What is a Hybrid Event?

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It’s been a challenging year for the event industry. In response to COVID-19, many event planners shifted events to a virtual event platform. As lockdowns lift and the country begins to reopen, the question arises: How can event planners pivot from virtual events back to in-person events?

The solution is simple—employ hybrid events. As the name suggests, hybrid events combine components of live and virtual events. In turn, they increase your event’s reach, ROI, and attendee participation significantly!

So how can you put on an outstanding hybrid event? Keep reading to find out.

What is a Hybrid Event?

Hybrid events blur the lines between live events and virtual events. They challenge event organizers to think outside the box. Rather than simply live streaming an event to virtual viewers, hybrid events go one step further. They try to engage virtual audiences to interact and participate too.

During hybrid events, remote attendees are encouraged to participate in the following ways:

  • Submitting their questions to the live Q&A
  • Contributing their thoughts in an online chat
  • Providing feedback on various topics through polling
  • Participating in real-time discussions via social media

Essentially, this bridges the gap between the in-person viewer and the remote viewer. For instance, the event’s speaker might reference the growing view count or answer remote attendees’ questions during the Q&A.

This helps remote audience members feel acknowledged and involved in the experience.

The Benefits of Hybrid Events

In addition to being the perfect transition out of COVID-19 lockdowns, hybrid events offer the following benefits:

#1 They Increase An Event’s Reach

Unlike purely physical events, hybrid events aren’t limited by a venue’s capacity. They can extend their reach as far as the internet will take them.

Hybrid events circumvent the geographical barriers and unfeasible travel expenses which would have otherwise stood in attendees’ way. In turn, they present the opportunity to have a vast, global audience.

How Do Hybrid Events Impact In-Person Attendance?

In the past, event planners were reluctant to embrace hybrid events. Their reservation was that virtual access to an event would dramatically reduce in-person attendance, a concept known as “event cannibalization”.

Fortunately, this concern about hybrid events has been thoroughly debunked.

Live Attendees vs. Virtual Attendees

The truth is that remote events and live events attract totally different audiences:

  • Live Attendees – Live attendees consist of an organization’s target audience. This group has a well-established interest in the event. They’re highly motivated to show up in person. They don’t mind paying for a ticket, commuting to the venue, and blocking out their schedule for the day. Instead, they’re eager and excited to network, mingle, and immerse themselves in the live experience.
  • Virtual Attendees – Conversely, 93% of online attendees would not have attended at all if the virtual option was taken away. They’re not invested enough in the event to go through the hassle of attending it in person. If it weren’t for the virtual offerings, they wouldn’t have given the event the time of day. By offering these less-committed attendees remote access, you gain a chance to win them over.

As you can see, there’s little overlap between these two groups, which means event planners don’t have to worry about event cannibalization.

In contrast, you can expect a portion of your remote audience to become in-person, physical attendees next time around. One study found that 18% of online attendees came to the live event the following year. This displays the importance of captivating your remote audience. If you can win them over, your hybrid events will enjoy larger in-person audiences over time.

#2 Return on Investment (ROI)

Hybrid events have an impressive ROI, due to their lucrative revenue opportunities. Hybrid events are often more profitable than live events, due to:

  • Increased ticket revenue – Even though you may not be able to charge full price for remote attendance, you can still rake in considerable revenue from your online audience, especially at scale.
  • Lucrative sponsorship opportunities – When you put on a big event with droves of people tuning in online, sponsors are eager to advertise with you. They’ll pay well to get in front of the eyes of your large audience.
  • Cost-effective venue options – When you know a portion of your target audience will be attending remotely, you can rent out a smaller venue. In turn, you’ll save money on venue space and staff.

All you need to enjoy these profitable perks is a virtual streaming platform. This will enable you to expand your remote guest list by the tens of thousands. The extra revenue you earn from the virtual attendance will easily offset any costs related to investing in the virtual infrastructure.

#3 They Improve Data Collection

Every successful event planner knows the value of gathering data. This data helps you assess an event’s performance and create a blueprint for future success.

During live events, you’re limited to foot traffic data and optional survey results. Hybrid events, on the other hand, provide detailed digital data that’s collected automatically. Virtual streaming platforms automatically track:

  • View counts
  • View duration
  • Social media interactions
  • Survey results

This information will paint a picture of what worked, what didn’t, and provide insight into how you can engage remote viewers more effectively next time around.

#4 They Give More Viewers a Voice

During live events, you aren’t privy to the private conversations of your attendees. Do they like the venue? Are they engaged by the speaker? Without eavesdropping, you may never know.

Hybrid events give you direct insight into your attendees’ perspectives. You can read through the chat, poll responses, and Q&A submissions to see what they’re talking about. These features also give your shyer participants a platform to share their voice. An introvert may never dream of speaking up in front of the crowd, but won’t have any problem submitting a question via chat.

By giving your remote attendees digital ways to communicate, you’ll gain insight into their perspectives and gather valuable feedback.

#5 They Enhance COVID-19 Safety

Last but not least, hybrid events make it easier to follow the rules for reopening post-pandemic.

Many people are eager to attend live events again. However, these events won’t be allowed unless social distancing is implemented. To adhere to the 6-foot rule, you either need to rent out a larger venue or limit the live attendee capacity. By having more attendees tune in from home, you can follow the social distancing rules with greater ease.

On the flip side, many people will still be too nervous to attend live events for the foreseeable future, especially if they’re older or have underlying conditions. By offering them a virtual option for attendance, you can engage them without putting them in harm’s way.

How Are Events Being Adjusted For Reopening?

To protect against COVID-19, in-person events should take the following precautions:

  • Provide masks upon check-in
  • Ask all attendees to wear a mask
  • Set up all seats 6 feet apart
  • Charge an additional 10% to cover careful sanitation and cleaning procedures

In turn, the event industry can reopen slowly and safely.

How to Put On A Hybrid Event

Organizing a successful hybrid event is a dynamic process. First, you must organize all of the traditional live event elements, such as the venue design, speakers, security staff, etc.

You also need to do plenty of tech-savvy planning with your remote viewers in mind. Carefully consider how each aspect of your event will translate to the virtual experience.

For instance, you may need to set up special lighting so your venue looks good on screen.

Engagement-Boosting Tips

Here are some tips and tricks to keep your remote audience engaged:

  • Use dynamic camera angles – Film your presentation from a few different camera angles. This will make the remote experience more immersive and visually interesting.
  • Create additional content – Most in-person events take breaks every once in a while as presenters switch off. To keep your remote viewers engaged during these lulls, prepare some special, virtual-only content.

Here are some ideas:

    • Have a virtual emcee take over during breaks
    • Ask virtual viewers to submit a question for the Q&A
    • Set up an interesting poll
    • Guide them to free, downloadable content on the event app
    • Roll some engaging, pre-recorded content
  • Rehearse and prepare – Hybrid events involve a lot of technology and moving parts. To prevent technical difficulties, like video lags or poor sound quality, make sure to rehearse everything before the big day.

Harness the Power of Hybrid Events

With their expansive reach, thorough data collection, and impressive ROI, hybrid events are a great addition to any event organizer’s arsenal. Even as live events start up again, hybrid events have proven their value and are here to stay.

If you need some guidance and support for your next hybrid event, reach out to the event professionals at Vario. As a leading hybrid event production management company, Vario is known for its use of cutting edge technology and innovative event design.

Vario has even developed a virtual streaming platform for hybrid events, which can support over 10,000 remote attendees simultaneously. It also offers chat and polling features, invitation-only password protection, and convenient API integrations. Discover how partnering with Vario can transform your next event today!

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