A virtual event, as we know, can be easier, faster, and more affordable to host, and we also get the possibility of inviting speakers/talents and attendees from all around the world without having to worry about travel/accommodation costs and geographical limitations. However, we can’t also neglect the obvious advantage of a live event with its immediate, real-time interactivity.
This is where a hybrid event comes in.
Hosting a hybrid event can be an effective way to gain the best of both worlds between a live event and a virtual event. However, planning and organizing a hybrid event will also come with its unique challenges.
Planning to host your very first hybrid event? Or simply looking for ways to plan, organize, and host a better hybrid event? You’ve come to the right place.
In this guide, we will share a hybrid event checklist to walk you through hosting a successful hybrid event. By the end of this guide you’d have learned about:
- What exactly is a hybrid event?
- Key principles in planning and hosting a hybrid event
- Challenges in hosting a hybrid event
- Hybrid event checklist to walk you through the how of hosting a hybrid event
Without further ado, let us begin right away.
What is a Hybrid Event?
The term “hybrid” can be defined as “something that is formed by combining two or more things”.
So, what is a hybrid event?
Referring to the above definition of “hybrid”, we can define a hybrid event as an event that is a combination of both a live (in-person) event and a virtual event.
Meaning, a hybrid event is first hosted as a live event in a physical venue but is also presented to virtual attendees online by leveraging technology (i.e. via a live streaming/video conferencing platform).
By hosting an event as a hybrid event instead of just a live or virtual event, we can get the best of both worlds. Both live/in-person and virtual events have their own benefits as well as their own disadvantages, and organizing a hybrid event can be a solution if you want the pros of both but not the cons.
However, it’s also important to understand that a hybrid event is not solely about live streaming an in-person event to your online audience. To be effective and successful, the hybrid event should really be truly engaging with a comprehensive and interactive experience for both the virtual and live attendees. In practice, however, this can be easier said than done.
Benefits of a Hybrid Event
The main purpose of hosting a hybrid event is to get the best of both worlds. So, to really understand the benefit of a hybrid event, we should first understand the benefits and disadvantages of a live/in-person event and a virtual event.
Live Event: Key Perks
- Real-time interactivity: the key advantage of hosting a live event over a virtual event is the physical, real-time interactivity. Most attendees are more comfortable with the in-person networking opportunities provided by live events.
- Reliability: once set up, hosting a live event is relatively safer from hiccups, especially those caused by technological limitations and challenges.
- Capturing audience attention: in a live, in-person event, there are fewer distractions for your attendees since they are already physically there to solely enjoy the event. It’s easier to capture the attendees’ attention and maintain engagement.
- Expensive: venue rental can be a substantial cost in hosting any event, so a live event is typically more expensive to organize. Typically a live event is also more costly for attendees (i.e. travel and accommodation cost)
- Rigid: a live event is limited by factors like venue size, geographical limitations, logistics, and other factors. It’s more difficult and costly, for example, to attract attendees from abroad to attend a live event
- Evaluation: it’s more difficult to evaluate the performance of a live event. For example, it may require manual observations and manual collection of feedback (i.e. collecting post-event survey) to properly evaluate post-event performance.
Virtual Event: Key Perks
- More attendees and talents from anywhere: arguably the biggest advantage of a virtual event over the in-person counterpart is how it can break geographical limitations. In a virtual event, you can invite talents/speakers and attendees from all over the world without having to worry about accommodation and travel costs, among other issues.
- Lower costs: a virtual event is typically easier and faster to organize. You don’t need to worry about securing an ideal venue with the right size, as well as other logistical challenges. In the long run, planning and hosting a virtual-only event is typically more cost-effective.
- Easier evaluation of performance: it’s much easier to monitor various performance metrics on a virtual event (since it’s typically embedded in the virtual event platform used to run the event). Also, it’s easier to collect post-event feedback on virtual attendees.
- Limited interactivity: a core weakness of a virtual event over a live event is the lack of face-to-face interaction. Facilitating networking can be a major challenge in hosting and running a virtual-only event.
- Technological challenges: a virtual event can be prone to various technical challenges, for example when the internet connectivity suddenly goes down during the event. Various technological challenges may restrict audience participation in a virtual event.
- More distractions: in a virtual event, you have little control over various distractions the attendees may experience throughout the event, since they may “attend” your event from their homes or other places you don’t have control over.
Hybrid Event: Key Benefits
Hosting a hybrid event can help event organizers capitalize on the value of both virtual and live events, and in turn, can provide the following unique benefits:
- Improved reach
A hybrid event can accommodate both potential attendees that are willing to visit your event physically, as well as those who can’t. There will always be potential attendees who can’t attend your venue physically for one reason or another: social distancing policies, travel restrictions, your event is too far, and so on.
Offering a virtual option to a live event (turning it into a hybrid event) will effectively expand the reach of the event and you can attract more potential attendees to actually attend.
Ultimately, more attendees will result in a more profitable event.
- More engagement
When executed properly, a hybrid event can facilitate both audiences (live and virtual) to connect, participate, and actively engage in the event. For the virtual attendees attending the event, a hybrid event can offer more interactivity and engagement than a strictly virtual event.
By hosting a hybrid event, you provide more versatility to the attendees who are initially planning on attending your event but have last-minute plan changes. They can still attend your event virtually, and prevent them from canceling altogether. By offering more flexibility and versatility to your attendees, you can also offer a better overall experience to your attendees.
While it’s not always the case, turning a live event into a hybrid event can free up some valuable costs. If, for example, 30% of your potential attendees are planning on attending virtually, then you can rent a venue with 30% less capacity (which should be cheaper to rent).
By hosting a hybrid event, you can more easily create comprehensive documentation of your event, for example by recording the online/virtual portion of the event: videos, slides, keynote recordings, online Q&A, live poll results, and so on.
Doing this can provide a long-term additional value for each event: you can archive the recording on your website and give access to your audience for years in the future. You can also repurpose the recorded content for future events.
Hybrid Event Checklist: Step-By-Step To Planning a Hybrid Event
Step 1: Identify your purpose and target audience
What’s your purpose in hosting this hybrid event in the first place? Supporting a product launch? Building brand awareness? Generating more leads?
Identify clear purposes and objectives of hosting the hybrid event, and identify the ideal audience that can help you achieve these purposes.
You might want to develop a buyer persona for your event and identify this target audience’s needs, pain points, and behaviors. The idea is to design your hybrid event to cater to this target audience’s behaviors. So, the better you understand your target audience, the more effectively you can design your event.
In this step you should:
- Identify your event’s objectives and strategic goals
- Develop a target audience for your event by creating a buyer persona
- Identify why your target audience will be interested in your hybrid event. Design your event by focusing on how to create value for your attendees (speakers/talent to book, sponsors to attract, content, etc. )
- Determine which KPIs you will use to evaluate your hybrid event’s performance
- Design how you will evaluate your event’s performance according to these KPIs (i.e. monitoring number of registrations, attendee check-ins, social engagements, etc.
Step 2: High-Level Design of The Event
Define the following:
- Whether this will be a hybrid event for your internal team or for an external audience
- Audience size for both your live attendees and virtual attendees
- Type of event (conference, expo/trade show, keynote session, workshop, career fair, music concert, etc.)
- Types of sessions/content to include in the event: what kind of content will you include in the event (i.e. product demos, panel discussions, keynotes, workshops, etc.)
- Design networking and/or engagement opportunities for both live attendees and online attendees (i.e. virtual networking chat)
Step 3: Estimate Your Budget
Once you’ve developed high-level planning for your event, you should be able to create a preliminary budget for the event.
The earlier you estimate your budget, the earlier you can move forward to actually planning and organizing the event. To make sure your event budget stays up to date throughout the event planning process, it’s best to start using an appropriate event management system both to create and keep track of your budget.
- Create a preliminary budget to identify important expenses and set limitations to how much you can spend for the event
- Update the preliminary budget accordingly as you continue with the event planning process
- Identify the key stakeholders for your event to keep your budget spending accountable
Step 4: Secure venue and date
Create a shortlist for your ideal venue, and keep in mind that your venue should also be able to accommodate the virtual aspect of your hybrid event (i.e. has enough space and electricity outlets for your live-streaming needs).
When evaluating your ideal event date, you should also check for any potential conflicts:
- Check whether there are any competing events or national holidays near the same date. Also, check for weather-related potential conflicts.
- Will your target speakers/talents, sponsors, team members, and volunteers be available on the date of your choice
- Research general liability needs for live attendees
- Obtain the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 operating status and restrictions
- Build a safety plan according to local public health rules and regulations
Step 5: Secure speakers/talents, presenters, and special guests as early as possible
- Especially important for in-demand talents and speakers. Since it’s a hybrid event, there’s an option to offer high-demand speakers to present virtually (to reduce costs and the friction of scheduling/geographical limitations)
- List the essential details about the event that should be shared with speakers/talents/presenters.
- Define and clearly state the value of your event to your invitee
Step 6: Secure virtual infrastructure
- Choose an all-in-one virtual management platform, evaluate the virtual event platform solution
- Decide on content delivery for virtual experiences
Step 7: Develop event branding
- Event website
- On-site signet
- Printed collateral
- Physical venue designs
- Swag bag
- Online event graphics
Step 8: Event production
- Finalize agenda/schedule
- Finalize event website and online event registration
- Set up and customize your virtual venue
Step 9: Securing sponsorships
- Determine sponsorship plan for both live and virtual experiences
- Create sponsorship contracts
- Equip sponsors and exhibitors with promotional toolkits
Step 10: Technical check
- A/V and live streaming equipment
- On-site check-in (QR codes)
- Venue specific electric and power setup
- Internet connection
- Health and safety screening tools
- Technical set-up for on-site talent/speaker
Step 11: Marketing the hybrid event
- Develop a comprehensive event marketing plan
- Create a content narrative
- Produce event content
- Launch marketing plan
While hosting a hybrid event might seem like a major challenge at first glance, essentially it’s about combining the best features of a live event and virtual event, which in turn, can create an even better opportunity for your brand to reach and engage more attendees.
By using the checklist we’ve shared above, you can start planning and organizing a successful hybrid event right away.