As virtual conferencing and streaming technology advance, more events are transcending the barriers of space and time. No longer must audiences congregate in one physical location to share in a real-time event experience. The internet allows virtual attendees to join in from wherever they are in the world. Yet, for many, there’s still the joy of networking and interfacing in-person.
It often leads event productions to wonder, should you design an in-person event or use a virtual event platform?
Why not both?
Hybrid events are dynamic events that capitalize on both in-person and virtual elements. They expand the reach of an event considerably, improving ROI and bolstering an event’s success.
How can you put on an effective hybrid event? This step-by-step guide will teach you everything you need to know.
What Are Hybrid Events?
You may be wondering, “what is a hybrid event?”.Hybrid events are defined by their dynamic audiences, which consist of both in-person and virtual attendees. Both parties can participate, interact, and contribute to the conversation in real-time.
An example hybrid event could look like: You have 50 people in the live audience, with an additional 1,000 attendees watching from the comfort of their homes. As your keynote speaker presents, remote attendees participate by:
- Sending in their questions for the Q&A
- Discussing amongst each other in the chat room
- Voting on polls
- Sharing their thoughts on social media
The key to a successful hybrid event is keeping your virtual audience just as engaged as their in-person counterparts.
Why Are Hybrid Events Growing in Popularity?
In the past decade, hybrid events have risen in popularity, largely due to improvements with the internet. It’s now faster and more reliable than ever, enabling virtual audiences to enjoy a seamless experience.
More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic heightened the necessity of hybrid events. As mandated lockdowns and social distancing shut down live events worldwide, hybrid events saved the day. They enable social distancing, as more health-conscious attendees have the option to participate virtually from the comfort of their own homes.
Lastly, hybrid events will continue growing in popularity due to their impressive benefits. These include:
- Reaching a vast, worldwide audience
- Enhancing convenience for faraway attendees
- Attracting lucrative sponsorships
- Increasing ticket revenue
- Collecting droves of digital data
- Improving your event’s ROI and cost-effectiveness
How to Set Up a Hybrid Event
So now that you understand the perks of hosting a hybrid event, you may be wondering, “How can I set one up for my company?”
Here are the steps to putting on a hybrid event:
#1 Consider Both Audiences Every Step of the Way
Organizing a live event is one thing, but having it translate well on screen is another. To host an outstanding hybrid event, you need to master both of these tasks.
To do this, consider both audiences as you design your event. Find ways to captivate the people in-person, while using additional strategies to keep your virtual audiences engaged too.
#2 Gather the Necessary Equipment
Next, you need to gather the right equipment. The event technology you choose will make or break your remote audiences’ experience.
Here are some key items you’ll need:
- Cameras – High-definition cameras are essential to hybrid events. By positioning them in strategic locations around the venue, you can provide virtual viewers a more immersive experience. Using tripods and risers ensures that your footage is stable, smooth, and steady. Finally, don’t forget to invest in professional lighting so your venue and speakers look their best.
- Microphones – Today’s audiences have little patience for poor audio quality. Make sure your presenters are mic’d up with studio-quality equipment, so they can be heard clearly in the venue and online. You’ll also need an on-site sound specialist to adjust volume levels and sound quality in real-time.
- A virtual live-streaming platform – While you can live stream your event using a wide variety of platforms, not all of them are built the same. Choose a live-streaming platform that’s reliable and easy to use. If you can find one with built-in communication features, like polling and real-time chat, that’s even better.
- Servers – Lastly, invest in a solid server where you can record and store your event footage. This way, you can repurpose footage for future marketing campaigns.
#3 Hire Your Staff
To pull off a successful hybrid event, you need an experienced team by your side.
Here are some virtual event professionals you’ll need to hire:
- A virtual event manager
- Sound engineers
- Video specialists
- A/V tech specialists
- Server specialists
- On-call technical support staff
- Social media moderators
- A virtual emcee
Putting together such a team can be an overwhelming undertaking. To make things easier on yourself, outsource the process to an event management company. They’ll provide a crew of qualified virtual event experts who will put on a flawless show.
#4 Prepare Pre-Recorded Content
One challenge of hosting a hybrid event is keeping your virtual attendees engaged all the way through. If your live attendees take breaks between sessions, you’ll need some virtual-only content prepared to fill the time, such as:
- A pre-recorded video snippet to roll out during intermissions
- A downloadable infographic (which you can post on your virtual platform)
- A downloadable agenda so virtual attendees can see what’s coming next
Make sure this content is uploaded before the day of your event. This way, you can download it yourself and make sure it renders correctly.
#5 Hire a Charismatic Virtual Emcee
A virtual emcee serves as a facilitator of the virtual attendees’ experience. This person should be charismatic and entertaining, as their job is to keep your audience engaged.
During lulls in the live event, your emcee will prompt online participants to:
- Submit their question for the Q&A
- Participate in a poll
- Share their thoughts on social media
- Post online with a custom hashtag
- Refer to a downloadable file on the virtual platform
By investing in a virtual emcee, you’ll enhance your remote audience’s experience. They’ll feel as if their attendance is valued. Not to mention, you can use their feedback and comments to assess your event’s performance later on.
#6 Rehearse Your Event
Run a rehearsal of your event to see if your camera angles, lighting, and sound are on point. This way, you can be confident on the day of your event.
Your presenters can also use this time to practice their talking points and get comfortable on stage. Coach each speaker to address the remote audience, as well as the in-person audience.
It’s easy to overlook online participants, but they crave acknowledgment too.
#7 Establish Your Ticket Pricing and Registration
If you just live stream your keynote speaker and call it a day, it’s hard to justify charging virtual attendees full price. They’re only getting a small portion of the overall experience.
However, if you create virtual-only content, hire a virtual emcee, and provide them with an attendees-only chat room to network online, you can charge a bit more for remote admission.
What Challenges Are Associated with Hybrid Events?
All events face potential hiccups and mishaps. The key to throwing a sensational event is preparing for these challenges ahead of time.
Here are some hybrid event issues to watch out for:
Balancing the Needs of Live and Remote Audiences
Since remote attendees aren’t immersed in the event physically, it’s easier for them to lose interest. Your event has to compete with all the distractions in their space, including:
In other words, if you bore your remote audience, they have every reason to click away. To keep their attention, limit each session’s length to around 20 minutes. This is the preferred length for remote audiences.
Unfortunately, the internet is a magnet for trolls. If your online event is available to anyone, the chat feed can easily get commandeered by distracting, unwanted guests. Prevent this by adding password protection to your virtual event’s admission.
If you prefer to keep the virtual event open to the public, designate moderators to monitor the chat. They’ll remove inappropriate comments and ban pesky trolls right away.
Poor Internet Connection
Even though 5G promises to solve all of our internet connectivity issues, it’s not yet available everywhere. Thus, some of your remote viewers may deal with frustrating buffering or loading latencies.
While you can’t control their internet connection, you can take steps to bolster your own. Test your venue’s connectivity ahead of time, and to ensure the connectivity stays strong, set up separate internet connections for the event team and for guests.
Furthermore, investing in a reliable virtual streaming platform will support your remote audience adequately.
Vario: Hybrid Event Production Professionals
Hybrid events are a powerful tool for any organization. However, hybrid event production is a complex venture. To guide you along the way, consult with the event planning experts at Vario.
Vario operates on the cutting edge of event production, using only the most innovative event technology on the market. With extensive experience in the virtual sphere, Vario has recently developed a custom virtual streaming platform.
Along with providing chat and polling features, this platform can support over 10,000 simultaneous viewers! Visit Vario today to learn more.