As Covid-19 restrictions continue to lift, the world of business is emerging a changed place. Gone are the old, rigid workplace dynamics and traditional means of putting on events, replaced by a fluid system that empowers workforces and audiences.
A recent McKinsey survey suggests that 90 per cent of organizations will adopt some combination of remote and on-site work. Event organizers and leadership teams pivoted too. With over two years of experience under their belt, they’ve mastered the ins and outs of running great virtual conferences and leveraging advanced virtual event platforms.
But there are more changes on the horizon in 2022, especially in the live event industry. Faced with new realities – a renewed emphasis on health and safety, uncertainty over travel restrictions as well as rapid acceleration towards a digital future – perceptive organizations are increasingly turning to the hybrid event model.
Hybrid events offer an attractive middle ground to reaching your goals and objectives, in this so-called “new normal.” The problem is that hosting one of these can be tricker than just meeting in-person or virtually. Without a solid grasp of the differences, the mistakes can pile up and prevent you from succeeding.
There is, however, a solution.
The experts at webinar.net are breaking down the core elements of a hybrid event as well as highlighting examples of hybrid events done right. Use this golden ticket to make a seamless transition from virtual to hybrid events.
Difference between hybrid, in-person & virtual events
The first step towards a planning a hybrid experience is understanding that you cannot approach it exactly like a virtual or physical event.
In-person events, as the name implies, are a live gathering where content and interactions are handled face-to-face. Virtual eventsindividuals experience the event and its content online.
On the other hand, hybrid events combine the best of both, including a mixture of in-person attendees and remote meeting participants, with their own set of engagement tools. The problem is that it can be tricky to prepare and coordinate for one, as you need to make the experience engaging and rewarding for a much larger audience.
Hybrid event formats
Whether you’re hosting a trade show and conference or product launches and team meetings, the hybrid event format is highly flexible. Your options are as follows:
- Traditional hybrid aka “The big company play”
- Reverse hybrid aka “Looks like a traditional hybrid event but it’s not”
- The multi-venue approach
- The non-hybrid/hybrid event
If you’re curious to learn more and how you can incorporate one of these into your own efforts, we’ve recently put together a detailed breakdown on each of these hybrid options.
Why you need to go hybrid
Once you go hybrid, it’s difficult to go back. Why? Because hybrid events take all the inherent advantages of physical and virtual events and roll it up into one complete package. Done correctly, at the very least, you’ll see greater attendance and higher engagement levels.
Here are a few more benefits:
Access to more people
People love having options. With a hybrid event, you’re giving your audience that kind of flexibility. Whether they attend in-person or join virtually, you’ll have a bigger audience than you could otherwise.
Those who may not have had the time or resources to attend before (i.e., travel restrictions around the world, venue capacity or any other additional costs), can tune in at their leisure. According to recent data, as many as 98 per cent of attendees who attend a hybrid event were not planning on attending live.
Once the show is over, you can aggregate your event content for on-demand, giving even more people access your material. This is important for your business, as you’ll continue to rake in impressions and influence decisions far into the future.
Unlike a strictly live or virtual event, a successful hybrid event provides your audience with some unique engagement opportunities. It is a dynamic space where both your live and online participants can learn, interact and ask questions – if you do the necessary planning, you can have live attendees network with their digital counterparts and vice versa.
More detailed data collection
Hybrid events allow businesses to collect valuable data points and insights on their participants, which they can in turn use to improve their future offerings. By having your engagement tools and content easily accessible on a PC or smartphone device, you can chronicle, store and analyze pretty much every interaction. This includes participation numbers, how attendees engaged, their interests and even when they decide to drop out of your session.
Richer sponsorship opportunities
With increased reach comes more potential interest from sponsors. As we continue to move towards more digitalization, sponsors are prioritizing digital in their budgets – it only makes sense for your business to follow suit and embrace this growth in technology. Putting on a hybrid event allows your sponsors, virtual or physical, to easily see where their dollars are going and to measure the exact impact of their contributions.
Cheat code for outstanding hybrid events
Now that you know why you should consider a hybrid event, here are some guidelines that your business can follow to gain an advantage over the competition:
1) The right hybrid event platform makes all the difference. Imagine this scenario: You’re a high-functioning member of your team who makes sound decisions and knows exactly you need. Your strategy and marketing stack are on point, and you have a solid webinar program, but you’re keenly aware of the obstacles facing your transition to hybrid events. The only thing missing here is the right tools to put everything together.
That is where a good hybrid event platform can make all the difference. During the pandemic, videoconferencing technology has grown exponentially, as organizations compete against one another to provide better and better features. As a result, there are plenty of platforms out there now that can help you an effective hybrid event.
Don’t have one? Our cloud-based webinar platform is one of the best all-in-one solutions for virtual and hybrid events. Our platform can help you create the most authentic and immersive hybrid events possible. With meetings optimized for face-to-face communication between in-person and virtual attendees and shared access to messaging, commenting, posting and polling, you’ll never miss a beat. Speak to one of our experts today to learn more.
2) Use video to immerse. What do remote participants need to be fully engaged? The last thing you want to do with your hybrid event is shortchange them on engagement. But that’s the risk you run if you treat them as mere observers rather than real, tangible members of the experience.
Instead of just speaking to this subsection, immerse them. During your hybrid events, let your virtual attendees see everyone in the room, presentations, the physical documents given out, whiteboard or flipchart content created during the meeting and so forth.
But don’t stop there. Create a sense of fellowship or camaraderie with everyone. Incorporate close-ups on speakers, use cameras that show the room of attendees as well as the material used. When applicable, offer fun prizes and encourage both audiences reach out to each other.
While you want to create two unique experiences, there still needs to be one unifying experience. You don’t want either side to come away feeling like they missed anything important.
3) Don’t let technology bugs catch you off-guard. Just like with a virtual event, event organizers need to prepare for a hybrid event ahead of time. Doubly so here because there are even more potential points of failure.
Before the event, test the audio and visual capabilities for in-room and virtual attendees. It’s a good idea to schedule a brief dry run so that remote participants understand what they are getting into and how to use the software features on offer.
In particular, make sure your audio game is up to par and don’t leave it to the last-minute. All your participants need to be able to hear. For the benefit of your remote attendees, make sure the room(s) has plenty of high-quality mics. If you’re in a temporary meeting space, try having your in-person attendees pass around a handheld mic before speaking.
4) All for one, but not one for all. Plan for two different experiences but make sure each attendee, virtual or in-person, gets the same event content. A good rule of thumb for hybrid events is to design them with remote participants in mind – consider their engagement needs, maximize their interaction with in-room attendees, and utilize online whiteboards and phone-based surveys. Apply some of the lessons that you learned from running virtual events to your hybrid event strategy.
5) Make sure every participant has a voice. When it comes to hybrid events, it is far too easy for the in-person crowd to dominate conversations. This is less than ideal as it turns virtual attendees into passive observers rather than engaged participants.
To avoid this fate, you can designate a moderator or single point-of-contact who can track and facilitate a balanced conversation during hybrid events. Their primary role would be to ensure remote attendees are heard and given equal footing. They can also serve as a physical representative, pointing out any issues highlighted in a private line of chat, such as a blocked camera view or muffled responses from in-person attendees.
6) On-demand is a necessity, not a luxury. One of the key advantages of a hybrid event is that it contains a virtual component and as such, everything can be recorded and uploaded online. This is particularly useful if there are multiple sessions going on simultaneously at your event, as participants don’t have to pick and choose which part they attend.
If you’re focusing in on your ROI but don’t want to limit the number of attendees, you could use a freemium model for your hybrid event. This involves creating different tiers, where basic content is free, but premium is paid, providing exclusive material.
Examples of successful hybrid events
Not everyone has mastered the art of hybrid events. Here are three examples that combine the best of virtual and in-person to deliver truly memorable experiences. Use these as inspiration for your next hybrid event:
- INBOUND by Hubspot: This is a three-day conference hosted by Hubspot in August of every year, where business professionals as well as comedians and entertainers present to a large crowd of professionals interested in learning marketing and best business practices. It excels as a hybrid event because everything is available to watch on-demand and it offers virtual attendees a fun and animated interface that’s a pleasure to use. In 2021, they kept it as a fully virtual event, but a return to hybrid is on the cards later this year.
- TwitchCon: Twitch, online live streaming community has been putting on masterful hybrid events for years. The TwitchCon itself is hosted every year in San Diego and features live musical acts on stage. All the content is streamed through its proprietary platform, where users can share their social experience with those physically present. It was cancelled in 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, but made a successful return in September 2021.
- Design Hive LA: Design Hive is an arts and education centre and event venue based out of Los Angeles. It specializes in hands-on workshops but had to go virtual when Covid-19 broke out. Last year they moved to a hybrid model for a number of their events. Those attending in the studio received light refreshments, material kits and had to adhere to proper safety measures. Those accessing remotely also received tools but had access to a food and drink menu.
A hybrid future
Hybrid events are continuing to gain in popularity. Alongside virtual events, hybrid meetings are and will continue to become a larger staple of event planning among organizations in many industries. The more comfortable organizations get in hosting these kinds of functions, the more innovation we will see.
The truth is, they can be a lot more complex than your standard in-person or virtual event, especially when it comes to coordinating everything.
However, it’s nothing a little preparation can’t overcome. It’s just a matter of satisfying your virtual audience. The expectations have been raised for remote participants and they will not accept second-class treatment.
Thankfully, with good design, facilitation and leveraging all the technology and tools at your disposal, you can create the perfect hybrid event experience for everyone.
Still have questions? If you need more help putting on a virtual event or webinar, reach out to the experts at webinar.net today! We’ll walk you through a live demo or if you need a more hands-on approach, try out the virtual events platform using a free trial.
Make your next virtual event a success. When you switch to the best online webinar software platform on the planet, you’ll be engaging your audience like never before!