The event industry has been undergoing a massive transition ever since the pandemic knocked the doors. From all in-person events to all virtual, we have now landed into the hybrid events. 97 percent of event marketers anticipate that there will be more hybrid events in 2021. As a result, event planners have to entirely rethink how they conduct events and work hard to ensure that they thrive in a new setting.
Though the events went online, the importance of face-to-face human connection still exists. This is very much evident from the emerging concept of webinar fatigue. This doesn’t mean that virtual experiences will completely wipe out. But, it is very likely that as limitations are loosening, hybrid events will lead the way.
What is a Hybrid Event?
It increases your reach as it will have both types of people- those who can’t travel due to health and safety concerns and those who want to build in-person connections.
Less consumption of resources and less production of waste make the hybrid events an eco-friendly option.
As a host, you can afford to have your event at a place with less audience capacity, which cuts out one of the major expenses.
Other expenses like refreshments, parking, travel costs are also cut down in case of such events.
You have the flexibility of sponsorship- you can choose to have live or virtual sponsors or even both.
It’s also a good opportunity for leads for sponsors because of the increased reach of hybrid events. In fact, a 2020 survey indicates that a hybrid approach is appealing to 72 percent 2 of corporate sponsors.
How to plan a Hybrid Event?
Since the event industry is in a learning phase in the case of hybrid events, there is no fixed recipe for it. However, here are some steps to a successful hybrid event:
1. Have a clear picture in your head:
Before you start planning an event, make sure your goals are clearly defined- what will be the end result of the event, who will it be targeted at, what all elements are a bare minimum for that particular event, where and when should it take place, etc.
2. Plan everything in detail:
Hosting a successful hybrid event requires intricate planning. There must be a few sessions that are open to both audiences (in-person and virtual), as well as other sessions that are special to each group. In general, you should plan the number of sessions and other schedules, speaker information, technical particulars, and everything in between.
3. Choose the venue judicially:
The venue must have decent accommodation and hygiene equipment installed for the physical aspect as well as solid technical facilities for the virtual aspect. Look out for a reliable internet connection with high bandwidth to support live-streaming, excellent sound, and video equipment, secure internet for enhanced cyber protection, proper lighting, etc.
4. Develop engaging content:
The key to creating a successful hybrid event is having content that is equally engaging for your virtual audience as much as it should be for your physical one. You can use a mix of elements to make it work like live-stream keynote, Q&A session, interactive breakout sessions, live polls, etc. Gamification should also be done very smartly in hybrid events like rewarding the audience for attending sessions or visiting exhibitor booths.
5. Find the right event software:
Though the choice of event platform for your hybrid event will depend upon your unique requirements, comprehensiveness, simplicity, and adaptability should always be there. The software that you choose for your hybrid event must have efficient tools for virtual guests to be a part of the interactions in the same way that an in-person audience does. For example, virtual networking lobbies, chat boxes, poll spaces, sponsor locations, reporting on metrics of user involvement.
6. Get around different time zones:
One of the advantages of organizing a hybrid event is that your virtual attendees may attend it from anywhere in the world. However, accommodating your virtual participants’ various time zones is difficult. Further, some of them may be required to take additional breaks throughout the day due to long screen hours or they may only be able to participate for an hour or two at a time. The most feasible solution to address this concern is having the sessions available for them on-demand. For this purpose, you must film the entire event to be able to share it later.
7. Assign an onsite person for your virtual guests:
It is fairly usual to communicate to your physical attendees what sessions or themes will be covered following a break. Ensure that your virtual guests get the same experience it is relatively easier for them to feel left out or distracted. Thus, assigning a representative particularly for the virtual participants will make hybrid events better for online attendees. He/she would remind the virtual participants of the agenda schedule so they don’t miss the following session. You may even employ gamification experience to keep them engaged during the breaks.
8. Keep the number of sessions and their lengths in check:
Since you have to equally engage both kinds of audience, the length of your sessions should be long enough to convey all the content you wish to deliver yet short enough to keep your virtual guests focused. Keeping the number of sessions on a lower side can be a good way of maintaining a balance.
9. Don’t compromise with sponsors’ value:
Every event relies heavily on sponsorship funds. You must make sure that your hybrid event provides your sponsors with the same (or more) value as an onsite event. This can include banner ads, a page dedicated to sponsors on the event webpage, gamification sponsorships, sponsored hygiene equipment like hand sanitizers, session sponsorships, mandatory sponsored ads for access to on-demand videos, sponsor booths- both physical and virtual, and so on.
10. Have a dedicated team for both the audiences:
To effectively develop both the in-person and virtual aspects of hybrid events, a new set of expertise or re-arrangement of roles is required. To take care of the onsite participants, there should be an event manager to ensure a smooth event, a moderator to drive the conversation, and technical experts to keep every device and system in check. Your virtual team must include an event technologist along with a camera and sound technician to take charge of the entire platforms and networks, and a producer to develop the look and feel of the event.
11. Rehearse your event:
Rehearsals are equally (or more) crucial for your hybrid events. Rehearsals will help everyone to get a hang of their new roles- the moderator will know how to communicate with two different sets of the audience. Moreover, there will be a better judgment of camera placements and other tech aids.
12. Execute the post-event activities sincerely:
What you do after an event is as important as what you do during it. Make sure you send out a survey to find out which part of the event resonated well with the participants and how did they feel about the entire hybrid concept. All of this will help you gather data that would prove beneficial for your next event.
Hybrid Events are uncharted terrain for event planners, but they provide a unique chance to push the envelope. Remember, you’re actually creating a comprehensive customized experience that has two aspects — virtual and in-person.
No wonder, the events sector will continue to face challenges in 2021 but with the above-mentioned tips for making a successful hybrid event, you can surely pull off one. Just keep innovating around the event to fulfill your objectives, and to keep your audience engaged — regardless of how they attend it.
Planning a Hybrid Event? Channel Technologies, with 23+ years of experience, has long-standing relationships with vendors across the country, experience in such events, and in-house event automation software to help deliver a flawless experience to the customers. Give us a buzz today!