When the pandemic hit back in 2020, the event organizers scrapped their plans for in-person events and quickly pivoted all of their energy into mastering the art of virtual events.
At the time, virtual events were the clear path for event organizers and planners to take. Taking events online helped organizers keep attendees safe, engage a broader audience, dramatically reduce event costs, and dive deep into attendee data.
Virtual events worked during a time of great uncertainty, but the world has significantly changed since then. With vaccine rollouts around the world and more information available on how to keep attendees safe at in-person events, event organizers can take their events beyond the virtual realm.
Event professionals no longer have to choose between a singular event format. Why? Because a hybrid event combines the best of both in-person and virtual events into one event format.
Keep reading to learn the definition of hybrid events, the unique benefits of hybrid events, when you should host a hybrid event, and how to successfully plan and host a hybrid event.
What is the Definition of a Hybrid Event?
A hybrid event brings together virtual and in-person audiences so that they can seamlessly interact with other attendees, sponsors, and exhibitors whether they’re front and center at the venue or tuning in from home.
If you’re unsure of whether an event is truly hybrid, keep in mind these three hybrid components. A hybrid event includes:
- In-person and virtual elements. For example, a hybrid event’s in-person attendees could attend in-person at a venue while virtual attendees would attend from a virtual event platform.
- Opportunities for all attendees to interact. Whether virtual or in-person, all attendees should be able to easily network.
- Some kind of live component. While a hybrid event can include pre-recorded content, there should be some element of the event that is happening live.
A common concern among event organizers is around how to keep virtual attendees engaged during a hybrid event. The key to success in this area is leveraging a virtual event platform that allows both online and in-person attendees to seamlessly connect using video, chat, games, and polls.
A true hybrid event should not involve only streaming the live experience to a virtual audience. The secret to a successful hybrid event is creating a highly engaging experience for both in-person and virtual audiences. Both groups should be able to easily network and access the same great content!
What are the Benefits of a Hybrid Event?
A hybrid event combines the best elements of virtual and in-person events, bringing them together for one cohesive hybrid event experience.
In-person events provide a unique opportunity to foster in-person connection between attendees, while virtual events allow event organizers to expand their reach beyond a venue or physical space–– potentially reaching a global audience!
Benefits of hybrid events include:
- Audience Reach: A hybrid event allows event organizers to reach a much larger audience than they would for an in-person only event. Attendees can attend your event from anywhere without needing to pay for travel and lodging costs to attend in-person.
- Revenue: In addition to virtual and in-person ticket sales, you can also increase your event’s revenue through hybrid sponsorship opportunities. Just as some attendees can’t attend in-person, the same goes for sponsors and exhibitors who might prefer to have a virtual presence at your hybrid event
- Cost: By nature, virtual events are more inexpensive to execute and attend than in-person events. When it comes to a hybrid event, you don’t need to invest in double or triple the event space at your in-person venue when you can instead add a virtual component to reach even more attendees.
- Inclusivity: The virtual element of your hybrid event opens up opportunities for people who might have health or resource barriers that prevent them from attending in-person. By reaching a broader audience for attendees, presenters, and sponsors, a hybrid event can incorporate a diverse set of perspectives which enriches content and makes your event even more inclusive.
- Attendee engagement: For any hybrid event, it’s essential that event organizers harness the power of a virtual event software that serves as a true connector between all audiences. Virtual and in-person attendees should be equipped with technology that allows them to seamlessly interact with each other via the virtual platform.
- Event data: Gathering event data is key to understanding what worked well, what can be improved, and what insights can be shared with event sponsors. An effective virtual event platform should be built with robust event data and analytics showing attendee engagement information, sponsor metrics and insights, and networking activity.
What Do Hybrid Events Look Like?
Hybrid events can look different depending on your vision and style, but all hybrid events should have a common goal: prioritizing the event experience for both in-person and virtual audiences.
This means that simply streaming the live portion of the event to your virtual audience does not quite live up to a true hybrid event.
The key to bridging the gap between your in-person and virtual audiences is an end-to-end event platform that allows the two audiences to seamlessly connect.
Some key virtual event platform features include:
- Q&A capability
- Chat functionality
- Breakout rooms
- Live and on-demand content
The National Speakers Association (NSA) hosted one of the industry’s first and most successful hybrid events using the Socio Platform. The NSA team leveraged Socio’s gamification tool, Social Wall feature, session chat, and so much more to drive engagement between their hybrid audiences.
Without an event platform to bridge the gap between both audiences, virtual attendees can feel left out or bored and quickly disengage from the event.
NSA worked tirelessly to ensure this didn’t happen by providing their hybrid audiences with multiple opportunities to make connections.
Are you looking for more hybrid event inspiration? We have you covered. Check out our top five favorite hybrid events of 2021 so far!
When Should I Host a Hybrid Event?
While the hybrid event model is integral to the future of events, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the hybrid model is a one size fits all.
You need to know when a hybrid format will be most beneficial for your event and when a different model might make more sense.
If your event can be held in-person and virtually, then you’re on track for hosting a hybrid event. Below are some hybrid event use cases–– you’ll notice that hybrid events can be leveraged for both external and internal events:
- Trade shows
- Sales kick-offs (SKOs)
- Global town halls
You should run on-site events when it’s critical that all of your attendees gather together in-person. If you’re confident that your event’s content will not translate well in a virtual setting, this is a good indicator that your event should be in-person.
Your attendees signed up for your event to engage with great content–– if you can’t ensure that they are able to access and interact with your content in a meaningful way through a virtual component, consider hosting an in-person only event.
Strong examples for in-person events include:
- Small customer or team lunches
- Team outings
- Awards ceremonies
Keep in mind that your in-person attendees will likely have varying degrees of comfort around in-person gatherings.
Make sure to provide plenty of hand sanitizer, face masks, and extra seating. If possible, you can meet outside or space out chairs and tables to accommodate for physical distancing.
Virtual events are the perfect solution for if you cannot host an on-site event, you’re looking to limit your event’s costs, or your event’s content can be effectively shared through a virtual medium.
In-person events require extra planning, energy, and resources. If you’re able to host your event virtually, take advantage of the opportunity to save on the money and time that would have gone into planning an in-person event.
Here are some examples of when you should use the virtual event format:
- Webinars or virtual workshops
- Virtual conferences
- External or internal hybrid meetings –– while one group meets onsite, you’ll need a virtual experience for those who are tuning in from home.
How to Plan and Host a Hybrid Event
Before you get started with your hybrid event, you need to have a plan of action. These key elements will help serve as a guide post as you start getting into the details of your hybrid event.
- Develop your hybrid event’s theme and vision. Put yourself in the shoes of your virtual and in-person attendees. What key takeaways will they gain? Where will the event take place? When will it happen? Why would an attendee be interested in attending your event? Remember to consider these questions from both the in-person and virtual attendee perspective.
- Launch a detailed hybrid event plan. Of course, part of your event requires that you create an actual event plan. Details such as session information, presenter bios, event timing, safety measures for in-person attendees, ways to engage your virtual audience should all be included in your event plan.
- Establish roles and responsibilities. You likely have a team in place to help you pull off your amazing hybrid event. In your plan, identify who will be responsible for each aspect of your event plan. Make sure that everyone on your team is aligned and clear on what aspects of your event they are managing.
- Create relevant content: As you develop content for your event, remember to factor in that you’re developing content for both your virtual and in-person audiences. Think through what kind of content will translate best to both attendee groups. In particular, consider whether there are parts of the event when you will need to play recorded content for your virtual attendees while your in-person audience completes another activity.
- Enlist dynamic hybrid speakers: Having dynamic speakers that bring energy and excitement to your event will make all the difference in keeping your audiences engaged. Take time to find speakers who are willing to invest in both audiences throughout their presentations.
- Identify hybrid sponsors: Your sponsors play a major role in the success of your hybrid event. Not only do they help get the word out about your event, sponsors can also provide prizes and additional resources such as technology or giveaways to help make your event all the more engaging.
Once you’re finished planning your event, it’s time to kick things off! Here are some tips for how to successfully host a hybrid event:
- Choose a robust virtual event platform. Your event’s virtual event platform will play a major role in keeping your virtual and in-person attendees connected and engaged. Some features to consider for your virtual event platform include: chat functionality, gamification, and 1:1 video rooms.
- Keep attendees informed and up-to-date. When hosting any kind of event, communication is always key. Every step of the way, keep your hybrid audiences informed on where they can find event related information within the event platform, how to stay connected to other attendees using your platform’s networking capabilities, and who they can go to for any questions.
- Practice, practice, practice. Hybrid events are new for event organizers, attendees, presenters, and sponsors. Set aside time to rehearse before the start of your event. For an event with a lot of moving parts, we suggest doing a walk-through using all the tech you intend to use at least a week prior.
- Test out both the live event AV and your event platform: Since your AV partner might not have all of their equipment on-site until the day of or before, consider asking them to broadcast in from their office with their team “acting” as the in-person emcees and/or speakers to see how their AV will interface with Socio’s event platform. This will help your presenters feel more comfortable ahead of their presentation and give you peace of mind going into the event.
Are you gearing up to host a hybrid event? Check out our blog on everything you need to know to effortlessly plan immersive hybrid events that draw sponsors and delight attendees!
Take Your Hybrid Event to the Next Level
Hybrid events have entered the event industry scene and they’re here to stay. While hybrid events present a variety of unique challenges, the opportunities they offer organizers, attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors alike set the stage for an event format you can’t pass up.
What’s the next step in your hybrid event journey? Identifying a powerful virtual event platform to engage a virtual audience and bridge the gap between your hybrid audiences should top the list!
Meet Socio, an end-to-end event management platform powering in-person, virtual, and hybrid events.
Discover how we can take your hybrid event to the next level. Schedule a personalized demo today.