With virtual events becoming the new normal over the last couple of months, we've seen an incredible push for the events industry to adapt and innovate in order to create valuable experiences that go beyond the physical landscape. Now as we look forward to the future of events, we are seeing a new buzz word take over the conversation; "Hybrid Events". Hybrid events are certainly not a new concept. But as our industry innovates throughout this pandemic, our digital infrastructure strengthens and this new, more sophisticated events model will undoubtedly play an integral role in shaping the success of future events for many years to come.
In this post we'll break down everything you need to know about hybrid events and what tools you'll need in order to host one successfully.
What are Hybrid Events?
A hybrid event is one that simultaneously combines a physical event with virtual elements, allowing online attendees to participate, learn and engage, even if they cannot physically attend the event. Not to be confused with live-streaming an event, hybrid events are the amalgamation of technology with the traditional event format to create unique experiences and interactions for both the in-person and virtual participants.
Some examples of incorporating hybrid elements include virtual Q&A and polling during live streams, virtual networking or breakout rooms and post event libraries of on demand content for all participants.
The Benefits of Hybrid Events
The reasons for hosting a hybrid event don't necessarily differ from those for hosting in-person and virtual events; to deliver a message, engage and connect with an audience, generate brand loyalty and to drive leads and revenue. So why are event planners choosing to push the boundaries of traditional event models and navigate the complexities of hybrid events more than ever before? Well, aside from the obvious travel and social distancing restrictions currently in place, here some of the main benefits for going hybrid and why this model should be considered long after larger gatherings return to being considered fair game.
Greater audience reach
While many still prefer the in-person aspects of an event, the majority of people simply do not have the time, money or physical capacity to attend events in person. By offering a valuable online component for your event you'll be able to promote inclusivity and connect with a significantly larger and more diverse audience.
Access to a larger pool of speakers
Having quality speakers for your event is paramount, however most events are limited to budget, availability and location when it comes to locking in the right speakers. By removing these barriers, you can access a much larger pool of potential speakers, thereby adding to the overall value of the event.
Another major event trend recently has focused on event sustainability. Offering a hybrid element to your event gives your attendees the choice of participating in a more sustainable manner, thereby reducing your events' carbon footprint and positioning your company as a forward thinking and environmentally conscious organisation.
Extending engagement beyond the event day
Focusing event resources towards creating engaging online content certainly benefits the virtual attendees. However, this also gives event organisers the benefit of being able to repurpose their content beyond the event day for broader marketing and communications channels.
With hybrid events, you'll be able to offer sponsors greater value through broader audience exposure and a larger network of digital and in-person advertising avenues. And of course, more value to sponsors, means more sponsorship dollars for you!
Richer event data and analytics
Data is a powerful tool in determining what does and doesn't work for your event. A hybrid model allows you to take advantage of the stock of analytical tools at your disposal and easily track audience engagement. A larger audience base inherently increases your internal database, allowing for greater, more comprehensive demographic insights. You can also introduce polling and surveys that would otherwise be trickier to capture with in-person event registrants, further helping organisers and businesses refine and improve their content and structure for future events.
How to Create a Successful Hybrid Event
Understandably, the idea of producing an event through an entirely new model can be somewhat daunting. That's why the team here at AV24/7 has put together some of our top practical tips to help you create a rich online and in-person experience so you can reap the benefits of hybrid events.
Consider both audiences' experiences
The in-person and virtual attendee will experience certain aspects of the event similarly (think, keynote speakers and presentations), yet there are many other areas of the event which they will not, such as breakouts and networking etc. The hybrid event should feature a unique set of advantages for both groups of ticket holders and organisers should clearly communicate these features so that attendees can choose the best option that matches what they wish to gain by participating in the event.
Maintaining engagement from your virtual audience will be one of the biggest challenges for hybrid event organisers. Traditionally, event breaks are filled with networking and mingling opportunities, however the virtual audience will not automatically have this opportunity, so organizers will need to think of creative ways to maintain attention and value for their online audience at every stage of the event. Consider incorporating an engaging MC to transition from live and on-demand sessions and opening up live chat rooms, Q&A and polls, or even incorporating physical Virtual Event Boxes for attendees to open at specified times.
Partner with the right experts
Choosing the right Venue and AV specialists who can offer robust digital infrastructures and competitive tech capabilities is vital for the success of your hybrid event. Reliable high-speed internet should be a non-negotiable. The quality of your broadcasting equipment directly impacts the viewing experience for your online audience so this should be considered a top priority when budgeting for any hybrid event.
For live-streaming, planners should also consider the visual production quality in the physical space and how this translates to engaging content online. Make sure your physical event has broadcast quality lighting and if possible, try to incorporate various camera shots and close ups of the speakers.
Differentiate between the in-person and virtual production elements
Depending on the complexity of the hybrid event, the physical and virtual components may be entirely different experiences, requiring more complex production teams and technological solutions than with a traditional event.
From the physical event perspective, production and AV components will run relatively the same while the virtual experience will require a reliable platform and additional technicians to facilitate the online experience. Some of the key elements the virtual event production team will manage include on-demand and live video switching, remote speaker management, troubleshooting technical glitches, offering real-time customer support, and pre-event virtual attendee management.
With the current global climate, it comes as no surprise that hybrid events will be a necessity for the foreseeable future. More importantly though, as both organisers and attendees continue to reap the benefits of hybrid events, we should see this model - with its ever-improving digital infrastructure - form a powerful path towards reshaping our industry to create a more accessible, inclusive and sustainable future for events.