Hybrid event considerations are top of mind for event professionals in 2021. Here are some key areas to review when planning your event.
As the world begins to open up again, event professionals are looking at hybrid solutions for planning their next events. What is a hybrid event? It involves both virtual and in-person audiences that are integrated to create a truly unique and seamless experience that broadens your brand’s digital reach and facilitates face-to-face connections.
If you’re like the majority of event organizers, you’re already invested in the idea of hybrid, but while 72% expect to engage in this type of event planning in 2021, only 24% have experience doing so. This article will help close that gap and break down the key considerations for planning hybrid events. Keep them in mind as you work towards an engaging and forward-thinking brand strategy.
Arguably the biggest shift you’ll have to plan for in this new hybrid environment is additional production needs. In order to produce an event that’s just as engaging for the virtual audience as it is for the in-person, you’ll need to think about the following elements:
- Building a Hybrid Team: Consider adding an event technologist to your team to stay up to date on the latest trends, as well as an executive producer who can treat your hybrid event like it’s a TV show taping with a live audience.
- Infrastructure changes: You’ll be looking at needing more space for social distancing while having fewer in-person attendees.
- Quality: Live-streaming from a webcam at the back of the room won’t cut it—you’ll need high-quality, broadcast-level tech on your side.
Of course, the global catalyst that kicked off the hybrid events revolution will remain a top consideration going forward. One positive to come out of the situation is the inspiring way many organizers pivoted to serve their audiences—but safety remains paramount for your in-person guests and speakers.
New aspects like contact tracing apps and vaccine passports will likely become the norm, and your event safety protocols should include a COVID-19 strategy. Regulations are likely to change as the situation evolves around the world, and venues are anticipated to update contracts to reflect that, so build those checks into your planning procedure.
Going hand in hand with increased production considerations is the technology to support those needs. Some things to think about in the realm of technology include:
- Live event support at a broadcast level
- At least one camera per room, with good quality sound recording
- For a truly high-quality stream, consider having multiple camera angles in the room
- A hybrid event platform with Interactive features for in-person and remote attendees to engage together
- A virtual event platform where attendees can learn about and access your event’s content, as well as a place to host recordings post-event
Event spaces that made sense pre-pandemic, like hotels, might no longer have the space nor amenities you need for your hybrid event. Minimum spends might still be in place despite the fact that only a fraction of your attendees might safely be able to attend. A hybrid event could be an opportunity to seek out new spaces that don’t come with added costs like food and rentals automatically tagged on. You’ll also want to consider venues with some of the new tech and production needs built-in. Consider a partnership with a brand that has some of that existing hybrid infrastructure already in place in exchange for some branding control.
5. Hybrid Event Models
Not all hybrid events look the same—in fact, there are various hybrid event models to choose from. There’s single site, where one central in-person event is amplified to a digital audience, network events, where two or more in-person events are connected by a virtual touchpoint, and hub & spoke, where a central event is digitally broadcasted out to various smaller in-person events. When planning your hybrid event, be sure to consider which model best serves your audience, sponsors, and event goals.
Since you’re essentially planning two events in one, there will be changes to your hybrid event budget on both the virtual and in-person side of things. Don’t be caught off guard by some of these costs that weren’t customary before hybrid events. Common expenses include:
- Event production
- Virtual and physical spaces
- Hybrid technologies
- On-site management
But don’t fear: the potential global reach of hybrid events, as well as a lower barrier to entry with a tiered pricing structure, could see you making up revenue you might not have had access to in the past.
Building a hybrid events team requires a – well – hybrid approach. You’ll need a team on the ground, and a team controlling the digital space. Make sure to build out both teams with some kind of executive producer who can streamline the action on their end, and communicate back to the other team in order to create an experience that feels equally engaging for both audiences. Anyone with experience in virtual and in-person event planning will be worth their weight in gold, since integrating the two experiences is a uniquely sought-after skill set.
8. Tracking External Factors
If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that we always need to have a contingency plan. Part of preparing for changes is being aware of any external factors that may affect your event. Keep an eye on shifting regulations, international travel restrictions, and changes to health and safety rules—up to the minute of your event. The more prepared you are with a backup plan, the smoother the experience will be for everyone.
9. Attendee Experience
Hybrid events require you to step out from behind your in-person lens and consider a more holistic view. A Q+A session after a speaker might be a no-brainer in person, but how can you engage a virtual audience who doesn’t have the immediate experience of being in the room? It’s your job as an organizer to answer these questions before they arise.
Attendee experiences should be:
- Integrated: allow space for your virtual and in-person audiences to interact among and with one another
- Personalized: consider how sponsors can engage with attendees who aren’t in the room by sending personalized swag in advance
- Ongoing: the communication doesn’t end when the event is over, be sure to maintain a meaningful connection with your audience
10. Event Longtail
The beauty of hybrid events is that your content lives on long past when your venue is cleaned up. By investing in high-quality production and technology, you can provide broadcast-quality recordings to those who attended in person and virtually. This is also a great way to drive revenue and establish brand loyalty for new attendees and anyone who plans to return in the future.
Be sure to consider the following when planning your hybrid event, and you’ll have a leg up on the competition:
- Hybrid event model
- Tracking external factors
- Attendee experience
- Event longtail
To get the most out of your next hybrid event, grab your copy of the Going Hybrid Ebook.