There is no question, hybrid events are the future and an essential strategy for event organizers if they want to stay on top of a changing industry. A hybrid event allows people to connect in-person while still incorporating individuals online. It’s an unprecedented opportunity to bring people together from all over the world in a shared experience where they can advance their knowledge, skills, and networking circles.
Here are the top strategies for designing a hybrid event that will make “going viral” look like the status quo.
Related: Event Planning Guide: Hybrid Style
When Should You Host Hybrid Events?
Events that are strictly live or strictly virtual will continue to provide unique benefits based on the needs and goals of event planners and their relevant audiences. That said, it’s likely that hybrid events will remain a key tactic for savvy event planners, for the myriad of perks involved…mostly reach and attendance.
But for industry leaders who aren’t sure if hybrid events are the best option, here are two major questions to consider: Is the target demographic dominated by those who might be hesitant to travel due to health concerns, budget restrictions, or schedule conflicts? Would a strictly online event provide the right dynamic for the occasion?
Or, an even better strategy to nail down the best option is to ask your potential participants directly by sending out a pre-event opinion survey.
How can Van Wagner make your next hybrid event exceptional? Adobe had a problem. Here is our solution and the results that came from it.
How To Organize a Hybrid Event
Although no longer unchartered territory, hybrid events are still daunting for event planners who are new to the approach. Luckily, we now know what the common pitfalls and “lessons learned” are and how to avoid them. Even better, we know the best practices necessary for producing a superior hybrid experience that makes your event an event to remember.
Here are the key elements organizers need to know to make their first, or next, hybrid event something top-notch, including successful strategies for maximizing attendance, perfecting programming, and optimizing audience participation.
Set Your Hybrid Event Goals
It is essential for hosts to take the time to identify the event goals, as they will be the foundation and driving force behind the event’s success. The first step for creating a successful hybrid event should start with a brainstorming session. Start with the following questions:
- What are you hoping attendees will get out of this event?
- What tools are needed to implement the hybrid event effectively?
- What is the best marketing strategy to promote the event?
- Where are there gaps in knowledge or skills that might need to be sourced externally for the event?
- How can the experience be exciting and accessible for both live and virtual participants?
Assemble a Team
Teams need to be designated for both the live and online event components. Hybrid events might require new skills outside the scope of internal team members, so recruiting virtual event professionals is recommended to make sure the experience is polished and professional. Outside of the normal production and coordination roles, a well-equipped hybrid event team should include:
- Virtual event expert/consultant
- Content & Engagement Expert
- Onsite audio/visual operators and technicians
- Virtual technology expert to design, manage & troubleshoot virtual experience
- Virtual MC/Moderator to rev up energy and engagement
Budgeting for Your Event
The easiest budgeting approach for hybrid events is to break down the technical and logistical costs of the live and digital experience separately and fill in the gaps as needed. Start with the foundational costs:
Hybrid Event Platform & Engagement Tools: Leave this to the professionals that know which platform is right for your goals – hire an event production firm.
Marketing Your Event: This is the BIG piece – again do not leave event marketing and promotion in your own hands, bring in an agency that can get event registrations ringing in like the new year; the event build up is just as engaging as the event.
Venue & Catering Spend: Rental fees, food & beverage, catering staff & cleaning crew, etc.
Professional Broadcasting: Be sure your event is available with professional production quality around the globe – we are talking about, “The biggest televised event production in history.”
Production Team: You want your event to be the best ever – hire professionals that are experts in audience engagement, content production, talent acquisition, and creative geniuses
Keeping the event experience equally engaging for all participants is arguably the most challenging aspect of hosting a hybrid event. Experienced planners advise focusing more on the virtual audience, since establishing a genuine, personal connection is more difficult online.
One successful strategy for ramping up engagement is to assign a team member or hire an Emcee to keep online participants actively involved in all aspects of the event, including the breaks. Incorporating live polls, contests, and Q&A sessions is another proven tactic for inspiring participation from online viewers.
Hosts can also leverage networking opportunities by offering virtual attendees exclusive interviews, Q&A sessions, and panel discussions with speakers and industry leaders.
And let’s not forget entertainment which is vital to any memorable event. Be sure your audience gets out of their chairs, at home and onsite alike. Get these folks dancing and feature a remote audience on the big screen. Provide shout outs and Best of Awards for both onsite and remote participants – provide prizes. Keep the energy HIGH!
Spread Out Breaks
Attendees expect to power through sessions at a live event, but those in front of a computer screen are much more likely to be juggling various home or work tasks, requiring more breaks throughout the day.
To ensure both your virtual and live attendees feel like they are receiving optimal value, the session length needs to accommodate the needs of both, striking a balance between the two. Sessions should be long enough for participants to get the most out of the experience, but concise enough to keep virtual attendees engaged.
The sweet spot is usually between 30-45 minutes. Organizers can also offer fewer live sessions per day for virtual attendees, providing links to recorded content that can be accessed at any time.
Keep Everyone Informed
To keep attendees from both audiences excited and informed, everyone needs regular updates on what sessions and activities are to come. This is especially important for online attendees who might have more distractions or need more breaks. Just like live attendees have someone announcing what’s next on the agenda, the virtual audience also needs someone to escort them through the event happenings.
These virtual escorts can rev up anticipation with session updates and teasers about virtual-only perks and networking opportunities so that digital guests are sure to stay tuned.
Live, in-person events will never go out of style, and virtual events will always have their perks. But hybrid events are the ultimate opportunity to shatter mediocrity by merging the most exciting aspects of both worlds. If organizers want to take their event to the next level, they first need to dial in the essential components of live and virtual events separately, so that nothing is left out, but never lose sight of the bigger picture- creating one unified, organic, unconventionally creative experience that will inevitably go down in hybrid history.Do you need help planning your next virtual or hybrid event? Let us know and we will get back to you as soon as possible.