
- Engagement – drive two-way interactions through tools like polls, Q&As, chats, gamification, and breakout rooms.
- Content strategy – balance live and pre-recorded content. Shorter sessions work better for virtual retention.
- Tech support – provide on-demand help for any user issues. Test systems ahead of time. Have backups if needed.
- Analytics – collect robust data on every aspect, from registrations to attendee behaviour. Adjust the approach accordingly.
Australia’s runaway property boom has priced many out of major city markets, pushing more people to relocate regionally for affordability. At the same time, COVID has sparked a virtual and hybrid events revolution that offers organisers new opportunities despite returning to face-to-face gatherings.
Sustaining virtual and hybrid event capabilities will allow organisers to give attendees flexible options for different needs. It also helps future-proof events against disruptions, expands reach to new audiences, improves accessibility and drives ongoing engagement during uncertain economic times.
With strategic planning and robust execution, virtual and hybrid events can become an integrated part of any event portfolio. Blending real-world experiences with the digital will be key to engaging and satisfying Australia’s dispersed audiences in the future.