The events industry has undergone many changes in the last year and a half. Event planners quickly pivoted to virtual events in March 2020 due to COVID-19. Now, many event planners are transitioning their virtual events to include virtual and in-person audiences through hybrid events.

So, what’s next for hybrid events? We have a few ideas in mind, and we’re covering them in this article on all things hybrid events through COVID-19 and beyond.

In this blog we’re covering these topics:

  • What led to the rise of virtual and hybrid events during COVID-19
  • How COVID-19 has impacted hybrid events
  • Why you should still host hybrid events through COVID-19 and beyond

Let’s get into it!

The Rise of Virtual and Hybrid Events During COVID-19

Event organizers know that curveballs are inevitable in the world of events. While you can plan your event down to the second, there are bound to be one or two things that don’t go as planned. Enter: 2020, a curveball that no event planner saw coming.

The events industry didn’t have time to waste when in-person events ceased altogether back in March of 2020. In true fashion, event professionals quickly pivoted with grit and perseverance in tow. In-person gatherings of any kind were off the table, so planners scrapped their plans for person events and transitioned to virtual events for the foreseeable future. It’s important to note the differences between virtual and hybrid events because although they share similarities, they are not interchangeable.

Over the last year and a half, virtual and hybrid events have also emerged at different times throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Let’s take a closer look at how to define these event formats and when they emerged.

The Pivot to Virtual Events

The Pivot to Virtual Events

When COVID-19 hit, event organizers had no choice but to pivot to virtual events. A virtual event occurs when people attend an event through a virtual event platform.

Early on in the pandemic, virtual events were the primary way event organizers could host their event. Initially, many virtual events looked more like webinars or webcasts, with very few opportunities for attendees to truly engage with each other and event content.

But through trial and error and the development of robust event management technology, virtual events today are bringing as much of the in-person event experience as possible into a virtual format.

While many event organizers have become masters at launching successful virtual events, the world has started to re-open and hybrid events are on the rise.

The Emergence of Hybrid Events

The Emergence of Hybrid Events

Now that event organizers can host in-person events, they don’t necessarily want to throw out the virtual event playbook. In fact, they can bring together the best parts of virtual and in-person events through the hybrid event format.

At a basic level, hybrid events layer a virtual component on top of an in-person event experience. Before COVID-19, hybrid events weren’t necessarily non-existent, but they weren’t as immersive as hybrid events are today.

You might have heard of the term Couchella, which was coined after the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival decided to invest in live streaming capabilities so that people who couldn’t travel to the event could still watch the excitement of the festival right from their couch at home!

A true hybrid event is much more than just streaming the in-person component of the event to a virtual audience. A successful hybrid event enables both virtual and in-person attendees to engage with each other, and provide an immersive experience for both attendee groups.

Looking for more hybrid event tips? Check out our blog on how to launch a successful hybrid event with virtual and in-person components.

The New World of Hybrid Events Through COVID-19 and Beyond

The New World of Hybrid Events After COVID-19

As the events industry navigates the remainder of 2021 and beyond, it’s clear that industry has changed drastically. But what aspects of hybrid events will stay and become integral components of a true hybrid events program? Check them out below:

Engagement for Virtual and In-Person Audiences

Before COVID-19, hybrid events were few and far between, and many lacked robust engagement opportunities for in-person and virtual audiences.

In the new world of hybrid events, it will be essential for event organizers to launch hybrid events that seamlessly connect and provide value to both audiences.

Robust Virtual Event Technology

In 2020, the industry saw a major uptick in demand for reliable event management software, and that demand isn’t going anywhere. Event organizers will continue to need virtual event technology to bridge the gap between virtual and in-person audiences for an immersive hybrid event experience.

Virtual event technology that supports seamless networking, sponsor visibility, and advanced reporting capabilities will prove to be an integral part of any event planner’s hybrid event strategy.

Health and Safety Measures

As hybrid and in-person events become more and more prevalent, health and safety will remain a top priority for event planners. Pre-entry temperature checks, mask requirements, socially distanced seating, and plated meals instead of buffets are just a few changes that will likely become permanent safety measures in the world of in-person and hybrid events.

Enhanced Production Value

When the pandemic first hit, event organizers and attendees were still getting used to virtual event experiences and event technology. Now that we’ve all had time to adjust, attendees have higher expectations.

As hybrid events become more and more common, event organizers will need to evolve their events to include enhanced production elements. This means working closely with an AV team to ensure that the in-person component of a hybrid event runs smoothly and translates well to a virtual audience.

Why Should I Host a Hybrid Event through COVID-19 and Beyond?

Why Should I Host a Hybrid Event through COVID-19 and Beyond?

Now that we’ve covered what to expect out of hybrid events in the new world of events, it’s time to dig deep into the essential “Why?” question you might still be asking.

Event organizers have realized that hybrid events give them and their attendees the flexibility they need for immersive events for both in-person and virtual audiences, plus an event format that also supports increased ROI.

Here are the top reasons to host a hybrid event:

Amplification and Reach

Hybrid events have unlocked a whole new attendee group for event planners. Instead of only being able to host in-person attendees, event organizers can now reach an even larger audience by inviting virtual attendees, too!

Hybrid events also allow for increased accessibility, as attendees who can’t attend an in-person event due to physical, financial, or time constraints have the opportunity to tune in from home.

Increased ROI

Virtual and in-person options allow event planners to increase their attendee and sponsor lists, and drive increased return on investment.

Hybrid events allow attendees to tune in from anywhere, which means you’ll likely see an increase in attendees and a higher ROI. Event sponsorships typically make up the majority of an event’s total revenue. With virtual and in-person event sponsorships, event planners have the chance to secure more sponsorships by providing more value through sponsor packages.

Cost Efficiency

It’s no secret that in-person events require a significant financial investment. While hybrid events do have in-person components, event planners can still reduce costs by reducing the number of attendees they host for the in-person component of the event.

For example, securing a smaller venue for the in-person component of a hybrid event can significantly reduce venue and food related costs.

Enhanced Networking

Networking is a major reason why attendees go to events in the first place. With hybrid events, their networking opportunities are endless. Attendees can network with fellow in-person attendees plus everyone attending the event virtually!

This benefit makes it increasingly important for event organizers to select a virtual event platform that allows in-person and virtual attendees to seamlessly connect through 1:1 video and chat messaging capabilities.

The National Speakers Association hosted one of the industry’s first and most successful hybrid events of 2021! We created an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at how they launched their hybrid event and seamlessly connected in-person and virtual attendees. Access the case study here.

Launch Your Next Hybrid Event with Webex Events

Launch Your Next Hybrid Event with Webex Events

Hybrid events have entered the events industry scene, and they’re not going anywhere. To power a successful hybrid event, you need the right event technology to connect virtual and hybrid attendees.

Enter Webex Events.

Webex Events is a true end-to-end event management solution that powers everything from pre-event registration to the post-event experience. We help event organizers effortlessly plan and launch customized, immersive hybrid events for attendees, sponsors, and speakers.

Check some of Webex Events’ many features:

  • Easily configurable event registration
  • State-of-the-art video rooms
  • 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

Ready to see Webex Events in action? Schedule a personalized demo with our Webex Events team of experts!