A Complete Guide to Hosting Hybrid EventsMay 20 | 15 min read
Learning to host hybrid events gives you the chance to enjoy the benefits of in-person and virtual experiences simultaneously. Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started to change the way people get together and interact, organizers have needed to find new ways to run their events.
Hybrid meetings and events have been one of the options that have gained popularity. While these events occurred before the need for social distancing, the pandemic brought them front and center for far more people who are now aware of their value.
This article will explain what hybrid events are, their advantages, types of events, event ideas, and more. Once you finish reading, you’ll have all the information you need to host an exciting and innovative hybrid event of your own.
What Are Hybrid Events
A hybrid event is any event, whether a seminar, conference, or meeting, that includes both in-person and online digital elements. Here’s one example:
A business conference offers an in-person gathering for attendees in Chicago, Illinois. At the same time, the sessions and keynotes take advantage of technology to stream sessions to a worldwide audience.
This would be categorized as a hybrid conference. However, there are many ways to create a hybrid event. Later on, we’ll share why these events are so helpful and provide a few additional examples.
Remember, hybrid events aren’t new. In 2012 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention thought about creating a virtual event when the cost to bring everyone together was creating challenges. In the end, they decided to host a hybrid event so that everyone who wanted information could participate in the way that worked best for them.
Benefits of Hybrid Events
If you’re curious about why you should choose to host hybrid events, we’ll explain some of the many reasons why they are worth the resources and planning required.
Better Attendance and Reach
When a planner hosts a hybrid event, it provides an ideal way to gain more attendees and create greater reach.
One study focused on a hybrid event showed that about 98% of attendees did not plan to attend live. That means that you can reach an entirely new audience with hybrid events. People who don’t want to go to a live event can instead join virtually and allow you to spread your message to them.
This means you can potentially boost the attendance you have at future events too. Some people who participate in an event virtually might decide to show up to the following event in person. Regardless, while 65% of people who hosted a hybrid event saw no change to live attendance, 23% had more people participate.
If someone planned to attend in person but then had something come up, they could still enjoy the event virtually. Hybrid events let more people attend, including those who want to physically be there but can’t, and those who want to be involved but don’t want to travel.
Increased Audience Engagement
Adding a virtual option to a live event makes it much easier to engage with audiences both during the event and afterwards. This is because the virtual audience will participate from a laptop, desktop computer, or mobile device and can share, talk, like, comment, and otherwise actively participate.
You could host polls during sessions for live and virtual attendees or have a Q&A session with a live speaker who broadcasts online so everyone can be involved. Virtual and live attendees can also network with each other. You could even have a dedicated space for in-person and virtual meetings and software that brings both groups together.
So how do you keep track of all these engagement options? Start with the people who visit your event. Think about what the journey looks like, both offline and online. Then, when you plan with your audience at the forefront, you can be sure you offer the essential engagement options.
Fewer Travel Costs
Another benefit of hybrid events is that you can easily cut down on associated travel costs. Attendees save money since there’s no need to leave home to be a part of the event. It can also cut down on costs for your crew and sponsors. This is another method of working from home which has become increasingly popular over the last couple of years.
Even with live events being more accessible again, virtual event management is still an excellent option. For example, many AV crews are skilled with virtual broadcasting, which can reduce costs for you and them.
Sponsors are also capable of saving money on travel by sending fewer representatives to hybrid events. You can even offer virtual sponsorships where these individuals can be a part of things entirely online while still creating value. If budgets are tight, hybrid ideas like these keep costs down while ensuring results.
More Effective Marketing
Rather than making your important events exclusive, you can share and repurpose your digital content so you have something exciting to show your audience over a long period of time. For example, you could share a full live stream to promote another event you plan. This also ensures visibility for your sponsors in the stream.
When you stream an event, you have no risk of forgetting to record a particular section. You can sit back and know that all the content is being saved. This can then be used for future marketing campaigns. If one session was highly popular, expanding on it is an option.
Look at your data following an event and you can also learn more about the people who attended. Consider analyzing questions that were received throughout the process. Is there one question everyone is asking? You could create marketing content that answers important questions for the audience.
Another major pro of hybrid events comes in the form of data and the insights drawn from it. Not only will you have exact participation numbers, but you will also see precisely who engaged in a session, who dropped out, and when. In addition, you can learn about the interests of attendees using session participation data.
Having all of this information makes it easier to plan your future content. Meanwhile, sponsors can gain information about traffic at booths and the engagement of the attendees as a whole. This makes it much easier for them to determine whether they will get a positive return on investment (ROI).
Hybrid events are more environmentally friendly. Since there’s less need to travel, there is less impact on the environment through carbon emissions. What’s more, when you include a virtual environment, you can produce eco-friendly events that are not possible with traditional event methods.
When you work with a virtual platform, attendees can interact in a zero-waste environment. There’s no need to build anything or throw anything away. This means a hybrid event is a translation to an eco-friendly event, unlike an entirely physical one.
Disadvantages of Hybrid Events
Now that you have an idea of what hybrid events are and the benefits they offer, it’s only right that we look at their potential disadvantages. No event is perfect in every single way and it’s essential to understand the disadvantages of a hybrid conference so you can put in place solutions to ensure the best results. A few of the things that you should be aware of include:
More Complex Delivery
Hosting a hybrid event can be complex since you need to consider both the in-person and virtual aspects. Many people believe that this means two separate but essentially identical events are taking place, but this isn’t always the case.
These events come in various forms. One might be a live stream of a few features; others have vendors with a booth on the virtual and live trade floor. You could even host the live event followed by an online experience.
In most cases this does not involve too much additional effort, but it’s there and needs consideration. Strategic thinking helps with planning to understand the size of the event and ways to avoid extra work to create faster results.
The Challenge of Change
Hybrid events are often a form of change for attendees, which can be a challenge!
Even though a transition to hybrid events may be an overwhelmingly good thing, some people have trouble with any kind of change. In-person events were the only option up until about a decade ago, so people are familiar with them. They understand how they work and the way to generate business from them.
However, COVID-19 has shown that change is sometimes required. It led to most events going virtual, and proved that these methods work well. Not everyone is a fan of course and that’s ok. The best thing you can do is educate your audience and partners and work with a team to support your goals.
Types of Hybrid Events
When we break down the types of hybrid events, there are two major categories – internal and external. Below, we’ll explain what the differences are and give you a few examples of each type of hybrid event.
Internal Hybrid Events
An internal event is designed to benefit someone within the company. This includes staff, leadership, and stakeholders. In many cases, getting all of these people in a fixed location for a meeting is all but impossible. That’s why hybrid meetings are an excellent alternative.
The process here involves choosing a venue, such as your company’s headquarters, and then live streaming the meeting so everyone can access it. Some of the ways you can use internal hybrid events include:
- Company spirit weeks
- Global town halls
- Large team meetings
- Sales kickoffs
External Hybrid Events
An external hybrid event is targeted toward clients, customers, prospects, and others outside of an organization. Moving away from a live external event to a hybrid one can bring additional attendees while lowering your carbon footprint. External events that you could make hybrid are:
- Product demonstrations
- Trade shows and conferences
- Custom conferences
How to Host a Hybrid Event
The first thing you should do when creating a hybrid event is to determine what your goals are. You also need to be sure you have the proper tools to execute them. For instance, you’ll need a virtual streaming provider. Here are a few of the other important things to consider:
Key Elements to Planning a Hybrid Event
- Content – The right content is essential at hybrid events. You need to make sure both in-person and virtual attendees are engaged. Speakers should be prepared with presentations that are both relevant and interesting.
- Marketing – Hybrid events can bring in many more attendees than live events, so marketing is essential. Ensure you have an excellent event website that shows all the program information and email potential attendees to see who is coming.
- Registration – The event registration online should be as simple as it is in person. Build a page with your event info and colors with all the details attendees might need. Then, create registration methods for virtual and in-person attendees so they can sign up for the correct sessions.
- Scheduling – Scheduling meetings can be tricky when some people are in person and others are virtual. Use a tool to block off time for networking. People can talk and set up times to communicate using the tool.
Once you know the elements you want at your hybrid event and your goals, you can start planning the programming. We’ll walk through some of the challenges you may encounter at this stage and give you insight on solving them to create an event that all attendees enjoy.
Two Experiences for One Event
Hybrid events are all about the balance between the experience of in-person and virtual attendees. You’ll have to deliver content in two different ways, make sure streaming services are working, and ensure presenters are prepared for speaking in front of a camera.
On the other hand, you don’t want it to feel like two different events. It should be a single event that is experienced in two ways. Be sure that the content is helpful for both virtual and in-person attendees and avoid activities that might make one set of attendees feel isolated from the experience.
Use Engaging Content
Hybrid events rely on great content even more than live events. It’s a lot more challenging to keep virtual attendees interested in front of a computer. Because of that, it’s essential the content translates well to video.
You could add Q&A or live polls to the virtual experience so those guests can be a part of the action. Ideally, sessions should be no longer than 30 to 45 minutes at a stretch or it’s likely that attendees will lose focus.
Think About Time Zones
One perk of hybrid events is that you can bring in participants from all across the world. However, this also means you have the challenge of making sure everyone’s time zones are represented. For example, someone in California might have difficulty attending a keynote speech that takes place at 6 AM EST.
Be sure that the sessions you offer on a virtual basis can be accessed on-demand. This lets anyone view sessions that are complete whenever they have the time to do so. Another option is having a session several times so that people can choose the one that best works for them while enjoying a live experience.
Examples of Hybrid Events
At this point, you might be looking for ideas and examples of hybrid events to get your own creative juices flowing. Many major organizations have embraced them and these are a few of our favorites:
TwitchCon – An event created for people who use the world’s leading gamer live streaming platform, Twitch. The company puts on a yearly convention where people can meet in person for events. However, it also live streams the convention to online participants.
The Self-Publishing Show Live – This event was made for writers who want to self-publish their books and grow an audience without traditional publishing companies. Over 1,000 joined the first event and those who couldn’t make it could see the sessions live online.
Apple Special Events – People who love Apple participate in Apple Special Events to learn more about the latest news from the company. The CEO announces new products live, but all events are also live-streamed so anyone can join in.
Agents of Change Digital Marketing Conference – Created for business owners, social media managers, marketing directors, and other professionals, the Agents of Change Digital Marketing Conference is hosted in Maine but broadcast virtually around the globe. On-demand videos are available for a limited time after the completion of the in-person conference.
Inbound – Inbound is hosted every year by HubSpot and offers excellent speakers like Alex Rodriguez and Rand Fishkin. It provides a space for networking and entertainment. In addition, the event provides recorded sessions that act as future marketing pieces.
Content Marketing World – This conference is designed for marketing professionals and offers great speakers and tips on improving attendees’ content skills. It also features fun entertainment and networking with peers. Virtual access is available after the event and an all-access pass provides users with all session recordings.
Ideas for How to Engage Both the In-Person and Virtual Audience Simultaneously
As touched upon earlier, when hosting hybrid events it’s essential that both the virtual and in-person audience are engaged. Below, you’ll find 10 unique ways you can keep all of your audience involved at the same time:
1: Make announcements about what sessions and topics are coming up to both your on-site audience and those who are participating virtually.
2: Incorporate representatives who help digital attendees keep on track with the schedule to participate in the sessions they are most interested in. Do the same for in-person attendees.
3: Consider the background, size of text, length of presentations, and when to schedule breaks.
4: During sessions, make sure the virtual audience is included. While in-person guests are doing activities, consider adding polls and games to the virtual event.
5: Consider creating a mobile app that gives information about the event. Instead of browsing social media, participants can stay in the know about what is coming up.
6: Using small groups, create breakout sessions between virtual and live participants so they have the chance to network with each other.
7: Test the environment for a hybrid audience. Consider how lighting, devices, and camera set-up will impact the experience for both types of participants.
8: Make a schedule that works for everyone. Virtual attendees may have shorter attention spans so go for important, impactful information without a lot of fluff.
9: Talk to presenters about making the virtual audience part of the fun. Occasionally, have the virtual participants acknowledged so they feel more a part of the event.
10: Provide one-on-one time for all attendees. While this tends to be easier with in-person attendees, set aside a time when virtual participants can ‘sit down’ with presenters to ask them questions.
Final Thoughts About Hybrid Events
There are countless reasons to consider hosting a hybrid event instead of one that is solely virtual or in-person. Above all else, it offers the chance to be creative while saving money and bringing in a larger audience. If you follow the tips above, you’ll be on the right track to make the conference, town hall, or other event a memorable success.
If you’re interested in adding a virtual component to your in-person events, Everytale would love to be a part of the process. We offer a virtual events platform to create, promote, and broadcast virtual events of all sizes. In addition, you gain access to a world of unique features like engaging interactive backgrounds, real-time translation, transcripts, and AI-powered audience recommendations.