The true event experience is one like no other with networking, engaging speakers and opportunities to learn. As the world has shifted largely to a hybrid lifestyle of remote and in-person work, hybrid events are becoming an increasingly important opportunity. Now, global attendees can enjoy their favorite hybrid virtual conference or hybrid trade show from the comfort of their homes, while physical attendees in the area can also benefit from the in-person experience.
The team here at Pathable understands how vital it is to offer your guests a premium hybrid event experience. That’s why our team of experts created this review of hybrid event management and how you can use hybrid event best practices to build a base of loyal followers interested in your organization. We’ll walk you through the basics of promoting a hybrid event, including topics like:
Read on to learn the best practices for your next hybrid event.
What Is a Hybrid Event?
A hybrid event is an event experience designed and organized for both in-person and online attendees in ways that connect both audiences in an organic event environment.
Before the pandemic, organizations planned hybrid events to allow online audiences to join an in-person event experience through live streaming, teleconferencing, and other virtual means. In such settings, virtual audiences often had limited access and a limited event experience compared to in-person attendees.
However, in a world impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, hybrid events must be deliberately planned to give both in-person and virtual audiences a full event experience.
Hybrid Event Planning 101
For starters, hybrid events require more strategy and planning than virtual or in-person alone does. However, considering the benefits of going hybrid, those efforts are always worth the extra attention. You can expand your reach and capture new audiences, and also engage them in new ways. Follow the tips below to plan your next event.
Start with dedicated hybrid event tech
A hybrid event is not two different events but a singular event with two experiences. Therefore, before thinking about venue and other logistics, ensure that you have the appropriate event technology to execute a hybrid strategy.
When considering software options, choose one that allows for various types of event engagement, interaction, and networking. Focus on features such as:
- Live chats
- Breakout sessions
- Video and group chats
- Interactive sponsorship and exhibition elements
- Customized branding and more
An ideal hybrid event solution combines a virtual event platform and mobile event app in one solution. The platform provides virtual attendees the opportunity to be present virtually and to interact. In contrast, the mobile event app provides on-the-go access and interactive tools for engagement between both virtual and in-person attendees.
Pre-event marketing is critical
Build anticipation for both in-person and virtual attendees by letting them know exactly what to expect. Most importantly, convince virtual attendees how you intend to make them feel engaged as though they were attending in person.
You can tailor your value proposition to in-person attendees to include:
- The ambiance of the environment
- Special networking sessions
- Other exclusive access
For virtual attendees, talk more about:
- Livestream and production quality
- Interactive and networking tools
- State-of-the-art technology
- Digital or shipped swag and takeaways
Talk about how these features will make attendees feel connected to the event. It’s best practice to make a clear outline of the unique and common features for the two audiences so that each will know what to expect. This way, your attendees can plan ahead for which sessions are most interesting to them and schedule their experience accordingly.
Consider what time zones will impact your hybrid event
When building your event agenda, consider the time zones that will work best for your virtual audiences. If your event targets audiences in a similar time zone as the event location, this may not pose a challenge.
However, if the time zones vary significantly, try and put main track events and networking sessions around the time convenient for all attendees. You can also consider running multi-sessions so that attendees can choose which sessions work best for their time zones.
Plan for social (physical) distancing for in-person venues
There are a limited number of persons allowed for physical events. Therefore, check with your venue to know the recommended capacity so you can plan accordingly for spacing and admittance. It will also determine how many tickets you will place on sale for in-person attendees. Once those slots are exhausted, interested attendees can continue to sign up for the virtual option.
Decide ahead of time: live or pre-recorded content
For in-person attendees, most of the content should be live, except for short video clips and commercials necessary to be produced ahead. However, there might be a need to engage your virtual audience with additional content that they can view on-demand.
Alternatively, you can pre-record the main track sessions and place them on the platform for virtual attendees as a backup plan in case technical issues arise while streaming live.
Plan for varied content to maximize engagement
Online audiences tend to have a limited attention span. Therefore, you should plan for a mix of content types to keep attendees engaged. Keep content interactive and moderate in terms of length.
Use interactive tools such as Q&A, polling, and gamification to keep the audience active during sessions.
Hybrid event management
Once you get the basics sorted, the next focus will be to make your event run smoothly. Let’s consider the following touchpoints that will make all the difference in your hybrid event management.
Practice makes perfect
Prepare speakers ahead of time for the hybrid experience. Start with the event platform you have chosen and ensure speakers can reach your virtual and in-person attendees using the platform. Also, allow your speakers to practice on the stage or in the space where they will be recorded. Remind them to make eye contact with the cameras once in a while so that virtual audiences can feel connected.
Ensure that everyone is 100% comfortable with the platform that you have chosen. This is because if speakers are familiar with the platform and stage, they can efficiently work around any technical difficulty that might come up.
Make registration, check-in, and long-in as seamless as possible
Using a cohesive solution that combines a virtual event platform with a mobile app will ensure that both virtual and in-person attendees can easily navigate your event space. Integrating your registration software with your event platform and app will also help create a smoother user experience. This way, attendees can check-in and login to your platform without hassles.
Make sure that everyone can interact across the in-person and virtual divide. Do this through online chat rooms, message boards, and in-app communication options. The idea of a community is what makes the event hybrid, and if there is no cross interaction between the two audiences, virtual participants won’t feel as much connected to the event experience.
If your only way of engaging attendees is having them passively watch speakers, you’ll lose your virtual attendees’ attention fast. Ensure that there are ways to interact during sessions with options for reacting to things, voting in polls, or contributing questions.
You can go a step further by allowing in-person attendees to share live videos of moments at the event venue with their virtual counterparts via the event app. If your event venue has breakout rooms with hi-tech audio-visual capabilities, you can have a mix of in-person and online attendees in the same breakout rooms.
To achieve this, set up the rooms with smart 360-degree cameras that show everyone in the room and that highlight anyone speaking. In turn, set up screens in the rooms to display and highlight the faces of those participating online.
End your hybrid event with a splash
Don’t let your attendees leave, or log off, without putting careful thought into your closing remarks. Do you want to end with your best speaker? Or with a performance from a musician or other entertainer? Finish with something that will keep attendees reminiscing about your event.
Following up: Maximize your hybrid event’s long-term impact
The gains of your hybrid event will come mostly from what you do after the event has ended. Take the following steps to ensure that you maximize your event’s long-term impact.
Stay in Contact
Keep communicating with your attendees through email touchpoints. Start with a thank you email and highlight key takeaways from the event. You can also share a post-event website where they can view session galleries and high points. If you have additional resources you want them to download or view, provide the links to those resources in your communication. You can also allow sponsors and exhibitors to continue reaching out to attendees.
Ask for attendee feedback
You need feedback to know whether your event met expectations or not. Send out post-event surveys and ask attendees what they think about specific aspects of the event like:
- Sponsors, and other areas
You will learn a lot of lessons from the feedback that can be useful for planning future experiences.
Offer continued access to evergreen content
Your organization can nurture both in-person and virtual attendees by providing continued access to evergreen content on your event platform year-round. Such content can be the recordings of live sessions or fresh pre-recorded content. By keeping the attendees engaged, you can retain their loyalty for the next event year. You can also reach out to them with additional offers regarding your next hybrid event.
Maintain your community
The community aspect of your event is the interaction and networking. Encourage attendees to continue the exchange on the platform. You can also create conversation forums where attendees can discuss topics about post-event realities. Enable email or mobile notifications when there is a new post or interaction on the platform. This is an excellent way to get invaluable data on your attendee’s opinions and viewpoints.
Measure engagement and ROI
During the planning process, be clear about key performance indicators (KPI) you’ll track for the event. This way, you can use them to measure ROI after the event. When you track how attendees engaged with speakers, content, sponsors, and other attendees on your platform, you will find insight on which aspects of your event resonated with your audience the most.
Like virtual events, hybrid events will continue to evolve. Therefore, your first attempt might not be a perfect one. However, take note of your audiences’ feedback, and talk to your technology provider to harness additional features that will best suit your unique hybrid event experience. You might also consider attending other hybrid events both virtually and in person to learn from other organizers.
Commonly Asked Questions to Make a Hybrid Event Successful
As a newer form of technology, many people have questions about hybrid events. Here are the answers to some of the most asked questions about these events.
What Is a Hybrid Event Platform?
A hybrid event platform combines in-person and digital aspects that are customized for each audience. The goal of a hybrid event is for each group to have experiences designed to drive them to take specific actions and enjoy the thrill of discovery. The in-person audience should receive a VIP experience that can help them network and learn, while the virtual audience connects through online interaction to build connections and view a treasure trove of digital content.
The technology that’s now available has made it possible to wow audiences with impressive and impactful content online, just like physical event spaces.
How Do You Make a Hybrid Event?
The first step in building a hybrid event is to figure out the focus of your event. Internal and external events are the two most important categories. Internal events provide information for stakeholders like employees, management and more. Hybrid events are often perfect for internal presentations since it’s too difficult to bring everyone to one location. Examples of common internal events include larger team meetings, town halls and more.
External hybrid events reach out to customers, clients, future prospects and much more. The goal of these events is typically to persuade your leads to take an action or reinforce brand loyalty and networking within a certain industry. Examples include trade shows, live product demonstrations and more. A notable example would include the iconic Apple keynotes presented by Steve Jobs for devices like the iPhone.
How Do You Make a Successful Hybrid Event?
The ultimate goal of any virtual event is to have audiences leave feeling that they received a great value in exchange for their time and money. In a hybrid event format, the goal is to create a single event that satisfies both the in-person and virtual audiences with unique rewards for participation without the events feeling separate.
On a more specific level, you set organizational goals that are the metrics for the success of your hybrid event. Even if audiences leave extremely satisfied, you need objectives that tell you how much the event advanced your organization.
Examples of metrics for success that you can set include:
- Number of registrations: The number of people who sign up to attend your event in-person online reveals the effectiveness of several factors, including your ads, landing page and overall marketing campaign.
- Attendee conversion rate: Another key metric is the attendee conversion rate, which focuses on the number of people who register and actually attend the event. You can find this figure easily. Simply divide everyone who attends the event by the number of people who signed up and multiply the final figure by 100.
- Average viewing rate: Average viewing rate reveals if your virtual audience is truly engaged and reveals which portion of the presentation began to lose interest.
- Engagement rate: Your engagement rate reveals key metrics that show how your audience chooses to interact with your online event. For example, engagement would consider how many people download your resources, message in your group chat, answer your surveys and much more.
- Return on investment: Return on investment (ROI) is the financial bottom line for your event. You simply calculate the event’s cost and divide the revenue by the cost and multiply it by 100.
How Do You Engage a Hybrid Audience?
There are many methods to engage your hybrid audience. The main idea is to blur the line between being present and virtual so that the audience feels like they have a live impact on the event’s outcome. For example, a question and answer session where the virtual audience can ask questions allows them to feel like they can participate directly. If you provide polls where the virtual audience decides between several potential topics, then the audience was an active part of planning your event. The goal is to tear down barriers that would stop the audience from feeling present.
How Do You Make Hybrid Events More Interactive?
You can make your hybrid event more interactive through the power of technology. Famous examples include popular television programs like American Idol. Even though there’s a physical audience, the viewing audience actively participates by calling into the show to vote on the winner.
These are significant examples of how you can host interactive activities:
- Virtual trade show: You can provide virtual trade show booths physically and digitally. The digital version can use images, files and videos available for download, while virtual attendees can connect with the exhibitors through video calling.
- Appointment scheduling: Appointment scheduling helps to facilitate networking by connecting physical attendees and virtual guests by scheduling one-on-one meetings or group discussions online and in person.
- Sponsor and exhibitor ROI: You can also have webinars and breakout rooms hosted by event sponsors and exhibitors to allow them branded opportunities to create high-quality content for your event.