IT has been well over a year since most people have been to a business gathering in the flesh.

Dorset recently hosted what may be the first business event in the UK to have mixed an in-person and online element since lockdown.

And the proceedings may have been a taste of what successful "hybrid" events could be like after Covid.

You Are the Media Online/Offline was the work of the You Are the Media marketing and learning community established by Poole-based marketer Mark Masters.

There was a socially distanced audience Lighthouse's theatre, with guests and contributors dialling in via Zoom from across the UK, Australia, New York and North Carolina.

Mr Masters said: “You could say you are effectively delivering two events for two audiences at the same time. We purposely made sure that the people on the cinema screen were the stars of the show and those on Zoom spoke to the theatre.”

With lockdown restrictions lifted on July 19, he believes hybrid events will prove not to have been just a fad.

Bournemouth Echo:

Rich Burn at the You Are the Media Online/Offline event

“Over the past year did we learn nothing? For many businesses, it was a case of creating virtual events while they could. It could be like taking a plaster off to return to how it all was. I hope companies don’t just think in-person either/or online,” he said.

The events of 2020 helped many people and businesses become “digitally enabled” he says, and it would be a “waste” to lose that experience.

"Now that physical business events are back, how can companies help create a digital experience where the physical side makes it even better? 2020 taught us what we can now do. For small businesses, this is a huge opportunity,” he added.

Live events can't go back to before, says You Are the Media founder

He is planning a series of events, supported by a grant from the BCP Bounce Back Challenge Fund.

The first will be held at the Regent Centre, Christchurch, on Thursday, September 9, and the first guest will be Joe Pulizzi, the best-selling author of Content Inc, who will be joining from the US.

“This is something no one has done before in the commercial space,” said Mr Masters.

“Everyone who comes, will receive lunch, network, learn from others around the world, see a venue they may not have seen before and just enjoy the whole process of getting back into business events.”

Bournemouth Echo:

Mark Masters at the You Are the Media Online/Offline event

The inaugural event in Poole took advantage of the investment in technology and training that arose from Lighthouse’s grant from the Culture Recovery Fund, according to the venue’s fundraising manager, Tom Shallaker.

“Hosting a hybrid event with such an energetic and progressive community as You Are the Media was the ideal first opportunity to demonstrate this new capability to a group of people who represent a wide range of business and corporate interests,” he said.

Marketing Rebellion author Mark Schaefer in Bournemouth

Laura Killeen, MD of London-based theatre company Degenerate Fox, told the event how the pandemic had forced her to take her practice online.

“We found we were in touch with audiences that would otherwise have been unable to go to the theatre – from single parents to people in other areas and countries,” she said.

“Now of course we’re loving the prospect of being back in a theatre with a live audience but we don’t want to lose touch with those online audiences so it’s really interesting to see how hybrid events can work.”

Details of the autumn You Are the Media event are at