There is no denying that hybrid events are here to stay post-pandemic. Over the past two years, event organisers have realised the many benefits of having a virtual element to an event, from offering a more flexible and inclusive way for delegates to attend, to increasing audience reach and offering new ways of reusing event content to increase return on investment.
Hybrid events now play a crucial role in allowing organisers to combine the best features of virtual, such as global accessibility, with the elements that make live events so popular, like networking.
If your organisation is planning a hybrid experience for your next event, here are the fundamental things to consider.
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1 – Map out the event strategy
When planning a hybrid event experience, it is important to have a clear understanding of what your goals are, as well as the key performance indicators you want to achieve.
Ask yourself, are you looking to generate leads or increase brand awareness, or is your event going to be focused on building relationships with current or potential customers? It is also important to consider whether you want to use your audience base as an opportunity to sell sponsorship opportunities. These questions will not only inform the type of content you need to provide your audience, but also the event technology required.
Before deciding to host a hybrid event, you should also ensure you have delegates that will attend either in person or virtually. For example, if your delegates are geographically scattered, it is likely you will have more online attendees. To avoid guesswork, you can send out a questionnaire to your community to find out their attendance preferences.
2 – Content is king
When it comes to running a successful hybrid event, content must come first and foremost, especially when catering for delegates joining virtually.
Without engaging content, organisers risk losing the interest and attention of their online attendees to the many distractions that come with joining an event from the home or office.
When planning the virtual elements of a hybrid event, it can be tempting to mirror the content that would usually be designed for in-person attendees. However, a hybrid event is not the same as a live event and taking a blanket approach will result in a poorer overall experience for attendees.
For virtual audience members, providing creative, high-quality content that adds value is essential and event organisers must ensure the virtual software they are using supports an immersive, engaging experience.
3 – Engage community face-to-face and virtually
Without audience engagement, attendees just become listeners and viewers. What makes an event truly hybrid is when participants can interact and network, whether that is with other attendees, speakers and sponsors, irrespective of their mode of attendance.
To allow in-person attendees to connect with virtual attendees, implementing a specially designed event app can be a great way of blending the two audiences. You can then offer networking opportunities through interactive features like live chats, polls, Q&A, gamification, discussion forums and video chats.
4 – Event location and technology
Planning a hybrid event requires finding a physical venue to host your event and selecting a technology partner for the virtual experience. The location and technology required will depend on a variety of factors, such as attendee numbers, the type of content you wish to deliver, networking opportunities and the length of the event.
When choosing an event platform, it’s important to remember that attendees want to watch engaging content, connect with others and grow their networks, professional or otherwise. Easy to use platforms that ensure content is front and centre will be most attractive to virtual audiences.
By bearing this in mind, planners can choose the most suitable virtual event platform for them, which will work to bring in-person and virtual event elements together seamlessly.
Although the industry has seen a boom in the amount of in-person events announced for 2022, those events offering a hybrid element will be in an advantageous position, with increased attendee numbers and a higher return on investment.
However, organisers planning hybrid activations must ensure both in-person and virtual attendees receive a well-executed event that takes into consideration the requirements of both audiences.