It’s no surprise that hybrid events are leading the events industry, with their innovative structure and flexibility fostering creativity and ingenuity. The beauty of the hybrid event is also what makes it more complicated to plan, since the event occurs across platforms that utilise different tools of attendee engagement.
That being said, it's a good investment, with 86% of B2B organisations seeing a positive ROI of their hybrid events 7months after the event date. In this article, we’ll walk you through the steps and considerations needed to throw a successful hybrid event.
Hybrid events combine the easy access and global reach of virtual events, with unique opportunities to incorporate the in-person interactions that can’t be replicated in the virtual space.
In order to go about planning your hybrid event, it’s important we look at the different needs and preparations for in-person and virtual attendees at your hybrid event.
Part 1: The in-person.
Attendees joining you for the in-person side of a hybrid event need somewhere to go! So when planning for a hybrid event it's very important you know exactly how many people will be attending in person.
This allows you to book a space of adequate size and make other in-person event logistics like catering, transportation and accommodations.
Take a close look at the format of the in-person elements of your hybrid event and how to integrate them together. Often with hybrid events, presenters speak in front of a physical audience and are then live-streamed to a virtual audience. This requires technical planning, with things like microphones, cameras, lighting, and technical personnel all being vital to having a seamless transition between in-person and online engagement.
Furthermore, with the use of live streams and other video, it's important to have a strong internet connection so that there are no delays between the physical presentations and its virtual sharing for those attendees viewing virtually.
Some of the best hybrid events utilise unique ways to engage with their in-person attendees with their virtual counterparts, for example using an iPad to chat with another online attendee, or setting up games where attendees across both platforms compete.
These kinds of activities make your event memorable, but they can be complicated logistically. So if you feel the technological aspects of a hybrid event make it daunting, you are not alone: 67% of respondents in one survey felt the same.
A good way to deal with that is to hire external parties, people who know how to operate all the technology and connect everything you want into one seamless event. The trick? Plan, plan, plan. The key to success when putting together events with so many moving parts is to plan. That way, when things go to plan, it’ll be a truly engaging and inspiring event for your attendees, sponsors and exhibitors.
When a hybrid event meets your needs, it’s worth all the logistics when the final result is a real hit.
How to plan
So, we’ve seen just how important planning is, but how do you go about it? Here are some key elements that you should include in your event planning.
Inform speakers how the live streaming will work, how to access presentation material, answer questions from both your event’s virtual and in-person attendees and give them a general overview of the mechanics. You want your presenters feeling prepared and ready for your event as well as giving time for them to work out any questions they may have.
For hybrid events, rehearsals are even more important than they are for in-person events. Coordinating between two event spaces can be complicated. For example, making sure speakers know when to speak (especially if some are virtual and some are in-person), when the breaks are and how the event will switch and integrate between online and in-person is vital for an event to move smoothly.
Rehearsing prevents any lags at your event which keeps audiences engaged and ready for the next session. It also gives presenters the opportunity to perfect their presentations for a hybrid event format.
The technical team
When it comes to tech being involved, no matter how much you plan, troubleshoot or rehearse, there ‘s always chance that something will go wrong. So it’s paramount that you have some backup. With technical issues, like, if a live stream isn’t going through, or a camera is malfunctioning. Having a team on standby to help you through any issues can make or break an event.
Part 2: The virtual.
When preparing for a hybrid event it's paramount you host your virtual event on the right platform.
This means choosing a platform that fits the goals of your event and can cater to the logistics of a hybrid event. For example, if you plan on using a live stream, then it would make sense to have a platform that has a live stream embedded within it so virtual attendees can stay on the event page rather than going to an external link.
Similarly, for Q&A sessions it makes sense to have a platform that incorporates virtual attendee questions in real time during the live feed. One thing to note is that it can often be hard for attendees online and in-person to connect during a hybrid event, so finding ways to incorporate and engage virtual attendees is super important.
It can also be hard for presenters to connect with attendees across platforms, according to one survey (46%) of event organisers said their presenters had a hard time engaging both online and in-person audiences simultaneously. This is why platform choice is paramount, it is the foundation for creating the type of engagement you want at your event.
Investing in platforms that allow for personalisation and the inclusion of ‘widgets’ (games, videos etc.) creates more opportunities for driving engagement across virtual and in-person components. The ability to customise and maximise engagement across a virtual and in-person event platform creates an added bonus for hybrid events.
Another cool thing to look out for are online platforms that let attendees engage with event material and network prior to the event.
Networking is a central part of event hosting, 81% of event organisers say that networking capabilities are a key contributor to audience satisfaction of hybrid events. This drives engagement before the event and increases the benefits and investment of attendees.
Setting up the virtual side of a hybrid event differs from the in-person side because it requires a larger focus on attendee engagement.
Engagement is a central point for virtual attendees due to virtual event fatigue, the feeling of tiredness that comes from staring at a screen too much. To account for this, virtual events need to have breaks between sessions.
Why not try to maximise value in this time which could be left blank by offering attendees something a bit different or the chance to reset by having a stretch and moving about a bit. Activity lead breaks are even better and give an added value to virtual attendees who may otherwise feel like they are missing out on the in-person experience.
Have some fun and get creative! We think other ideas like sending physical or virtual goodie bags to attendees are a great way to up engagement and keep your event dynamic. Either way, it's important that you program this into your event schedule.
Creating an event programme that balances in-person and virtual sessions may mean that the overall scheduling of the event caters more to a virtual audience - that's okay.
Planning virtually requires the same key aspects as an in-person event, but of course modified for online and often with a lot more tech involved!
Informing presenters of the event logistics is important for hybrid events in general, but one unique aspect to consider for virtual events is that virtual attendees also need to get familiar with the platform.
Sending how-to videos or making a live stream session that walks virtual attendees through the platform will help mitigate any issues virtual attendees may find themselves having (such as if. their mic is off or they don't know where the chat button is). This extra step will help prevent any confusion for virtual attendees and help to keep things running smoothly on the day.
The principal of this one is the same as in-person, as both sides need to work together to make a seamless hybrid event.
However, it’s especially important that the virtual aspects of an event schedule are rehearsed in detail as this is where transitions between sessions can take the longest. And when we say plan and rehearse, we mean having everything down to the very last detail. Trust us, future you will thank your meticulous planning and rehearsals!
The technical team
You should have a technical team specifically for the virtual side of your hybrid event ready to go. We’d recommend getting a production company involved if you’re unsure, as they can add a really professional finish to your event and it takes a lot of the technical pressure away from you and your team in-house!
If you’re wondering about the popularity and the future of hybrid, we’ll leave you with one last stat. 50.6% of respondents in a 614 Group survey thought that all future live events will have a virtual element - making hybrid events the leading choice for business all over the world.
With so much to consider for your hybrid event, it's great to have a strong team behind you. Here at Tame we not only offer a great platform for you to host your event, but we offer personalised support when it's time for your event.
We’d love to have a chat over a free, personalised demo and talk more about how we can make your next hybrid event amazing!