Great ideas for hybrid event success

Great ideas for hybrid event success

5 min read

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Hybrid Event Success

As in-person events make a comeback, virtual events are no longer the only game in town. Many event planners for associations and other member-based organizations are turning to hybrid events. They pull together the best of in-person and virtual events to offer attendees the convenience of choosing the attendee experience that works best for their schedule and budget.

 

But if you’re just getting started with hybrid events, how do you know what to do?

First, keep in mind that there’s no one way to make your hybrid event work. You’ll need to evaluate your situation and determine what is best for all of your stakeholders – speakers, sponsors, attendees, and your organization – as you create your plan.

However, there are some best practices that will help ensure a successful event. Start with the three pillars that make up the value of an event:

  • Education
  • Networking
  • Commerce

Now, let’s focus on how to apply the hybrid model to each of these pillars.

Education

For many member-based or corporate organizations, education is the primary reason to hold an event. Members need to earn a certain number of continuing education credits or learn about the latest research within their fields.

 

When it comes to education, a simple hybrid event set-up can be a livestream of your in-person presentations to virtual attendees while using polls and chat functions to keep everyone engaged, including your in-person attendees. More complicated plans involve additional cameras and multiple touchpoints for both audiences.

 

Here are some ideas:

  • Use a single interactive platform, like Pathable by Community Brands, for both in-person and virtual audiences to make it easier for everyone to connect during sessions.

  • Offer the same session materials to everyone, and distribute them at the same time within your platform or in person. In-person materials can be printed, while virtual materials should be downloadable.

  • Consider having a master of ceremonies (MC or emcee) for each audience. The in-person emcee can handle session introductions, transitions, announcements, and Q&A for in-person attendees. The virtual emcee can interact with the in-person emcee on behalf of the virtual attendees and relay questions from the virtual audience during Q&A sessions. The virtual emcee can also interact with the virtual audience during breaks and breakout sessions.

  • If it’s within your budget, add a virtual wall of attendees to the in-person meeting space so that speakers, the in-person emcee, and in-person attendees can see and easily engage with the virtual audience.

  • If you have virtual speakers, broadcast their presentations to both audiences at the same time so that everyone has a similar experience.

  • For breakout sessions, blend your in-person and virtual audiences whenever possible. This will make virtual attendees feel more like they’re part of the action.

  • Consider making sessions shorter and easier to digest for all attendees.

  • Include breaks for everyone, not just your in-person attendees, so they can stay fresh and focused during sessions.

Networking

For some attendees, networking is a key reason to go to events. The connections they make in the hallway, the lunch buffet line, during small group meetings, and networking cocktail hours can result in collaborations, job opportunities, and thousands of dollars in sales.

It’s a good idea to build networking time into your schedule for both in-person and online groups. Whenever possible, bring your in-person and virtual audiences together to enhance everyone’s experience.

Some more ideas:

  • Schedule longer breaks during the day for one-on-one and group networking opportunities.

  • Make sure your event platform includes the ability to schedule meetings with other event attendees.

  • Include pre-determined tags and filters in your event platform so that attendees can find others with similar interests to connect with during the event.

  • Offer a list of ice-breaker questions to help individuals and groups ease into virtual conversations.

  • Provide networking stations at your event site where in-person attendees have somewhere to sit and connect with virtual attendees. These can include:

    • A booth or semi-enclosed structure for privacy

    • Electrical access or charging stations for in-person attendees to charge their devices during meetings

    • One-on-one meeting device checkout (internet-connected tablet or laptop pre-loaded with your event platform app) for those who didn’t bring an appropriate device, or who find they have difficulty with their own devices

  • Incorporate a virtual space so attendees have direct interactions throughout the event.

Commerce

Sponsors, exhibitors, and many organizations rely on their annual events to make money. For some, it’s their one big opportunity of the year.

With advances in technology, your hybrid events can continue to bring in revenue for your organization, sponsors, and exhibitors, with some modifications that work to everyone’s advantage.

Here are some ideas:

  • Use an event platform that allows for in-person and virtual exhibitor and sponsor booths, so everyone can participate in the exhibit hall experience.

  • Offer tiered sponsorships, based on how sponsors wish to promote themselves and to which audience (including options for promotion to both audiences.)

  • Include listings and promotional pages for each sponsor and exhibitor, with tags so attendees can search by interest, function, and product type.

  • Allow attendees to opt in to receive sponsor and exhibitor emails with a virtual “business card drop” based on information within the event platform.

  • Include sponsorship opportunities throughout your event, including:

    • Display ads and banner ads within the online platform

    • Speaker sponsorships, including polls and Q&A sessions

    • Recognition on your website and in emails to attendees

    • Swag and downloadable content

    • Messages and announcements

    • Onsite materials and signage

    • Sponsor and exhibitor interviews
Learn more

With the right technology and a few proven approaches, you can create highly effective hybrid events. Find out how the Pathable event platform can help support the ideas in this article and more: Explore Pathable.