You don’t need to fear hybrid events — they’ve been around for years. In 2011, the CDC launched a four-day hybrid event where 1,600 attendees joined in-person and 1,875 CDC employees from around the world joined online. More than 50% of the attendees were remote!
Video and live streaming enable flexible ways of connecting, which is important for people attending events remotely or working from home. The last year has given us an opportunity to evolve traditional events in ways we never imagined.
In this guide, we’ll talk about hybrid events and tips on how to run a hybrid event with video. Let’s dive in!
What are hybrid events?
A hybrid event is one event with two different, but connected experiences.
This can look like a trade show, conference, meeting, or seminar that combines a live, in-person aspect with a virtual event experience. The great thing about hybrid events is that there’s great freedom to build the digital component.
The digital component can range from social media inclusion to live streaming the entire event. The key to success is getting creative and go with what works for your audience.
5 reasons to invest in hybrid events
Why should you invest in a hybrid event? While your audience might not always join an event in-person, having ad hoc access to your event content is still valuable. Going hybrid ensures you can reach a wider audience by making an event available in-person and online.
Here are five key benefits to consider when hosting your first hybrid event:
1. Extend your reach
You’re not limited to the local audience with hybrid experiences. You can cater to and connect with a global audience. Live streaming an event offers a lot of benefits including: widening your reach, connecting with your audience, building up your brand, helping promote products, and (with the right solution) quickly and easily bring an event to life online.
Hybrid also expands the horizon for potential event speakers. Want talent from another continent? No problem. You can have speakers contribute virtually.
2. Build more sponsorship offerings
Event sponsors can now invest in two experiences with a hybrid model. What was once a world of sponsor booths and logo signage placement can migrate to digital real estate.
A hybrid event sponsor can explore new options like sponsoring virtual event sessions and workshops, leading virtual networking experiences, and more. Hybrid events give sponsors more reasons to invest in your event while increasing revenue for your business.
3. New opportunities for audience engagement
Hybrid events create opportunities for audience members to mingle in multiple ways. Digital audiences can engage with each other and with in-person attendees. Similarly, in-person attendees can connect with each other and with digital audiences through live chat and polls supported by your platform. Your virtual platform is a medium that connects both audiences to a digital space where most of this interaction can live.
4. Strengthen community
A common challenge of an event of any type is sustaining the conversation once the event is over. Hybrid events can seamlessly transition to an online community that your organization can nurture over time. Attendees can interact with each other and with your brand while accessing on-demand content. You can even explore how to monetize your event content with VOD streaming.
Continued engagement will also help generate more business for your sales pipeline.
5. Lower environmental costs
The pandemic showed us the impact reduced travel and energy consumption can have on the environment. According to the IEA, global average road transport activity fell to 50% of the 2019 level by the end of March 2020.
In addition to helping the environment, hybrid events can reduce financial risks. The once risky hotel block of 200+ hotel suites can be drastically reduced. Catering and disposable resources also decrease.
Types of hybrid events
What’s great about hybrid events is the flexibility. You can implement a hybrid format for both internal and external events. I’ll dive into a few differences and common use cases of each event type.
Internal events help deepen employee engagement, align teams, and contribute to a brand’s foundational success. But getting every employee together for a meeting is nearly impossible. That’s where a hybrid approach comes in.
Empower employees with two options to attend a meeting: set the stage for those who want to attend an in-person internal event and equip the remaining distributed employees with secure video, engagement tools, and a video library to access all content.
Here are some use cases for internal events that can go hybrid:
- Town halls
- SKOs ( Sales Kick-offs)
- Recurring team sessions
- Team building workshops
- In-person and remote onboarding
External events and virtual events
External events cater to your clients, prospects, and general audience. The intention here is often to generate new business and nurture customers. Pivoting your in-person-only event to a type of virtual event or hybrid event will help extend your reach. You may see results like an increase in attendance via virtual registrants or increasing revenue targets with additional ticket types.
Here are a some external events to consider for a hybrid setting:
- Product launches
- Client appreciation events
Tips for creating a hybrid event
There’s no better time to get started! Many event organizers will be hosting a hybrid event for the first time. And with the right strategy and video tools, any organization or business can produce a successful hybrid experience. Just remember: like any other event, setting your goals is essential for kicking off the creative process.
Here are a few steps you can take to build you hybrid event experience:
Set a realistic strategy
There are a few new things to consider when thinking about how to create a hybrid event. You’ll want to identify which components should be virtual and which should be in-person, who will be involved, and contingency planning.
Having trouble? Below, are five areas to consider when mapping out an event strategy:
- Virtual venue: What is the limit to the amount of content your virtual or live streaming platform can hold? This includes bandwidth and streaming capabilities.
- Physical venue: Is your venue available and willing to host in-person events? If so, what is the venue capacity? Also note the safety measures and requirements, if any.
- Sponsor & partners: Is there a sponsorship opportunity for your hybrid event? Contact your sponsors to get a sense of how willing and ready they are to participate in a hybrid event.
- Assign internal teams: Determine who from the team will head the physical event experience and the virtual component of the hybrid event.
- Backup plan: No one likes to think about the worse case scenario. But in the event of lockdown measures, event planners should prepare to go 100% virtual.
Design your event with two attendee types in mind
The unique part about hybrid events is that you are uniting two different audiences. On one hand, there is the in-person audience present at a physical event. They’re attending for that experiential factor. Meanwhile, your second audience consists of virtual attendees tuning into streaming content and engaging with speakers and attendees.
Ask yourself, how will audiences engage with the content? How can I give my in-person audience a memorable experience while staying connected to my virtual audience at the same time? You may find yourself with two different internal teams behind the scenes. This is to ensure both audience journeys stay interconnected.
Captivate your audience with content
The last thing your audience wants to see is a stream of speakers presenting from a podium. You’ll want to invest in professional video production to provide a cinematic experience for your content.
Presentations and graphics should be pristine to draw viewers in. Professional quality video streaming will help keep your virtual audience on the screen.
And don’t forget your speakers! Remember to prep and rehearse with speakers so they’re fully prepared to deliver the best possible content. Provide in-person and virtual speakers with a greenroom area to rehearse and meet the production team.
Create different speaking environments
When thinking about set and design, consider expanding beyond a general event session area. New environments for different types of event sessions or just casual collisions can compliment the in-person experience. It also guarantees remote audiences can experience different event locations. A change in set design can serve a similar purpose.
And for speakers who contribute virtually, ensure their content compliments the program. Send speaker packs in advance detailing guidelines that their virtual session must follow. It always helps to send speaker kits to assist with lighting and/or branded backdrops for the best visual presentation.
Create exclusive experiences
You want to provide your audience with experiences that make them feel special regardless of where they tune in. Here are two ideas to create a sense of exclusivity for both your in-person and virtual audiences:
- Market the value of each experience: Consider ways you can make each experience different. For example, for in-person ticket holders, offer a VIP experience for the first 50-100 attendees. Capacity limits can also drive up demand. For the virtual registrants or ticket holders, provide sneak-peek access, behind the scenes clips, or early access to content presentations.
- Report live from the event: Think of this as your internal news or media team. Report live from the in-person event and broadcast to your virtual audience. Not only are you engaging you in-person attendees, but you’re also extending that engagement to the remote audience. Report between sessions and interview both attendees and speakers. Just keep in mind, reporting from the event would be distinct from hosting the event.
Have fun with formats
For remote attendees, consider sending materials or relevant swag (as they relate to the content) ahead of the event. This can encourage digital audiences to test out a product from home and share their experiences during a session. Use live chat, polls, virtual breakout rooms and more to drive engagement and casual collisions between digital attendees.
For in-person attendees, change up the setting with both indoor and outdoor environments. Make sessions more interactive with virtual reality elements. Above all, give your attendees space. With so much going on in a hybrid setting, give your in-person audience time to digest both the event itself and valuable content.
Connect both audiences with the right teams
Try not to overwhelm yourself with the technical aspect of a hybrid event. First, you want to ensure that you have the right platform to connect both audiences. You’ll want to ensure that you have the appropriate teams ready to monitor the following:
- IT troubleshooting team: Have platform experts on deck for any trouble shooting needs. Their role solely pertains to technical aspects of your live streaming or virtual platform.
- Community engagement team: Assign team members as moderators or hosts in all virtual breakouts, live chats, and apps.
- Social media team: Designate a team to manage online communities and share content across your social platforms.
Invest in a professional, live streaming experience
Video quality is imperative in a hybrid event world. Your virtual attendees want a professional broadcast experience.
While your live streaming platform can help deliver high quality video, I’d recommend investing in a production team to execute the in-person and virtual experience. A good production team will know how to manage both. This means they can execute the in-person aspects like lighting, camera, audio, presentation/video transitions etc.) and manage the stream for the digital viewing audience.
Because budgets tend to increase here, note this cost early. Hiring a professional production team is well worth the investment. A professional producer, sound operator, and engineer can help bring a successful hybrid vision to life.
Create a great onsite experience
While much of the focus seems to be on the remote audience, your physical audience needs a great experience, too. This all revolves around the onsite experience. With fewer attendees in-person, you can invest in all things experiential like event check-in, networking tools, and food!
Solicit feedback post-event
The thing with hybrid events is that we will be learning and experimenting for some time. This means feedback is critical. Use polls and surveys to get feedback from your audience. The responses will help you refine your hybrid event strategy for the future.
Capture the right analytics
Event analytics can include event registrants, in-person and virtual attendees, audience engagement scores, content views, watch time, speaker insights, and more. In the case that you are using an event app or a communication platform like Slack or Discord, monitor peak engagement times. Note trending topics or content views to get better intel into what drives attendees.
Prepare for the unexpected. Health guidelines, state protocols, and national mandates could impact in-person and hybrid events. It’s important to have a flexible mindset and a well thought plan if gathering is not an option.
Here are a few tips to prepare your event for the unexpected:
- Venue negotiation: Before you’re ready to sign on the dotted line for your in-person venue and vendors, ensure there’s an added clause that saves you from a loss should another round of lockdowns occur.
- Production ROS: Provide your production team with two run of shows: one for a hybrid event and one for a virtual event. Should there be a pivot last minute, you’ll be equipped with plan B.
- Speaker guidelines: Brief all you in-person speakers for a virtual scenario. Include details in their speaker pack to reference if there are last-minute changes.
- Pivot in-person tickets: Have a plan set to convert in-person tickets to virtual.
Events have transformed dramatically in the last year and a half. Hybrid events give us the opportunity to scale, reach, and engage larger audiences.
As you navigate the hybrid model, ask yourself, “How can we do things better?” It may feel like you’re always trying to optimize event logistics, marketing strategies, and execution. But event professionals are in an industry that is constantly changing. And with powerful video tools at the fingertips, you can ace hybrid events.