3 Experimental Hybrid Event Models for 2021
From the network model to the single site, discover three hybrid event models for bringing your hybrid event programs to life.
Since COVID-19 changed the way we plan (as well as everything else in life), the concept of the hybrid event has been floated more seriously as we consider how in-person events might function in the future. But what is a hybrid event, and what are some of the advantages it provides for you, your attendees, and your sponsors?
Hybrid events “have elements of in-person and elements of virtual being woven together,” says Bizzabo’s Director of Events, Rachel Ruggieri.
Depending on the technology that you’re using, you may be able to offer an online event community that unites virtual and in-person attendees and a mobile app to bring the virtual experience into the palms of your in-person attendees.
The exciting thing about planning events right now is that kind of interaction can take so many different forms. One report from Event Manager Blog on the state of the event industry predicts the future will be “overwhelmingly hybrid”, and we’ve seen first-hand how experts are predicting a hybrid future where virtual and in-person experiences intertwine.
For more information on the tools, teams, and processes needed for the hybrid event future, check out the most recent edition of our Going Hybrid Guide.
Note: These proposed models are intended to help you envision what might be possible when in-person and virtual attendee experiences are combined and are not necessarily a commitment of our platform’s capabilities. We plan on updating this blog post as more hybrid events emerge.
Hybrid Event Models
Over the past year, through conversations with event customers and the larger community of event professionals, we’ve come to see a few foundational models emerge for the future of hybrid events. These models, while perhaps developed out of necessity, have evolved into their own unique experiences that will continue to reach audiences the world over.
The following three hybrid event types each have their own advantages, depending on the kind of experience you’re hoping to create for your audience.
Single Site (Single Venue)
Definition: The Single Site (Single Venue) hybrid event consists of a central in-person experience at a single venue that is then amplified to a virtual audience for wider reach. Often when there is discussion around hybrid events, it’s the single-site event that comes to mind. The key to making this event a success is to provide meaningful experiences for both virtual and in-person audiences.
Consider the single-site event Empower21, which enabled physical and virtual attendees to register in the exact same way and attend 49 sessions ranging from luncheons and panels to keynotes and workshops. Powered by a single hybrid event platform, the event extended networking opportunities and unique experiences for virtual attendees. But the applications of a single site go beyond a conference to sales kick-offs and exhibitions.
- Increased reached and accessibility by offering event access to an audience who isn’t onsite
- Richer data given the ease of tracking event engagement through digital means for both onsite & online audiences
- Attendees have the option to choose the best experience for them based on their logistical and budget considerations
- Likewise, the AV set-up will be simpler than some of the other models referenced here since AV support is only required for a single site
- With many attendees tuning in virtually, you will face the typical challenges around virtual events: keeping attendees engaged, supporting networking opportunities,
- Creating worthwhile experiences for both virtual and in-person attendees
- Creating a financial model that includes virtual and in-person attendees and sponsors/exhibitors
Definition: A Network event is a collection of two or more concurrent in-person events that are connected through a virtual touchpoint. This model gives attendees the opportunity to experience the perks of a smaller, more intimate session combined with access to sessions and other attendees that are elsewhere. Technology is key here in bridging the gap between the different local events.
Looking to our hybrid event examples, the event Junction 2020 best captures this concept—with a network of 30 distributed events occurring simultaneously across the globe. Happy-hour meetups, roundtable events, or industry-specific speaking engagements would all likewise be a good use case for this model.
- Participants can engage in in-person networking, something that is typically harder to come by in virtual-only events
- While these events can be designed with local or regional needs in mind, the learnings come on a global scale
- Smaller venue needs, and the ability to more easily follow safety protocols
- Balancing interaction between your single on-site groups and the larger network of groups
- To keep all of the groups engaged, you will want strong hybrid event teams on the ground at each location
- A multi-site event requires multi-site logistics, including food and beverage and AV
Hub and Spoke
Definition: A combination of the other two hybrid event types, this model features a central in-person event broadcasted out to many smaller in-person offshoots in different locations. The hub and spoke model provides the excitement of a major event, and the reach of a virtual event with face-to-face network capabilities for everyone.
The Professional Convention Management Association put this concept to the test at its Annual Convening Leaders conference back in January. The meeting brought together an in-person audience of 300 attendees alongside speakers and association leaders at the hub site for the event in Singapore—while simultaneously bringing together in-person “spokes” of 50 to 150 attendees at six cities in the United States and 3,000 virtual attendees from across the world.
- Intimate experiences that benefit from centralized content and speakers
- A potentially globe-spanning community anchored around a single event experience
- Brings the in-person event experience to attendees who would otherwise be unable to attend, similar to a typical roadshow event
- Budgets will likely be higher for this type of event than for a single-site, requiring logistics both a full-blown single-site event and several smaller events
- Balancing content between the central hub and the spoke events in a way that will be valuable for all
- Similar to a Network hybrid event, a multi-site event requires multi-site logistics, including food and beverage and AV
Choosing Your Hybrid Event Model
Now that you’re aware of some of the hybrid event types, think about how each one can serve you. One way to help you choose your event type is to first get clear on the ultimate goal of your event.
“Objectives should be closely tied to outcomes,” says Rachel. “Work backward based on the needs of your attendees and sponsors.” For example, if stakeholders want the ability to meet many major players in person, the Single Site model won’t work for you. If an agency is concerned about safety protocols, a Broadcasted event might feel too risky.
“Think of the outcomes and the impact,” says Rachel. If you have a conference or a thought leadership event, consider the Networking model, because it enables your attendees to make meaningful connections with other industry leaders. “This model gives you the ability to curate who’s in the room,” says Rachel, which in turn allows you to ensure success for your attendees.
How you are budgeting for hybrid events will also come into play with this decision. Saving on one large event venue could help you create a greater impact in multiple smaller meet-up spaces. An intimate venue might also be advantageous for the right sponsors, who could design the environment in line with their brand.
How Successful Hybrid Events Drive Business Outcomes
No matter what event type you choose—from hybrid to virtual to in-person—all models are simply tools for driving business outcomes. And hybrid events continue to provide all the advantages of both in-person (ticket revenue, immersive activations) and virtual (analytics that prove event sponsorship value, global reach).
Despite all the unknowns, setting yourself up for success by choosing the appropriate model for your event is the best place to start. “You could look at it as a money pit,” says Rachel. “Or it can be a really conscious, weighted effort towards a great and new level of success.”
Download the Going Hybrid Guide for more on getting the most out of your hybrid strategy.