Prior to last year, the term ‘hybrid’ was relatively unknown in the events industry. Then 2020 happened and everything changed! Thrown into an uncertain COVID world, event planners and organisers had to start thinking differently and adapt to the ‘new normal’ by offering different forms of virtual events.
So, what is a hybrid event?
“A hybrid event is a tradeshow, conference, unconference, seminar, workshop or other meeting that combines a "live" in-person event with a "virtual" online component.”
This is the basic definition of a hybrid event in Wikipedia, but it’s important to know that for a hybrid event to be truly successful, there is much more to it than just live streaming it.
Benefits of a hybrid event
1. Contingency and flexibility - if an event is no longer able to be run in a physical venue with attendees, as long as it was set up initially as a hybrid event then the event can still go ahead with minor modifications.
2. Geographic constraints removed - using a combined virtual and physical platform helps generate a wider audience. You are no longer limiting the event to attendees who can and will travel to your venue. You are also not capped for numbers by the physical venue.
3. Time restrictions removed - virtual event platforms can be accessible for months after the event, meaning attendees, speakers and exhibitors are no longer confined to accessing the content during the days that the event is live. This allows attendees to access presentations they may have missed, refer back to exhibitor information or brochures and have access to any contacts they may have networked with.
Challenges of a hybrid event
One of the biggest challenges that comes with hosting a hybrid event is ensuring you have the same level of participation and interaction for both audiences. Another challenge comes with managing each audience's questions and answers.
Fortunately, over the past year we have seen events move from strength to strength in this respect and this is largely due to the great online tools (free and paid options) available now.
How to overcome challenges and engage with your audiences
1. Planning is key to the success of any event, but if you are not familiar with the hybrid platform, just be aware this may require a bit more thought and effort. Take the time out early in the piece to plan, research and prepare your event! Think about who your audience will be, what their expectations may be and how best to meet these.
2. Have one dedicated person handling the physical component and one managing the virtual platform that work closely together. Managing both platforms can be stressful and logistically challenging.
3. Plan how you will engage with your audiences. We have found from experience utilising online quizzes and interactive polls are a great way to keep the virtual attendees feeling like they are a part of the event. A competition is also a good way to maintain interest and boost enthusiasm.
4. Familiarise yourself with the online tools and apps available. Some of our favourites include:
- Slido - a great platform that allows both online and in-person attendees to ask questions and have them moderated.
Kahoot - game-based audience participation tool such as open ended questions, and polls.
Conferenz virtual platform solutions - ideal for conference style and larger events.
Zoom - software solution that works well for hybrid events. You will need a webinar licence to connect the two platforms.
Vimeo - video sharing and live streaming platform.
Although virtual and hybrid events came to popularity during a time where we have been facing restrictions on travel and gathering size, the upside is they have provided people with the ability to be more connected than ever. They are here to stay and will only become stronger with continual innovation in technology. Some may describe hybrid events as the best of both worlds!