Hybrid events aren’t going anywhere. The addition of virtual experience components to in-person events looks to be the continued future for the events industry. According to a survey from EventMB, 67% of respondents agree: hybrid is the roadmap for events going forward. In fact, 71% of the respondents said they will continue to employ a digital strategy after COVID concerns pass. So, consider how you are going to evolve your future events by adding a hybrid component.
The critical factor is making sure you are making your event a hybrid event in the right way. For example, a hybrid event is NOT an in-person event with a live stream or video-on-demand replays of the live event. Creating a successful hybrid event means taking both your in-person and virtual audiences into account during event development and programming.
Types of Events That Can Be Made into Hybrid Events
- Career Fairs
- Educational Courses, Training, & Workshops
- Parties & Weddings
- Product Announcements, Launches, & Demos
- Internal events
- Large Meetings
A virtual component can enhance nearly any in-person event to turn it into a successful hybrid event.
The Benefits of Hybrid Events
The biggest pushback about adding a virtual component to a traditionally in-person event is that it will split the event’s attendees, and fewer people will show up in person. But, what we have found over the years is that virtual events don’t split your event’s audience. Instead, turning your in-person event into a hybrid event through a virtual component increases your audience size. The majority of remote attendees to a hybrid event would not participate if the event were offered as an in-person-only experience. When event admission, travel expenses, or simply taking the time away from the office prevents in-person attendance, a virtual experience opens your event to a broader audience.
Hybrid Event Scalability
Another essential benefit of hybrid events is scalability. Many of the growing pains associated with growing an in-person-only event are bypassed by turning your event into a successful hybrid event. Scaling the virtual component of a hybrid event for hundreds or thousands of more attendees is significantly easier and more cost-efficient than organizing the same growth for an in-person-only event.
Getting accurate numbers and metrics for an in-person is a difficult and often costly affair. Digital platforms and spaces are built with analytics in mind from day one. Event producers have a much easier and accurate measure of a hybrid event’s digital consumption. Instead of counting people coming in the door of an exhibit hall, many digital platforms can tell you how many people participated, in some cases down to the minute. It is much easier to determine what parts of your event were hot and which were not. These improved analytics make it much easier to plan your next event and rely less on guesswork and gut feeling.
Hybrid events give you increased agility to pivot your event to changing circumstances. Travel restrictions, natural disasters, inclement weather, and shutdowns can wreak havoc on an in-person event. Often these upsetting circumstances can force an event to be postponed or outright canceled. Adding a digital component to your event to create a hybrid event provides you the flexibility, if needed, to move would-be in-person attendees to the virtual programming you already have in place as part of your event with much less work.
What Makes a Hybrid Event a Success?
The primary factor that leads to whether a hybrid event is a success or not is if it is engaging for your audience, especially digital audiences. What can your event do to make it a more fulfilling experience for your virtual audience than watching a live or recorded video stream of the event? Unique elements like behind-the-scenes and virtual attendee exclusive content are an excellent place to start. Can you offer breakout rooms, live chat, polling, or Q&A sessions for your virtual attendees to enhance their experience? Think of how you can turn your virtual attendees from a passive audience into an active audience.
Design Your Event Programming for Hybrid Audiences
One of the best ways to ensure your hybrid event is a success is by designing your event for attendance for in-person and remote audiences. It’s crucial your virtual attendees don’t feel like second-class attendees who are can only access parts of your event. Virtual audiences understand they will not have the same event floor experience as someone attending the event in person. But, think of how you can make their event experience as close to the in-person experience as possible.
Alternatively, you can design your event from the group up as two different experiences. For in-person attendees, you may want to focus on the networking element, meet and greets, booths, and mixers. Those experiences all play to the strengths of the in-person attendee. Meanwhile, remote attendees can focus on speakers, panels, and digital-first workshops. Because nothing stops an in-person attendee from going to these events in person or taking a break from the event floor to participate in a virtual session from their hotel room, consider what exclusive content you can create that caters to the strengths of each audience.
Produce Your Event Like a TV Program
Think of your event as a television show filmed in front of a live audience. Try creating smaller, in-person audience experiences and focus your event budget on increasing the production quality of your video, audio, lighting, and effects for remote audiences. Enhancing production quality in this way will make your hybrid event a better experience for both virtual and in-person attendees.
With this in mind, it’s critical to choose a venue for your hybrid event that has the AV technology, support, and internet quality to support your hybrid event. Experienced, full-service event production companies like Onstage Systems can help you choose a venue and work around any limitations.
Keep Your Programming Fresh
As previously stated, engagement is the number one factor for hybrid event success and success for any event type. Look for opportunities to mix up your programming, keep it fresh, and avoid the bog-standard corporate keynote, breakout, and repeat tendency. New, engaging content is essential when you’re dealing with virtual audiences. Their email, social media, and the rest of the internet are just a click away.
Digital attention spans are shorter than those of in-person attendees. Keep your programming focused and be concise. Keeping your content shorter and liberally structured with small breaks can help keep your audience fresh and engaged for a longer period of time.
Hybrid Event Pitfalls to Avoid
Creating a hybrid component for your event can lead you into some unexpected pitfalls, especially if you’re new to building an event to service in-person and remote audiences. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid when planning your successful hybrid event.
Not Treating Your Audiences as Equals
It cannot be overemphasized how important it is that both your in-person audience and virtual audience feel like they’re getting a fantastic experience from your event. That means you need to go out of your way to ensure each audience has special moments of experiences that give them that sense of fulfillment. To craft a unique and memorable experience for your virtual audience, you can’t just set up a camera and mic and record what’s going on for the live audience. Include parts in your event programming that provide an experience that cannot be duplicated or better executed for other types of attendees.
Scheduling Your Event Without Thought to Timezones
It can be easy to forget that your virtual attendees may be tuning in from a different timezone. If you have a keynote speaker that starts at 8 AM EST, that’s 5 AM for your attendees on the West Coast. This problem is compounded further if you need to consider a sizable overseas audience. Assess the geographic distribution of your attendees and give priority to the most-anticipated parts of your event, scheduling them in the most convenient time slots for the majority of your virtual attendees. You might also consider some early-morning or late-night programming for your event that your faraway attendees to access according to their schedules.
Spending Your Budget in the Wrong Place
Overspending on food and beverage budgets or an oversized venue is not uncommon. Introducing a virtual component to an in-person event can allow you to spend your event budget in new and different ways. Conversely, you must avoid skimping on your A/V budget. A sizable portion of your hybrid event’s audience is dependent on good video, sound, and lighting to get the most out of the experience. People are not going to be happy with a subpar virtual event experience.
Complicated Technology and Tech Problems
Technology issues can be a death knell for the virtual component of your hybrid event. You need the resources to handle complicated technology, tech gremlins, and other logistical issues. These issues can range from picking a venue with subpar internet capabilities, a difficult-to-use virtual event platform, or an amateur event partner. That’s why it’s best to partner with a capable, full-service event production company like Onstage Systems, which has a successful history of putting on in-person, virtual, and hybrid events of all types. A great events partner can help you plan for a successful hybrid event from the start and assist you in picking the venue, software platforms, and equipment to create a successful hybrid event.
Successful Hybrid Events with Onstage Systems
A recent GBTA study found that the number of hybrid events is expected to double compared to last year. Creating your successful hybrid event means partnering with a company you can trust to help bring your event to life. Work with a professional event production company with decades of experience producing all manner of events: from helping put on concert tours across the US for some of the biggest names in music to black-tie galas, corporate conferences, virtual holiday drone shows, and more. Let Onstage Systems help make your next event into an unforgettable hybrid event.