Event professionals have witnessed firsthand the changes to in-person events in the past year. Virtual events provide an alternative solution to reach more attendees without the need to physically gather. Hybrid events allow event professionals to combine in-person and virtual event experiences to reach a wider audience while providing ways for attendees to engage and connect.

It’s no wonder why 65% of event professionals plan to use hybrid as their go-to format once in-person events resume. We recently polled our Vimeo community and found the majority plan to produce virtual events (X%) and hybrid events (X%). Hybrid events offer flexibility while making it easier to comply with local health and safety guidelines for more intimate in-person experiences.

In this article, we’ll talk about what makes a hybrid event and learn from some of the best hybrid event examples of 2021.

Let’s dive in!

What does a hybrid event look like?

A hybrid event is one central event with two different, yet connected experiences. The shared connection between in-person and virtual attendees is the event content. A hybrid approach can be applied to any event format including trade shows, conferences, meetings, or seminars.

No matter if your attendees are in-person and remote, you’ll want to find ways to keep them engaged. For your remote attendees, it’s important to find tools to help engage with event content. Here are some examples of tools you can use to maximize audience engagement:

  • Live and on-demand event content. Live content is much like a live television broadcast, but you can upload pre-recorded content to be watched on-demand at any time.  
  • Polls & Live Q&As.  Polls and live Q&A help remote audiences feel as if they are in the room with speakers and can participate just as effectively as an in-person attendee would.
  • Breakout rooms. Streaming breakout sessions from the physical event allow digital audiences to join in. 
  • Networking tools. Chat functionality, video, profile creation, and 1 to 1 meetings help in-person and digital audiences meet.

The best hybrid examples of 2021

Now that you know a little more about hybrid events, how do you produce a great one? We’ve taken a look at some of the best hybrid events yet to help inspire you and get your hybrid event in motion.

#FinCon21

#FinCon21 launches their hybrid experience this September in Austin, Texas. The digital marketing event for personal finance content creators is going the extra mile when it comes to networking. Virtual audiences will be able to interact with in-person attendees via video chat and messaging. Additionally, this event will also feature a FinCon Central hub. The hub includes exhibits, live podcasting, and video booths accessible both to in-person and virtually participants.

When considering your event, make sure you prioritize features that encourage connection between in-person and virtual attendees.

Empower Conference 

One of the first major hybrid conferences to take place this past year was Empower 21. Both in-person and virtually attendees were given access to a digital event platform. Attendees could interact with each other, view the agenda, speaker information, and more. For in-person attendees, safety protocols like mandatory masks and social distancing were implemented. 

This hybrid event proved that businesses can still hold successful and safe in-person experiences by following health guidelines. The Empower Conference will return to the Irving Convention Center on February 28th, 2022.

TwitchCon

It would be no surprise if Twitch, the online streaming platform for gamer communities, focused solely on virtual experiences. However, Twitch recognizes the value of a hybrid experience. For several years, TwitchCon featured live entertainment, music, panel sessions, meet-and-greets, and tournaments. By using their platform to stream content, TwitchCon virtual audiences benefit from social interactivity and seamless engagement with all live aspects of the event. TwitchCon is hosted in San Diego and is awaiting an official announcement for its next event.

Gainsight Pulse Everywhere

In June of 2021, Gainsight’s Pulse Everywhere hybrid event featured 148 speakers across 11 unique tracks over the course of 3 days in San Francisco.  The event offered both free and paid ticket options. Free tickets got you access to the sessions, booths, networking, and keynotes.  Paid experiences unlocked perks such as a swag store voucher, access to VIP fireside chats.  They also offered a virtual speed networking feature to mimic the spur of the moment conversations that happen at in-person events. Gainsight even hired a production team to help develop their vision and deliver a successful hybrid event. 

For large hybrid events, you may want to explore how hiring a production team can help you bring the event experience to life.

Apple’s Special Events

One of the best examples of hybrid events is none other than Apple Special Events. For as long as we can remember, Apple’s special events have been live streamed to audiences around the globe introducing the latest Apple products, technology, and more. In 2019, a crowd of 1,000 people and two million remote viewers tuned in to watch Tim Cook unveil products like a new iPad, a refreshed Apple Watch, and the cutting-edge iPhone 11. Though hybrid has since expanded to more levels of audience interaction, reaching 99.95% of a company’s entire audience from a single event is no small feat.

WEC Grapevine

One of the largest meeting and event industry associations took hybrid by storm this past year.  WEC Grapevine ran a 5 day in-person conference with 20+ concurrent sessions for 1739 attendees total. That breaks down to 608 in-person and 1131 digital attendees. MPI set out to show how to safely bring back business meetings and events. The hybrid event was such a success, it also launched in Las Vegas in June of 2021 offering both an in-person and a digital experience yet again. Both were 100% live, happening simultaneously and allowing attendees to participate in the way that’s best for them.

Social Media Marketing World

A go-to hybrid event for leading social influencers is the Social Media Marketing World conference.  The in-person aspect takes place in San Diego and offers high-quality content to inspire social media managers featured on popular platforms. The virtual component allows for the remote attendees to partake in the same content digitally.  The registration process is clever and empowers attendees with multiple ticket tiers to maximize their audience. Tiers range from 100% virtual, on-demand video access, and all-access passes. The all-access tier features live on-location access to all keynotes, sessions, recordings, and more.

When building your hybrid event, consider the different ticket types and tiers that target your audiences and help provide a curated event experience.

Hybrid events FAQ

What is a hybrid event?

A hybrid event is a single event designed for two audience experiences. The key to a hybrid event is that the two audiences share connected experiences and event content through a digital platform.

What are some types of hybrid events?

Any event type that can be held both onsite or virtually, can be a hybrid event. Hybrid events are also a great solution for attendees who can’t attend in person due to health or safety reasons, have limited travel budget, or if the onsite venue capacity is limited.

Why are hybrid events the future?

Hybrid events of the future will host a live local audience in-person while the wider global audience participates virtually.  This means we are looking at a primarily digital future where measuring the online behavioral data will create the future benchmarks of success.

Wrap up

It’s amazing to see the level of digital creativity hybrid has brought to the event industry. Events have dramatically transformed. Producing virtual events have given event planners ways to reach more people. Hybrid gives us the opportunity to build on those innovations and connect like never before.

Here are a few final ideas to keep in mind when putting together a hybrid event:

  • Always make room for audience interactivity. Audiences should be able to connect and network with each other no matter the location. 
  • In-person attendees will thrive off of experiential aspects. Make sure to provide exclusive in-person experiences for attendees. Consider hiring musicians and live entertainment to contribute to the physical aspect of the event. 
  • Empower attendees with multiple ticket options. Let attendees decide how they want to participate. This will make them not only more comfortable at the event, but potentially increase the level of participation in the way that they choose. 
  • Hire a production team. Working with a professional AV team and event agencies help for seamless execution and hybrid development. 
  • Remember there are no rules. Hybrid calls for an endless amount of creativity. Don’t be afraid to experiment and expand on early learnings.

Discover more ways to connect with our virtual event handbook.