Ah COVID-19, the ruiner of all your plans. That wedding in Bali you were supposed to attend? Cancelled. The concert of your favourite artist who finally released a new album? Also cancelled. Live events all over the world have been cancelled or indefinitely postponed due to the pandemic with any viable events going fully virtual. What we’ve learned is that although a virtual option does have its benefits, there are certain things a virtual event just can’t capture like a full live event. Enter: hybrid events.
Hybrid events are events that combine both in-person experiences with a virtual component. This will become the new normal as an essential part of the events industry. Continue reading as we get into what a hybrid event is, its benefits, and how to adapt your existing event strategy and get you adjusted to the new normal.
What is a hybrid event?
To understand hybrid events, it’s best to start off by understanding what types of meetings are suited for what event types.
In-person events: These events are best suited for gatherings of an intimate nature where content won’t be translated well virtually. Basically, the attendees really make this event and their attendance is of the utmost importance. Meetings like team building events and client luncheons are examples of this type of meeting.
Virtual events: These events are best suited for meetings that are frequent and recurring, that have a natural digital component such as a video, livestream or slide deck. These meetings require little to no budget and can be recorded for reference material in the future. Examples of these meetings include webinars, regular team meetings, executive panels and customer success groups.
Hybrid events: These events are a best for event types that have programs that can be effectively held virtually and in person. It is the best solution for the limitations of either individual event type. Hybrid events are especially effective during the pandemic where your attendees would typically be able to make it but can’t. Limitations include not being able to travel due to travel restrictions, decreased event and travel budgets, and space limitations at venues due to social distancing and capacity constraints. Examples of effective hybrid events are trade shows, global town halls (for companies with more than one office), and conferences.
So now that we understand there are live events, virtual events and hybrid events are literally the combination of the two. Let’s break it down into what type of hybrid events there are.
Internal hybrid events: The event programs are held to benefit the companies internal stakeholders such as employees, management and executives. For many companies, especially ones with multiple offices across different cities, holding an event that all you attendees can attend is nearly impossible (especially nowadays) so hybrid events have been used commonly to solve this issue. Typically a company would pick a venue, like their head office, and then stream the meeting for the rest of the company to virtually attend. Events like global town halls, regional department meetings, and spirit week kick-offs are usually held this way.
External hybrid events: These event programs are dedicated to benefit people outside of the company like your clients, prospects, and potential partners. By making these event types hybrid, you’ll be able to reach a broader audience and reduce your carbon footprint, while keeping costs low. Examples of these events include conferences, trade shows, and product demos.
What are the benefits of hybrid events?
Hybrid events are the best of both worlds. The main goal of hybrid events is to reach and engage as many attendees as possible, despite travel and capacity constraints. Hybrid events allow people to connect in person and enjoy your conventional event live, and also allows individuals the flexibility to enjoy the event virtually if they’re unable to physically due to travel or health reasons. Reducing the barrier to entry allows a wider reach of people to engage and interact with your content and brand.
1 – Increased Attendance
We briefly highlighted this point but it is one of the main benefits for hybrid events. In person events are typically the most engaging but things that limit attendance are the time and cost it takes to travel, especially with the recent pandemic imposing travel restrictions worldwide. With the virtual attendance option, many people will feel compelled to register and attend because they can do so from the comfort and safety of their own home.
2 – Your content goes a long way
Hybrid events will typically live stream the session for your virtual attendees to view. You’re then able to record these sessions and release them as video content after the event. Attendees can then rewatch the content or catch up on missed portions of the event for days and weeks after the event has ended. Additionally, this material can be refurbished and reformatted into different forms of media and content for your social media and marketing content. This will keep your event and its content going farther than just the day of the event.
3 – Smaller carbon footprint
Having a smaller number of onsite attendees means the scale of your physical event decreases resulting in a reduced carbon footprint. Less people, less waste, less transportation required. Not only will your event be recognized as the new standard of events and meetings, but also as an environmentally conscious organization.
4 – Increased sponsorship value
The increase in attendance and exposure by having your event as a hybrid event, means that your sponsors have double the amount of exposure for one event. This creates new opportunities to generate leads and build brand awareness on your platform. Offering your sponsors more value (double the exposure and reach in this case), means your event will also attract more attention from sponsorships meaning high sponsorship dollars coming your way. Events can start paying for themselves upfront and saving money is always a win.
Tips on adapting your event strategy around hybrid events
Once you’ve laid out your goals for the event and have an idea of the elements you want to include in your hybrid event, it’s time to plan the program. We’ve outlined some tips for adjusting your strategy for an effective hybrid event.
1 – It’s one event, but with two experiences
Yes you are hosting one event, but just turning on the camera and live streaming for attendees to watch everyone in attendance being engaged isn’t…well, engaging. It’s a balancing act. You’ll have to cater your delivery to each different group. You want to make sure your streaming service is tested and working correctly, and that you have presenters prepared to be recorded and engaging with the online audience. But with this, you want to ensure that your event doesn’t feel like two separate events either. The content should be the same, but the delivery is where you’ll be able to ensure you captivate each audience.
2 – Keep the content engaging
Probably the most important component of a hybrid event is the content. It is much harder to keep virtual attendees engaged from their homes than the attendees physically onsite. You’ll need to dedicate some time into ensuring that the content will translate well digitally. Other elements to think about are interactive components like live polls and Q&As to keep participants engaged. Also, keep things timely and keep things moving – no one wants to sit through a 4 hour slide-show presentation and speech.
3 – Keep the time zones in mind
A huge benefit to hybrid events is that people can attend from anywhere in the world. This poses a challenge of accommodating your virtual participants in different time zones. Obviously, you can’t pick a single time in the day that can accommodate every single time zone on earth, but what you can do is ensure that the sessions you’re offering can be accessed on demand.
It’s a crazy time we live in right now so being open to new ways of executing traditional practices like events will leave you in the right position to be able to come ahead. Remember that although you have two audiences, a hybrid is one event. The benefits are a no brainer, from increased attendance, more sponsorships, content that goes a longer way and a reduced carbon footprint, hybrid events are the normal when it comes to events around the world.