Digital fatigue and shipping’s need to socialise formed much of the discussion at yesterday’s events-centred session at the Wake Media-organised Marketing in Maritime virtual event.

The three-day conference, sponsored by Splash, looks at how shipping brands can get their message across in the changed world following Covid-19.

Speakers at yesterday’s events session were adamant that while digital will continue to play a significant role, the industry’s notoriously social characteristics means traditional, big physical gatherings will return at the earliest moment possible.

We see digital fatigue, which is quite big. What we would like to do is meet and socialise,” suggested Per Martin Tanggaard, director of Nor-Shipping. Digital tools are okay for meetings, he said, but are not working well for socialising.

Banu Kannu, co-founder of event consultancy Uncommon Conferences, concurred, saying shipping gatherings had an important role to play as part of the world gradually come out of lengthy lockdowns.

“Socialising is massive,” Kannu said. “People are isolated and lonely – the mental impact of the last 18 months is far reaching and us in events have a responsibility to get people out of this hole.”

The session then focused on the rapid take-up of so-called hybrid events.

Chris Morley, group director of exhibitions and awards at Informa Markets – Maritime, part of the world’s largest exhibition group, said his company is preparing to include digital content in most events going forward, but it was important to separate content.

“It’s a balancing act,” Morley said, adding: “Hybrid is a really good solution depending on your objective.”

Informa is planning for the vast majority of its events to have a digital access route, Morley said, something that the group’s customers have demanded.

Nevertheless, he cautioned: “We have to be careful about that word hybrid – it has become a buzzword over the pandemic. We cannot get distracted by the toys and noise of digital.”

Hybrid events trying to be live and appease an in-person audience and an online audience at the same time tend not to work, warned Kannu.

By Wake Media’s count, there are more than 1,200 maritime events pencilled in the calendar throughout 2021, something Nor-Shipping’s Tanggaard was adamant would be whittled down to fewer, larger gatherings in the post-pandemic future.

The conference concludes today with a focus on online marketing.