As the line between virtual and in-person events continues to blur, organizations are recognizing the need for a platform that integrates both. In this article I will delve into the key features and benefits of hybrid event platforms. I will also provides guidance on how to choose the right platform. Finally, a comparison of the top 5 hybrid event platforms is included.
As hybrid events continue to gain traction and become a prominent part of the event landscape, it is important to explore the potential future developments and trends in this space.
Budget and resource constraints should also be taken into consideration when selecting a hybrid event platform. While some platforms may offer an extensive range of features, they may come with a higher price tag. It’s important to find a balance between cost and functionality to ensure that you’re getting the most value for your investment. Additionally, evaluating customer support and service options can help you make an informed decision. It also ensures a smooth event planning and execution process.
I find that the most common misconception about hybrid events is the perceived workload involved in their production and execution. It’s crucial to understand that these events demand meticulous planning and strategic execution to create a captivating and inclusive experience for both in-person and virtual attendees. In essence, orchestrating a hybrid event can be akin to simultaneously managing two distinct events. Each has its unique set of requirements and audience engagement strategies. This dual approach is essential to ensure that both virtual and physical participants receive a seamless and equally engaging experience.
What is a Hybrid Event Platform?
Before we dig into it, let’s define hybrid events.
A hybrid event platform is a technological solution that revolutionizes the way events are conducted by seamlessly integrating both virtual and in-person elements. It provides you with the ability to host events that cater to a wider audience. Combining the benefits of physical presence with the accessibility of virtual participation. This allows your attendees to choose whether they want to attend the event in person or join remotely, breaking down geographical barriers and creating a global event experience.
In my experience hybrid events fall into two categories:
- Internal Events: These are most often employee gatherings for announcements, training, and team building.
- External Events: These are typically conferences, trade shows, and workshops for audiences generally interested in a topic or industry.
What is an Example Hybrid Event?
A hybrid event that I attended that sticks out for me is Salesforce. They are a renowned leader in the technology industry and consistently set the standard for innovation. This is particularly evident in its events.
Salesforce’s use of a hybrid format in its product launch events is a prime illustration of this. These events, which Salesforce hosts several times a year, are invariably a hit. They serve as a platform for unveiling new products, updates, and breakthroughs, consistently earning high praise.
Take the Dreamforce Conference as an example. For Salesforce’s immersive brand festival, Dreamforce hybrid broke the status quo and scaled up engagement to new heights unmatched by standalone physical and online events. A complex yet perfect balance of technology, strategy, customer relationship and understanding of a brand’s identity, Dreamforce was an incredible achievement, informed and imagined through experiential design. Salesforce took all the learning and charm of the in-person experience and raised the bar into a cinematic production.
By collaborating with leading broadcast production experts and harnessing the best technology stack, the Dreamforce team delivered an exceptional virtual component. This component featured a user-friendly interface, live broadcasts, on-demand content, and multiple channels for engagement. Viewers enjoyed access to the same content as in-person attendees, but with the added benefit of superior production and direction, ensuring a captivating viewing experience. The impressive turnout of over 100 million viewers is a testament to the event’s resounding success.
Key Hybrid Event Platform Features to Look For
When choosing a platform, it is crucial to consider the key features and functionalities that will contribute to the success of your event. I find that there are several key features and functionalities that a hybrid event platform must encompass. These include:
1. Live streaming capabilities: A reliable and high-quality live streaming feature is essential for hybrid events. Virtual attendees can easily join live sessions, panel discussions, and keynote speeches in real-time. Ask your onsite production team what streaming format they prefer to (e.g. RTMP) and confirm that it is supported by your hybrid event platform.
2. Interactive tools: To enhance engagement and interaction, a hybrid event platform should offer interactive tools such as live Q&A sessions, polls, and chat features. Virtual participants can interact with speakers and attendees, making the event dynamic and inclusive.
3. Networking and community-building features: A successful hybrid event should facilitate networking opportunities for both virtual and in-person attendees. Search for platforms that have features such as matchmaking algorithms, virtual meeting rooms, and virtual exhibitions. These features help participants connect with each other based on shared interests and goals.
4. 3rd party integration: To create a complete and smooth event, it’s important to connect with other tools and platforms. This includes social media and event management software. This allows organizers to leverage existing resources and reach a wider audience.
5. Technical support: Make sure the provider that you choose is reliable and has good technical support. Technical glitches or downtime during the event can impact your attendee experience. Many platforms that I tested offered no live telephone support during events. It is imperative to have someone available immediately during sessions to help troubleshoot issues with the onsite production crew. Look for platforms that offer live technical support to quickly resolve any issues that may arise.
6. Mobile event app to streamline your on-site attendee experience with contactless check-in, venue maps, push notifications, and engagement tools.
To make sure your event is engaging and interactive, consider these key features when choosing a hybrid event platform. It should provide a seamless experience for both virtual and in-person attendees.
Benefits of Using Hybrid Event Platforms
The benefits of using hybrid event platforms are many. In my experience, the primary benefits is enabling accessibility for global attendees. This allows individuals from different parts of the world to take part in events that they may not have been able to travel to attend. This not only expands the reach of your events but also promotes diversity and inclusion.
Second, these platforms provide interactive and attendee engagement features. These enhance the event experience for attendees. Through live chats, virtual exhibit booths, and networking opportunities, participants can actively engage with the event content and connect with other attendees.
Third, they offer scalability and flexibility, allowing organizers to adapt and modify the event format based on attendee preferences and changing circumstances. This ensures that events can seamlessly transition between virtual and in-person formats as needed.
Finally, these platforms offer cost-effective event management solutions by reducing travel and accommodation expenses for both organizers and attendees. This makes events more accessible and affordable for a wider audience.
How to Choose the Right Hybrid Event Platform for Your Needs
When it comes to choosing the right provider, there are several key factors to consider. There are many more requirements to consider. But, I find that these are most important when starting y our journey:
- Understanding your event goals and objectives is crucial in determining the features and functionalities you need. Are you looking to simply stream the in-person sessions? Or do you also want to include virtual networking, exhibit booths, and other interactive elements? Identifying the specific needs of your audience is equally important. Consider their preferred mode of participation, desired level of interactivity, and any specific requirements they may have.
- Budget and resource constraints should also be taken into consideration when selecting a hybrid event platform. While some platforms may offer a wide range of features, they may come with a higher price tag. It’s important to find a balance between cost and functionality to ensure that you’re getting the most value for your investment. Evaluate different pricing plans and packages offered by various platforms to determine which one best aligns with your budget. You also need to consider your available resources. Producing a hybrid event can almost double the workload. The more that you replicate the in-person attendee experience, the more setup required for the virtual portion of the event.
- Customer support and service options: Event planning and execution can be complex. Having reliable support from the platform provider can make a significant difference. Look for platforms that offer both set-up support and “dedicated” live day event support. If there is a problem with a session stream, your AV crew needs someone to contact immediately to isolate the issue. Also, make sure to go with a provider that has experience and that can provide advice and guidance.
- Integration capabilities are also worth considering: If you already use certain tools or software, such as a CRM system or marketing automation platform, you’ll want to ensure that the hybrid event platform can seamlessly integrate with these existing tools. This will help streamline your event management processes and ensure a smooth flow of data between different systems.
- One-stop-shop: Some hybrid event platforms simply sell software, while other hybrid event providers offer full-service packages. Many event planners find it beneficial to go with a provider that can also provide onsite AV services. This can significantly lower your cost and eliminate finger-pointing if there is a technical issue. For example, Gallup utilized Communique for their hybrid event. Communique’s in-house AV service saved them a substantial $82K on their AV production costs.
By carefully considering these factors and conducting thorough research, you can choose the right platform that meets your needs and ensures the success of your event. Remember, the platform you select will play a crucial role in delivering a seamless and engaging experience to both in-person and virtual attendees. So, take the time to evaluate your options, try out demos, and don’t hesitate to reach out to the platform providers for more information.
The 5 Best Hybrid Event Platforms
Here are my top 5 picks for the best hybrid event platform:
Offers an engagement rich virtual and hybrid event platform powered by A.I.. The technology delivers Netflix style networking matching and content suggestions based on the users profile and activities during the event. Participants can visit virtual booths, schedule appointments and engage with reps, network with other attendees, and participate in interactive sessions. The hybrid conference platform scales to 100,000+ concurrent attendees and is ISO 27001 certified for data security compliance. The mobile event app provides contactless check-in for on-site attendees, access to sessions, booths, agenda, and networking. The platform also comes with audience engagement tools like polling and live Q&A’s. Finally, the company provides a dedicated project manager, Webinar manager and a dedicated live day support team to assist attendees, presenters and the organizer.
What also sets Communique Conferencing apart is they offer AV production services as a bundled package. I am sure that you have experienced skyrocketing AV expenses for events due to souring travel and equipment costs. Communique offers these services at 40% less compared to other market players. This is possible because they own our own top-tier equipment and have a nationwide network of camera professionals, eliminating travel and accommodation expenses.
Pricing: Communique offers a choice of two hybrid event platforms.
- Event Hub Live: $2,000 – $8,000 per event. Annual unlimited plans start at $15K.
- Hybrid Event Ultimate: $8,000 – $35,000
Pros: I like Communique’s one-stop-shop approach. They have a choice of technologies to support any type of hybrid event and budget. Their support is also very knowledgeable and responsive.
Cons: Communique does not support payment processing.
InEvent is the most powerful software for professional events, which was developed to help businesses and agencies in the events industry to organize interactive meetings, incentive travels, conferences and exhibitions. As a global event management platform, InEvent’s software is able to aggregate fundamental data to measure ROI, control suppliers and manage budgets. In addition, it leverages digital marketing tools such as website creation, registration forms, guest lists and email blasts.
Pricing: Starting at $10,000
Pros: It is a good platform that is easy to administer and use. The customer support is also responsive and helpful.
Cons: Attendees found it hard to navigate and customize their personal agenda. I also dislike that they sent automatic emails to my clients that could not be disabled.
This is a platform built for enterprise organizations. Almost everything on the event platform is customizable, which is great if branding is important.What’s great about Intrado is that after your virtual event, the platform remains accessible for several months. Setting up your virtual event takes a heap of effort, so being able to get value out of the work you put in for many months is a great benefit.With Intrado, you have extensive sponsorship capabilities. Sponsors can customize their virtual event booth and there is live chat functionality.
Pricing: Intrado offers two packages
- Virtual Essentials: Starts at $25,000
- Virtual Expert: Starts at $50,000
Pros: The platform did what we needed it to do and it looked nice.
Cons: The price tag is incredibly high for both the platform and managed services.
B2Match is a great fit for any networking focused conference. The platform also includes built-in ticketing and online payment, and instant chat and messaging.
Pricing: Starts at € 2500 per event
Pros: This tool works best for networking events. Its user friendly for both the administrators and guests to use.
Cons: I wish the tool had the ability to send automated reminder emails. There is also no ability for participants to save the registration to their calendar of choice.
ON24 pivoted several years ago to focus 100% on Webinars. However, during the pandemic they re-launched their virtual event platform. The platform works best if the number of live attendees doesn’t exceed 5000 people. ON24 includes networking and gamification capabilities. The virtual event platform is configurable by administrators via WYSIWYG editor. Similarly to their webinar platform, the virtual event platform also allows you to sync data to your marketing automation systems.
Pricing: Starts at $25,000 per event
Pros: Our attendees liked the immersive experience. There are also plenty of audience engagement tools.
Cons: The cost to run an event on ON24 is very expensive compared to other options.
Future of Hybrid Events
One of the key trends that I see shaping the future of hybrid events is the continued advancement of networking and matchmaking tools. Hybrid events try to connect virtual and in-person attendees, making meaningful connections and networking important. In the future, hybrid event platforms will use Artificial Intelligence and ML algorithms to analyze participant profiles, preferences, and interests. They will then suggest relevant connections. The algorithms can also help recommend sessions, exhibitors, and content based on personal preferences. This creates a unique and customized experience for each attendee.
In the future, hybrid events will focus more on sustainability and being eco-conscious. Hybrid events can reach a global audience, reducing travel and infrastructure carbon footprint. Event organizers might focus on sustainability by using carbon offset programs, virtual swag bags, and eco-friendly virtual exhibition designs. Organizers can make hybrid events more sustainable and still provide a valuable experience for attendees.
Hybrid events will continue to use data and analytics to gain insights and make decisions. These platforms will improve data collection and analysis, helping organizers understand attendee behavior and preferences. Organizers can use these insights to improve future events, content, and marketing strategies.
Choosing the right hybrid event platform is essential for the success of your event. By understanding your event goals and objectives, considering your budget and resource constraints, evaluating customer support and service options, and assessing integration capabilities, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your specific needs.
The benefits of using hybrid events are numerous and include accessibility for global attendees, interactive and engaging features, scalability and flexibility, and cost-effective event management solutions. These platforms open up opportunities for networking, knowledge sharing, and collaboration on a global scale.
When it comes to selecting a provider, there are several top options available in the market. Each platform offers unique features, pricing plans, and user reviews. It is important to carefully review and compare these platforms to find the one that best suits your requirements. Some platforms may offer a one-stop-shop solution, providing both software and AV services, while others may focus solely on software.
Choosing the right solution that aligns with your specific needs and goals is crucial for the success of your event. With the plethora of options available, it is important to evaluate the features, pricing, and deep dive demonstrations with leading platforms to make an informed decision. Embrace the power of hybrid event platforms and unlock the potential for global connectivity and engagement in your events.
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