First came panic. Then came the realization that this pandemic situation was not going away anytime soon. Next came the understanding that we had to figure out how to continue with events without actually being there in person. Then we all started attending webinars and Zoom meetings. Now with screen fatigue well and truly set in from just staring at someone talk incessantly for 30 minutes or more at a stretch, we want more. In comes a Hybrid Event (yay!!). But are they really the fantastic option for which we have been waiting?
With the COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out worldwide, reaching herd immunity may take a few more months and getting back to near normal is still some way off yet. Hybrid events are by no means a new format, however the current situation has brought them to the forefront and has given event organizers an alternative to just streaming content to an online audience. Going forward it is likely that organizers may still maintain the hybrid format for events as it provides a much higher audience reach with people who for one reason or another – be it financial, logistical or personal reasons, may not be able to attend an event in person.
What is a Hybrid Event?
In the simplest terms, it is an event format that incorporates both in-person and virtual elements providing content to two separate audiences.
From the perspective of an organizer (or Event Management Company), organizing a hybrid event can be fairly grueling as it’s essentially putting together two events at once: a virtual component as well as a live one.
Here are some important elements to consider before you decide to organize a hybrid event:
Health & Safety Regulations – have in-person events been permitted? If yes, perform a quick safety assessment
Cost – check to ensure the cost for organizing a hybrid event format is not prohibitive as higher ticket prices may then limit your attendee numbers
Attendee Restriction – what is the maximum number of people permitted in case of an in-person event?
Willingness to attend – are your attendees willing to attend the event in-person or is there still an element of concern?
Health Checks – can health checks be performed for the in-person attendees or is there a government regulated certificate that can be obtained by each attendee?
Changes of Regulations – with the fluidity of changes in government regulations, are you able to shift to an all-virtual format in case of any last-minute restrictions on live events?
Engagement – do you have elements that engage both the in-person as well as the online attendees?
Resources – do you have the resources to manage both elements successfully simultaneously?
If you feel running both elements simultaneously would be too exhausting with chances of messing up one or both elements, there is another way to manage a hybrid event. Did I just hear a sigh of relief🙂? The way to do it would be to run the live event with a small audience based on the maximum permitted attendees and later broadcast the recorded version of that event to online attendees. In order to provide more interaction for the online crowd, get the speakers to do an additional Q&A after the stream or hold real-time Polls or Surveys through an event App.
The hybrid format typically opens up your event to a larger audience, which would also mean better Return on Investment (ROI) for Sponsors. Every sponsor wants to get in front of as many faces as possible so if creating a hybrid event generates better audience numbers, sponsors would be more willing to support your event.
Use an event management app to enable all your attendees, be it in-person or virtual, to intermingle with one another and network whether before, during or even after the event. You wouldn’t want either of these distinct segments to miss out on interacting with each other.
Final Thoughts:essentially hybrid events can mean more effort, however considering that this type of event will broaden your audience base; it may be worth the sweat. Make sure networking opportunities abound for all attendees and keep the people attending online involved in as many aspects as possible. For the in-person attendees, keep health & safety on top of the list of priorities. Finally, if the cost and lack of resources become an issue, stick with doing just a live event or just a virtual event as there’s no point doing a hybrid one if managing the logistics for both becomes unmanageable. In whichever format you choose to organize, make it a triumphant one!