With restrictions easing, brands and event planners are eager to return to the world of live events. But with many people still hesitant to travel or gather in large groups, it’s a gamble to throw a lot of time and resources into organizing a strictly in-person event.
Hybrid events – that offer both a live and virtual option – are the perfect way to get the best of both worlds.
Not sure if a hybrid event is suitable for your audience? Here are some of the top questions you’ll want to consider before launching your event.
What Is a Hybrid Event?
Just as the name indicates, a hybrid event entertains both a live and virtual audience in real-time. The format of hybrid events varies, but they are typically made up of a smaller live audience supplemented with a large streaming presence.
The digital component can range from Twitter chats to a large, multi-faceted virtual affair based on what makes the most sense for an organizations’ audience and goals.
Related: What Is a Hybrid Event, and How Do They Work?
How Many Attendees Should I Plan For?
If you are planning your event for the near future, you’re probably not going to attract a record number of in-person attendees. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing since your virtual capacity is limitless.
The best way to estimate an accurate headcount is to send out surveys to your listservs and social channels. This will also allow you to present some date and time options to find out what works best for the majority so you can maximize attendance.
What Are the Advantages of a Hybrid Event?
Hybrid events open up opportunities for organizations to better connect with and expand their audience. Hosts can create a smaller, more intimate setting to strengthen in-person relationships while simultaneously reaching more people online from all over the world.
Hybrid events also significantly reduce overhead costs for organizers. The virtual component presents new ways to attract sponsorship and increase revenue. It also gives you the capacity to capture valuable insights and data to help improve performance.
What Are the Disadvantages of a Hybrid Event?
Despite the numerous benefits, there are a few challenges to consider when planning a hybrid event. Finding ways to keep your virtual attendees engaged and offering them valuable networking opportunities are among the two most essential pieces to consider.
You also need to find an online platform and live-streaming equipment to support all your needs and allow for effective offline and online engagement.
You can read this article from Van Wagner to learn about the differences between virtual and hybrid events.
What Is My Audience Profile?
Another critical factor to consider is the profile of your target audience. If the majority of your audience falls into a younger age range, for example, you may have a better live turnout than an older demographic.
Your industry can also influence your decision; if you’re targeting healthcare providers, you can probably count on a smaller live audience vs. a technology or communications crowd.
When Do I Choose a Hybrid Event Over a Virtual Event?
A hybrid event makes the most sense for organizers who have a sizable audience interested in gathering in-person but are dealing with government restrictions or just want to expand their reach.
Again, you first need to have a clear sense of where your attendees stand on social gatherings and consider how important face-to-face interaction is to accomplishing your overall goals.
Related: 7 Mind-Blowing Virtual & Hybrid Events and Why They’re Successful
Do I Need a Different Marketing Strategy?
Your marketing strategy for a hybrid event will be similar to your approach with virtual and live events, using the same combination of social media channels, email marketing, paid advertising, etc. You’ll want to ramp up marketing efforts a week before your event to land more attendees.
But before you promote your event, make sure you have a dedicated webpage with all the event programming and registration details ready to go.
How Do I Incorporate a Virtual Networking Component?
Successful networking is achievable with hybrid events. A growing number of impressive apps and features offer creative, user-friendly ways to facilitate engagement and connection across screens.
You can easily set up live video chats and virtual break-out rooms to open up opportunities for presenters and attendees to engage more organically on an intimate level.
You can also stream your live happy hours and have a facilitator engage both audiences with contests, games, etc.
How Do I Keep Both My Audiences Engaged?
The key to your hybrid success is to make sure your virtual audience is as engaged as your in-person participants. One effective strategy is to assign moderators who are solely dedicated to online participants and creating opportunities for meaningful interactions with other attendees, presenters, and sponsors.
You also need to adapt your content to accommodate both audiences’ time zones and attention spans. Semi-live sessions are a great option, offering a pre-recorded presentation online, then scheduling a live Q&A so that attendees can engage the speaker in real-time.
How Do You Create the Same Value and Experience With a Hybrid Event?
The goal of hybrid is for both your live and virtual participants to have the same high-quality experience. Start by including both audiences in all pre-event communications at the same time. Also, make sure to send out event swag, reading material, and any other relevant resources in time for all participants to receive them at least a day before the event.
During the event, encourage your exhibitors and sponsors to have hours designated for one-on-one interactions in your virtual exhibit hall to mirror your live version and offer vouchers to include digital diners in live catering events.
Check out these ten tips from Van Wagner to have your hybrid event stand out from others!
How Difficult Is the Learning Curve To Overcome for Event Planners?
Hybrid events are still largely in the experimental phase, and best practices are still being fleshed out. But if you have hosted live streaming events before, you will have a solid foundation to start from.
Also, whether you consider yourself an expert organizer or embarking on your first event, it’s always a good idea to consult with other organizers. You can ask them how they held similar events to get their recommendations and advice.
What Are Some of the Top Strategies When Planning Hybrid Events?
On that note, here are a few bonus tips to help you execute an event that makes both your in-person and virtual audiences excited that they came.
- Online ticket sales – boost registration by offering virtual tickets at a reduced price.
- Simultaneous online and on-site networking receptions – Live stream live networking sessions and facilitate games, contests, etc., to encourage equal engagement and relationship-building opportunities.
- Live/streaming entertainment– Incorporate live entertainment and stream it for your virtual audience, then host a live Q&A for your virtual audience with a few bonus performances.
As we continue to figure out what the “new normal” will be, hybrid events offer a way for hosts and guests to experience the perks of live events while also tapping into all the benefits a virtual presence can bring.
Whether a hybrid event is the best choice for your organization and audience is a decision that only you can make.
Hopefully, the questions above will show you how transformative the hybrid experience can be for both you and your guests.
Related: Event Planning Guide: Hybrid Style