With event technology developing so quickly, hybrid events are becoming the obvious choice as they give the best of both worlds when it comes to in-person and virtual events. It’s that special mix between the two experiences that really make a hybrid event, and while this means there’s no need for you to choose between them anymore, we know it may all seem a tad complicated at first! But, we promise, once you get the hang of it, you’ll see what a game-changer a hybrid event can be, and why they’re here for the long haul. Plus, you can totally apply everything you already know about event planning to hosting a successful hybrid event - just with a few twists.
Which begs the question, what exactly is a hybrid event?
A hybrid event fuses digital and physical event elements to give attendees, speakers and sponsors more options for participating. What gives a hybrid event quality is the opportunity for broad audience engagement, just think of the discussions that can take place when you have both virtual and in-person attendees and the scope of speakers you can have to inspire and deliver value for everyone involved.
Here at Tame we believe that virtual and hybrid events standalone in their flexibility, creativity and unique influence on attendees. Our COO Charlotte Ejstrup, emphasises that,
“Virtual is not just a replacement of the physical interaction but it also lends itself to way more opportunities to actually engage.”
This is why it’s so important to understand how to throw a virtual or hybrid event; once you know the basics, the creative opportunities are endless.
So, how do you go about planning for a successful hybrid event?
1. Know what you want.
Before you get on with planning the event, define what you want attendees and businesses to take away from the event. Start with a helicopter view of your event goals, then make a plan that considers all the nitty-gritty details. From venue considerations to speaker involvement, budgets to production, there’s more potential with a hybrid event, which can lead to confusion and getting overwhelmed with choice, so be sure to outline your goals from the start.
Creating a strategic staircase of goals and tasks will show you what steps need to be taken to have a successful event. For example, if half your event is taking place in a venue you’ll have considerations such as a stage, the size of the live audience, the number of speakers at this venue, as well as the kind of virtual integration needed.
Then you come to questions for the virtual side of things:
- Do you need to pre-record any speakers?
- How much, if any, will be live?
- How can you connect all the virtual elements with the physical, if it suits the audiences? more on that later.
- What virtual elements do you need to include to make attendees feel more engaged?
- How will you manage transitions and time breaks throughout the event? Why not record the break room at the physical event and stream it to the virtual audience, with interaction options, so they can feel a part of it? Allowing them to engage with one another (especially those also virtual) will prevent a disconnect between the two versions of your event.
Thinking like this will save you time and effort by preventing blind spots in your planning.
Next in the planning queue is budgeting. You have your dream and the most important components of the event defined, but you (we’ll presume) also have a budget you need to stay within. You should be asking yourself questions like these:
- How much will you and your company invest in the event, how much will your sponsors contribute, is it free for the attendees - or will tickets be sold as well?
- What are the costs of rentals, equipment, personnel?
- What are the legal requirements, contracts, potential data privacy considerations?
Planning and budgeting are the foundation of every event, but with a hybrid event, there are a few more variables to take into consideration. Spending a lot of time at this stage is extremely important to help your future self keep on top of things.
2. Hybrid has two sides; accommodate them both.
It’s tempting to try and exactly replicate the event schedule and features across both your physical and virtual platforms, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’ll be the right thing for your attendees. Remember, the in-person and virtual elements of your event are separate, so be sure to put some things in place to make sure it’s a great experience for every attendee, wherever they are. Not only that, but you’ll need to put in place different forms of measurement so you know the successes of each element of the overall event.
One of the biggest challenges when it comes to hybrid events is making sure that your virtual attendees and viewers are engaged and feel included. With that come several things to consider, including:
- What platform tools will you need to make sure the virtual attendees are engaged?
- What do your speakers and sponsors need to do to make sure they get maximum exposure and engagement from the virtual attendees as much as the in-person? Think about their booth setups - they might be virtually attending too, so be sure to accommodate everyone.
- You’ll need to moderate virtual engagement just as you would in-person, so see what tools your platform of choice has to help with that.
- Send attendees information and guidance of how to engage and get the most out of your event. Whether that’s a virtual etiquette list of do’s and dont’s or a guide to joining the right way, cover all bases to make it easier for everyone on the day.
- Think about how your programme looks for the two audience types. For example, gaps in the schedule at a physical event are much longer than purely virtual ones (people are unlikely to need a half hour break, for example, when they’re joining virtually), so think about how your schedule will go.
Something you may consider as a really nice touch is sending something to people before your event. That way, they’ll understand the programme and the fact that they’re a part of a hybrid event - which may well mean something different to each attendee. Why not send something physically to those that are joining virtually, or ask them to send in some questions beforehand to your moderator if you’re doing a live Q&A?
When it comes to maximising breakout sessions, be sure to share guest lists beforehand, so that everyone knows who else will be at the event so they know how to network and engage with them. Just because one person is attending virtually, it definitely doesn’t mean they can’t chat to someone who’s at the venue - you just have to get creative and make sure everyone’s informed.
It’s the little things that can really make an event, and in this case join together the people virtually and in-person.
3. Grow the buzz.
There’s no event without people, so you have to create interest and awareness of the event - and this may include reaching out and connecting with the target media to get the word out there.
One strength of hybrid events is that there are varying ways to attend the event, giving you some freedom to be creative with your marketing messages. It’s definitely time to get the marketing team on board for this if you haven’t already.
Here are a few thought-starters to reach your audience online:
- Event hashtags for social media
- Asking people to share their RSVP on social media, for example by saying they are ‘going’ on a Facebook event
- Making creative, relevant marketing material for platforms like Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.
- Get the speakers to promote their participation on LinkedIn, Twitter and their personal blogs.
4. From ‘let me see’ to RSVP.
Something you can’t afford to overlook is your event website. You want to make sure that when people click to RSVP, they land on a visual, user-friendly landing page with the event programme, an overview of speakers, sponsors, and ultimately an easy way to sign up. Being branded to your business adds that something special, too.
The landing page’s job is to convert as many people as possible to attendees, so having an event platform where you can create an event website within the platform is a vital feature for a seamless user experience, and making it easier for you.
5. Time to get technical.
This step is pretty vital to say the least; you have to decide where to host your event online as well. Choosing a virtual hosting platform that supports the hybrid approach to meet your event’s needs is essential, after all, you are merging the physical and virtual into one experience. Things like technical support, live streaming, video integration, video libraries, as well as features like breakout rooms, and interactive tools are especially important for virtual viewers’ engagement. Similarly, work out what you need when it comes to things like projectors, microphones, lighting, and cameras for the in-person elements of your event.
Even though we live in a technical world, we’ve all had a moment where we caught ourselves chatting away online - all while on ‘mute’. That's why it’s so important to familiarise yourself (and everyone involved) with the tech that you’ll be using. This way, you can troubleshoot, decide on the most important features, and ensure your team is trained and able to run the event with you.
It’s also a good idea to create a guide for attendees using the tech, both virtually and in person, in order to give everyone the information they need to get fully engaged. Giving them access to all the features on how the use of different interfaces means that attendees can focus less on the tech and more on the event (and means you won’t have to show everyone where the mute button is!) With that being said, we’re not all tech geniuses, so it's often a good idea to have someone on standby to help, just in case there are any hiccups along the way.
6. Fire up your attendees.
Your event’s almost ready, now your focus is ensuring the attention of both your in-person and virtual audiences. Engagement and networking are a core reason for event attendance, so it's vital your event fires up your attendees. Luckily, the extended reach of virtual audiences means that there are even more opportunities to network, and you should highlight this in your event.
Get creative with how you encourage and facilitate engagement for attendees, speakers, sponsors and exhibitors. For example, integrate breakout sessions online with in-person live videos on tablets. Take advantage of the fact that audiences want to interact with each other across mediums, mixing in-person experiences and virtual ones are sure-fire ways to make your event a unique experience for everyone involved.
7. Track to success.
Things don’t end at the end of the event day! It’s really important to also plan to track your engagement, so you know what works and what doesn't. After all, you didn't put all this work in to let it go to waste. Now that you’ve thrown a brilliant hybrid event, you can utilise everything learned and throw an even better one next time. It's all about evolving, so keeping track of RSVP captures, attendee engagement, and survey responses mean you can optimise for your next event.
That all sounds a lot to consider, but when you’ve got a platform that guides you through the process, it can feel a lot less daunting. That’s why we’ve created our platform to be your event’s partner in crime, from start to finish and beyond.
If that sounds like what you’re after, get in touch with one of our team to find out more and book a demo. We’re ready to work with you to make your hybrid event the bee’s knees.