It seems like almost yesterday when life, as we knew it, dramatically changed. Along with discovering new ways to work, companies had to creatively reinvent how they conducted business in order to stay afloat and weather the tough times.
If you are an event manager, the urgency to pivot from in-person events to digital experiences in 2020 was likely a big challenge. You had to reimagine the in-person experience to satisfy attendees and keep attracting sponsors.
Thankfully, you did a great job! Virtual events have now become commonplace, and they remain popular among event organizers. However, as the world starts to open back up again, a new event has emerged that unites the benefits of both in-person and virtual events, driving more connections and engagement.
Enter the hybrid event.
Hybrid events are the new frontier, a creative brainchild of in-person and virtual events that allow event organizers to produce a highly engaging experience for attendees, whether in-person or virtual.
The result? An immersive, attendance-boosting hybrid event that excites speakers and delights attendees.
This article will discuss:
- What hybrid events are and their benefits
- Key components of hybrid events
- How to plan hybrid events
- The challenges of hybrid events and how to solve them
- Tools to effortlessly implement seamless hybrid event experiences
What is a Hybrid Event? What Benefits do They Provide?
The year 2020 forced event organizers to replace in-person events with virtual events to provide a safe environment for attendees. The transition was difficult, but virtual events became quite popular even though attendees and presenters mourned the loss of in-person experiences.
Virtual events do not allow an in-person connection, but they can reach a larger audience and make it possible for more people to engage with an event’s content. In-person events promote engagement and personal contact, easy networking with attendees, and full engagement with the content and event sponsors, but they often lack the space to house many people.
So which one should you choose?
Since both in-person and virtual events boast unique advantages, and many people are not quite ready to attend in-person events, instead of deciding on one or the other and missing out on the potential benefits, why not merge the two?
Hybrid events merge the in-person experience with the virtual and provide some attendees with an in-person feel, yet the content is available to a larger virtual audience.
Note that hybrid events are not simply live streamed or replays of in-person events. They prioritize ALL attendees, foster real-time interaction and engagement, and provide an immersive experience to virtual attendees.
With hybrid events, both virtual and in-person participants should share a similar experience. The only difference is that some engage in a physical space, while others engage virtually via an event platform.
Components of a Hybrid Event
What does a hybrid event look like? What classifies a hybrid event?
A hybrid event has:
- A virtual audience and an in-person component
- Virtual and in-person attendees can both view and interact with the content, presenters, and attendees
- Events occur live; there is always a live component
Example: Let’s say you want to organize a hybrid event this year. In 2020, you pivoted from in-person to virtual events and planned to continue down the virtual path, but you also want to reintroduce the connection and intimacy of in-person events.
To facilitate a hybrid event, book a physical location where your speakers will present their content. The presenters will speak from this venue (some might present virtually), and virtual attendees will engage with the in-person events in real-time.
Speakers are used to talking in person, and they thrive on human connection, so they will likely be more engaged and enthusiastic about the event.
Next, ensure your virtual audience can engage with the content and experience all of the events live. Using a robust end-to-end event platform like Socio to seamlessly merge the in-person and virtual experience enables you to keep your virtual audience highly engaged and ensure your in-person experience is well-thought-out and runs smoothly.
Example of a Successful Hybrid Event
The National Speaker’s Association (NSA) hosts two national in-person events every year. In 2020, NSA pivoted to virtual events successfully, but they wanted to elevate their February 2021 virtual event to include an in-person component.
NSA partnered with Socio to create a fully immersive hybrid event for its attendees.
“We decided we needed to have some sort of in-person offering, even though we knew it was going to be dramatically smaller than events in the past,” NSA Chief Revenue Officer Rhette Baughman says. “That’s why we chose to do hybrid, to lead the industry, and to show how you can safely bring in-person events back. We also could serve more people by having that virtual element.”
NSA didn’t want to simply live stream the live event to a virtual audience. Partnering with Socio, they designed an engaging and exciting in-person experience for all attendees.
NSA’s efforts paid off. They received:
- 700,000 banner impressions
- 32 user contributions per attendee
- 1,578 completed challenges; 25 challenges per user
- Exceeded 2021 revenue goals
Want an inside look at NSA’s success story? Take a deep dive into NSA’s hybrid event journey through our exclusive case study. Access it here.
We also cover five real-world hybrid events in this article.
The Benefits of Running Hybrid Events
Hybrid events foster high attendee engagement between participants and the event’s content and facilitate connection with speakers and sponsors, regardless of the individual’s physical location. Yet, they can also draw many more people than in-person events because a physical location’s constraints do not limit them.
Event costs, venue capacity, and travel limitations can deter willing participants from attending an event. The virtual component leads to higher attendance which equates to higher ticket sales and increased event ROI.
Hybrid events also support increased sponsorship since sponsors will have more visibility with both in-person and virtual attendees. Increasing sponsorship value will allow you to attract more sponsors with more exposure for their brands.
Using an event platform like Socio also allows event organizers to collect data analytics to inform future events, increase participation, and provide valuable attendee engagement insights for sponsors.
How to Plan Hybrid Events
Planning a hybrid event typically involves the following six steps:
- Identify your hybrid event goals/KPIs
- Choose a venue and an event management platform
- Design and set up your production equipment and technology
- Create your content and plan interactive elements
- Promote your event
- Create post-event follow-ups, surveys, etc. for feedback
Identify Your Goals
Are you looking to increase brand awareness? Generate sponsorship revenue? Attract more clients? More sales? Promote your brand? All of the above?
Start with your goals and create a plan that facilitates achieving them. For example, if your goal is to fund the event with sponsorships, choose an event platform like Socio that enables you to monetize your event and create unique opportunities for sponsors, like our Sponsor Showcase (virtual “booths”) with the option to enable direct Chat or Video Rooms and rotating banner ads by Sponsors.
For the in-person audience, Socio’s Lead Retrieval product allows Sponsors to scan in-person attendee badges using their mobile phone for quick and seamless connections.
Also, consider how you will measure event success. What are your KPIs? Below are some example KPIs for hybrid events:
- Event ROI numbers
- Number of registrants
- Number of virtual attendees
- Sponsorship revenue
- Attendee engagement
- Attendee satisfaction
- Event website traffic/conversions
- Email open rates/clicks
- Attendee duration
Choose Your Hybrid Event Management Platform
Once you create your goals, consider what features your event management platform should have to meet your goals.
Choosing a platform should be one of the first steps (after goal setting) in your event planning. The platform will dictate how the event will run and what capabilities will allow you to achieve your goals.
Hybrid events require specific features to create immersive experiences for attendees. Some of those are:
- Live streaming
- Video rooms
- Networking sessions
- Live chat
- Polls, Q&A, and other interactive features
- Advanced reporting and analytics
- Sponsorship promotional areas
Set Up the Right Hybrid Event Technology and Resources
Successful hybrid events hinge on superior technology that boasts fast connections and allows for exceptional production quality. Consider the following technical factors when planning your hybrid event:
- High bandwidth, low latency, dedicated internet connection
- State-of-the-art sound and visual equipment
- RTMP player for live streaming
- Tech support (Internal IT team or outsourced)
Live streaming will allow you to stream your live speaker to your virtual audience and enable virtual attendees to interact with the presenter in real-time. Below are some tech tools to facilitate live streaming:
If you need professional services to power your hybrid event technology, Socio has you covered. Socio offers on-site dedicated technical and production event support to help you check all of the boxes for a technologically flawless event.
Create Interactive and Engaging Content
The key to successful hybrid events is marrying the in-person element with the virtual space. Leveraging features such as gamification, live chat, polls, and more interactive elements will make virtual attendees feel more connected to your content.
While planning, take into consideration the session lengths and scheduled breaks. It’s easier for attendees to engage if they are in a large room of people. Sitting at a computer screen for long periods of time can create eye fatigue and allows for more distractions.
We talk more about interactive elements for virtual attendees in a later section.
Promote Your Hybrid Event
Give yourself enough time to promote your hybrid event. A minimum of three months or more gives you time to generate buzz and amp up registration for large events.
When creating your hybrid event marketing strategy, since part of your audience will be joining the event virtually, consider blasting your event digitally to attract a wider audience.
Targeted social media posts and ads, PPC ads, branded landing pages, email marketing, and promotion from your presenters can help you generate early buzz and boost registrations.
Post-Event Follow-Ups and Surveys
Did your attendees engage with your content? Were they satisfied? Were your sponsors happy with how you facilitated promotions? Did you generate warm leads you need to follow up with?
Follow-up emails and surveys may be necessary to measure success. Gauge how your attendees, sponsors, and presenters felt about your event and what they would improve. Use this information to inform future events and make them even better.
The Challenges of Planning Hybrid Events (And How to Solve Them)
The challenge with hybrid events is ensuring all attendees enjoy the same experience regardless of their physical location. Though both parties will require different experiences, neither should feel like they are missing out on content.
In addition, hybrid events must consider attendee safety, presenter preparation, production, AV, and other factors to ensure a seamless in-person experience.
When planning hybrid events, it can feel like you are managing two events in one, so attention to detail and understanding what factors are necessary is essential. The key is to prioritize both in-person and virtual attendee experiences and not favor one over the other.
Solving these challenges and planning a successful hybrid event requires the following:
Interactive and Engaging Content
If you organize virtual events, you understand how vital engaging content is to connecting with virtual attendees and keeping them fixated on your content. Keep your virtual attendees involved throughout the event.
One way to execute an effective attendee engagement strategy is to customize the attendee experience with targeted segmentation.
During event registration, ask registrants whether they prefer live, virtual, or blended experiences. Then, as attendees experience the event, segment further focusing on their preferred event journey. Serve them their desired content in their chosen event type, and delight them with highly targeted content and networking opportunities.
The cherry on top? Sell highly valuable targeted sponsorships that grant companies access to their target audience, or allow them to be the exclusive sponsor for a targeted attendee group.
Focus on the Hybrid Event Attendee
When planning a hybrid event, stay focused on how to delight your attendees and keep them engaged. Start with your event goals, and as you plan, refer to your goals to ensure each component satisfies them.
Each hybrid event should start with a strategy that drives every action. Your strategy should answer the following questions:
- What is your overall goal for the event? What are you looking to accomplish?
- What will entice both in-person and virtual attendees to participate in the event?
- How will you bridge the gap between the in-person and virtual venue?
- What do you want attendees to take away from the event?
- Will the attendee value be different for in-person attendees vs. virtual?
Use the answers to these questions to formulate your event strategy and create a journey map for each potential attendee experience. Check out some innovative ideas for designing your events to cater to your attendees’ journeys.
Bridging the Hybrid Event Gap
How do you provide a seamless experience for both attendee types and delight them regardless of their location?
Here are some tips on how to do just that:
- Include both in-person and virtual presenters so virtual attendees don’t feel “left out”
- Provide gamification to reward crossover connections between both attendee types
- Give attendees a unique code to share with the other attendee type to earn points
- Provide blended roundtable discussions
- Offer dedicated networking spaces
- Speakers and moderators should respond and engage with virtual chat attendees and give credit for ideas and comments
- Allow sponsors to engage with both virtual and in-person attendees
- Provide Q&A, polling, and live chat within one centralized system
Your End-to-End, One-Stop Solution for Planning Effortless Hybrid Events
With so many details to plan and manage, hybrid events can be challenging to execute successfully—unless you work with the right event platform.
From pre-event registration to the post-event experience, Socio provides an end-to-end solution that helps event organizers plan seamless events—registration, marketing, specialized in-person resources, professional services, and everything in between.
Here are just a couple of Socio’s features:
Boost Engagement and Sponsorships With Video Rooms
Socio’s video rooms provide increased engagement for attendees and ample opportunities for unique sponsorships.
Provide a personalized experience for attendees by segmenting the visibility of your video rooms according to your attendee’s characteristics (digital-only, VIPs, etc.).
Customized experiences allow companies to purchase sponsored video rooms for various interactions (group demos, curated experiences, networking sessions, etc.)
Enjoy endless monetization opportunities via customized sponsorship packages, gamification, tiered sponsor packages, and more. If you can think it, Socio can create it.
Level Up Your Registration
Customized registration design and curated attendee experiences occur automatically and seamlessly with Socio.
Let Socio automate your hybrid event’s registration process with flexible and dynamic ticketing, custom branded design, instant event funding, automated actions, real-time analytics and reporting, attendee check-in, and more.
In addition to the state-of-the-art video rooms and registration features, Socio also offers:
- Seamless 1:1 networking between all attendees
- Chat, Q&A, gamification, polling, and more features to facilitate increased engagement and participation
- Complete branding and customization of event pages
- Quick and easy event app building
- Customized sponsorship opportunities
- State-of-the-art flexible video streaming and RTMP player
- Advanced reporting and analytics with a 360-degree view of event data and metrics
- World-class support
- Professional services to power your hybrid event
- And more
Socio empowers event organizers to effortlessly create customized, immersive hybrid events for attendees and presenters.
The best part? Nothing is off the table. Socio can help you facilitate every aspect of your hybrid event with our powerful one-stop solution. We can even assist with event planning to help you keep your event running smoothly and on track.
Want to learn more about Socio? Schedule a personalized demo today with our Socio Event Experts.
Be a part of Socio’s first-ever hybrid event! Register here to watch a real hybrid event, and see how Socio powers post-event on-demand experiences.