It’s no secret that hybrid event has made it big throughout 2021, and is here to stay in 2022 and forward.
Virtual events have grown to be really popular due to the global pandemic, initially being hosted as replacements for live in-person events that were canceled due to social distancing and quarantine policies. Yet, soon enough event organizers have understood the unique benefits of virtual events, especially their versatility in attracting attendees from all around the world without having to worry about geographical limitations, travel, and accommodation costs.
On the other hand, we can’t also deny how live in-person events are still unbeatable when it comes to networking opportunities and interactivity.
A hybrid event is designed to give event organizers the best of both worlds, and in this guide, we will help you figure out all you need to know about hosting and managing a hybrid event in 2022.
By the end of this post, you’d have learned about:
- The concept of a hybrid event
- Why do a hybrid event
- Best practices of hybrid event management
- Step-by-step guide on how to host a hybrid event
- How to promote hybrid events and maximize attendance
Without further ado, let us begin from the basics.
What Is a Hybrid Event?
A hybrid event is essentially a live event and a virtual event combined into one.
A live event, as we know, is an event hosted in a physical venue with in-person attendance.
A virtual event, on the other hand, is an event hosted exclusively online to online attendees, typically with the help of a virtual event platform.
A hybrid event has both virtual and live attendees participate in the same event at the same time: live attendees at the venue, and virtual attendees attending online.
However, it’s crucial to understand that a hybrid event is not simply about hosting a live event and then live-streaming it to a virtual audience, and it’s also not an event in which the virtual audience is given preference.
Instead, a hybrid event:
- Leverages technology to host a comprehensive event experience where both live and virtual attendees can participate and even interact with each other
- Focuses on providing a similar level of experience for both virtual and live attendees
- Takes into consideration the needs of both types of audiences
A hybrid event technically doubles the challenge of hosting either a live event or a virtual-only event, so hosting one will require a lot of careful planning and management.
Why Host a Hybrid Event?
A hybrid event combines the benefits of both live events and virtual events, but at the same time also offers additional values including:
- More attendance
Since in a hybrid event, we can attract both live attendees and virtual attendees, virtually from all around the world, event organizers can attract more attendance with a hybrid event. Global reach and more attendance will ultimately result in better ROI and profitability for the event.
- More and better sponsorship opportunities
More exposure and more potential attendees in a hybrid event will translate into a higher perceived value for your event in the eyes of potential sponsors. Meaning, you’ll have better chances of securing good sponsors. On the other hand, sponsors will also have better opportunities to leverage both your event’s virtual and live content.
- Better engagement rate
Hybrid events can translate into higher levels of engagement for both virtual and live attendees. Organizers, for example, can facilitate real-time interactions with live polls, Q&A sessions, and surveys that involve both live and virtual attendees. Organizers, for example, can broadcast the results of polls in real-time to keep both audiences engaged.
By hosting a hybrid event you can reduce the number of live attendees and focus on getting more virtual attendees instead. In turn, this will translate into reduced costs on venue rental (since we no longer need to rent a spacious venue), as well as catering and other related costs.
- Easier evaluation and analytics
With both live (physical) and virtual aspects of a hybrid event, event organizers can collect more (and better) data compared to live-only or virtual-only events. Since hybrid events have their virtual components, organizers can generate better data by using a professional virtual event platform.
Hybrid Event Management Best Practices
While hybrid events have so many unique benefits, organizing a hybrid event can be quite challenging.
To be successful, a hybrid event should effectively engage both the physical and virtual attendees, and there will always be gaps in the experience your virtual and physical audiences will have.
It’s the event organizer’s job to minimize these gaps, which demands the organizer to be versatile, smart, and agile.
With that being said, here are some important best practices to host a successful hybrid event:
- Aim to deliver a similar level of value to both live and virtual audiences
A key principle to a successful hybrid event experience is to try, as much as you can, to deliver the same level of value to both audiences.
Both types of audiences must deal with distractions, and even live attendees will have a hard time staying focused. However, it’s no secret that the attention span for virtual attendees is typically much shorter than live attendees. Virtual attendees attending the event from their homes will typically deal with more distractions, so maintaining engagement can be even more challenging.
The dilemma is that live attendees mostly prefer longer, in-depth content, while virtual attendees would prefer shorter content.
There are two basic solutions for this di:
- Integrate interactivity and engagement into the content: record a pre-recorded version of the event’s content and edit it into a condensed form, while timing it so that virtual attendees can also join interactive moments like live polls, Q&A sessions, and others in real-time.
- Breaking the content into smaller chunks: Breaking down the presentations/sessions into smaller sections while also including frequent breaks.
Aim to offer the same (at least, similar) value to both your virtual and physical attendees.
- Ensure a seamless delivery
Make sure to eliminate any technical hiccups from content delivery. Revisit the content before the event and ensure it’s already well-planned: presentations, videos, and all sorts of content to be presented before the attendees.
Not only do you need to make sure you should check whether all technical aspects are already on-point, but you should also make sure your event’s content is properly aligned to both your audiences’ interests.
- Rehearse and test the content over and over again
Rehearsals are essential for hybrid events since both the live and especially virtual aspects of the events are prone to many potential issues, especially technical glitches. Rehearse and test your event’s content thoroughly, both physically and virtually.
You can ‘rehearse’ the virtual aspect of your event in many different ways, for example, by organizing a focus group and setting up a mock event. Test your content to this group and gather their feedback.
- Prepare for redundancies
Always have your plan Bs and plan Cs. More than 32% of event organizers faced connectivity issues during a hybrid event, and yet only 12% of these event organizers planned back-up connections.
At the very least, you should plan backups for A/V equipment (including live streaming equipment), internet connectivity, and power/electricity.
- Check and recheck technology equipment
For a successful hybrid event, you’ll need to pay attention to at least these tech aspects: lighting, A/V equipment (speakers, video cameras, microphones, mixer, etc.), and internet connectivity.
Remember that your tech equipment should cover both your virtual and live attendees’ needs. Both audiences should be able to clearly comprehend the event’s content and find value from it.
Of course, there are factors you can’t control, like your virtual attendees’ home internet speed or lighting condition. But you can at least provide them with clear guidelines on how to optimally enjoy your event, including how to avoid distractions.
- Identify potential hiccups
Make sure you have a proper plan and map out every element of the event to avoid technical hiccups.
You should create a comprehensive plan for your hybrid event that explains what each session/content is about, including breaks for both your virtual and live attendees. This event plan will help you in keeping the hybrid event on the right track during its execution.
Planning a Hybrid Event: Step-by-Step Guide
Step 1: Defining Purpose and Objective
Before you begin planning the hybrid event, it’s important to first identify the purpose of hosting the hybrid event in the first place. What value can you provide your audience with the event?
Be as specific as possible when defining your objectives, for example:
- If the event’s purpose is to support a product launch, then a goal of generating 1,000 pre-orders/sales during the event can be appropriate
- Increasing 10% more lead generation than the previous event
- Generate a specific number of social media engagements before, during, and a week after the event, and so on
Also, make sure you can assign KPIs and metrics to measure the event’s performance against these objectives.
Step 2: Identifying Your Target Audience
Identify the target audiences (virtual and live audiences) most suitable for achieving the purpose and objectives for your event.
The better you understand your target audience, the better, so try to collect as much information as you can about both your virtual and live attendees: their pain points, preferences, behaviors, needs, and expectations.
You’ll need to design a hybrid event that caters to these ideal audiences’ needs and preferences, and so we’ll move on to the next step.
S-tep 3: Planning The Hybrid Event
Now that you’ve identified the event’s objective and target audience, you can start planning the high-level details of the event:
- Date/time of the event: a rough time frame of the event
- Target audience: how many attendees are you targeting? Will the in-person aspect of the event be local, or will you target attendees from outside the city/country?
- Type of event: Will this be a conference? Keynote session? Music festival?
- Venue: create a shortlist of potential venues. Keep in mind that the venue should also be able to accommodate your live streaming equipment and additional needs for the virtual aspect of the event
Step 4: Planning an Event Budget
Based on the initial plan for the event, you can start estimating a budget for your hybrid event. You can start by estimating the following items:
- Venue rental, including additional costs like insurance
- Catering costs
- Furniture rental
- Event technology stack (event registration software, event management platform, virtual event platform, etc. )
- A/V equipment including live-streaming equipment
- Marketing collaterals
- Stage and decoration
And others. The earlier you have a budget estimation, the more time you’ll have to negotiate with different vendors and secure the best options for your event.
Step 5: Securing Venue and Date
When hosting a hybrid event, remember that it’s very important to choose a venue that can accommodate both the virtual and physical aspects of the event.
Location is obviously an important factor, you’d want to make sure your live attendees can easily access the venue.
Assess the A/V equipment installed in the venue (if any) and check whether you can use the virtual event platform of your choice with this equipment. Some venues may also require you to work only with specific A/V companies, which will obviously cost more.
To facilitate a hybrid event, the venue must also offer:
- Reliable internet connection. Ideally, the venue must also allow you to add backup connectivity.
- Storage spaces for A/V and live streaming equipment.
- Space for food/beverage services including kitchen//preparation area
- Networking space for attendees
- Space for attendees to meet sponsors
Step 6: Securing Technology Infrastructure
Technology is extremely important for any hybrid event, and while different types of hybrid events may require different technology solutions, there are some common tech solutions to consider:
- Registration solution: allowing you to manage and sell online registrations easily.
- Live streaming equipment: make sure to choose the right live streaming solution based on your budget and your event’s needs.
- Mobile app: not always a must, but a customized event mobile app to enhance the attendee experience.
- Management tools: you can invest in project management software and various other productivity/management toots to assist your event team’s collaboration
You are now ready to plan your first hybrid event in 2022, and also in the years to come.
As we can see, the key to planning and hosting a successful hybrid event is to identify and really understand your event’s purpose and target audience. The better you understand your target audience, the better you can design a hybrid event that caters to their needs and behaviors, which will translate into higher attendance and engagement rates.