While in 2020, virtual events reigned supreme, 2021 brought the rise of hybrid events–those that combine both in-person and virtual experiences. We saw trade shows, company rallies, and conferences turn to hybrid events for the best chance at reaching their audience. Raise your hand if you’ve participated in a hybrid conference.
It’s easy to spot the events that fell victim to the prevailing myth that “All you need to conduct a hybrid event is a virtual streaming provider.”
This idea is false and the mistake could be very costly to your organization.
As we approach 2022 and in-person gatherings continue to make a comeback, hybrid events are a prominent player in our new reality. This offers some advantages, but if you’re considering putting on a hybrid event, approach the idea with a healthy dose of caution. If you’re going to go to the effort, you need to do it right. If all you do is stick a camera in the back of the room and livestream an event with no additional accommodations for the virtual attendees, you’ve missed the boat. And that means you’ve lost out on engagement, leads, sales, and income. Of course you do need a solid livestream partner, but make no mistake: if the online experience comes across as an afterthought, it’s better not to offer a virtual component at all.
Here, we’re walking through how to make the most of a hybrid event for your business and what you’ll need to conduct one effectively.
Does a Hybrid Event Make Sense?
Virtual events still make the most sense for webinars and similar short-form, video-heavy occasions. On the other hand, we’ve learned that many traditionally in-person events can translate incredibly well virtually, too. Even if you don’t think your event is a good fit for a hybrid style, give it a little more time before you write the idea off. Haven’t we all learned we can do more virtually than we ever thought? Once you make the decision to hold a hybrid event, it informs all of your remaining choices.
Elements of a Successful Hybrid Event
Hybrid events are aptly named. They offer two very different experiences for one event. That’s pretty amazing! And also pretty challenging. If you do decide to hold a hybrid event, the reigning wisdom remains true: Content is everything. You might say that it’s even more important during a hybrid event than an exclusively onsite event because virtual attendees are more likely to stray to the kitchen or get distracted by their phone’s pin or their washing machine’s ding. To help whatever is happening in-person keep online viewers engaged, consider incorporating polls or Q&As. Help every presenter tailor content in a way that engages both in-person and virtual attendees. Bottom line: Just make sure you have a plan for how to convey information to each group.
Have a branded event registration webpage with event information as well as clear registration info with customized funnels/follow-up communication for both the virtual and in-person options. This way, attendees can sign up easily and also receive only the information that is relevant to their experience.
Considerations for Virtual Attendees
Consider offering virtual-only sessions, breakout rooms, or networking opportunities. While it’s incredible to be able to include participants virtually from all over the world, you’ll also need to be aware of the time zone differences and make appropriate accommodations. For example, you may want to offer your most in-demand sessions at multiple times or at least give access to the recording.
If you’re thinking about putting on a hybrid event, you’re in good company! Do it! Just make sure you do it well.