Best Hybrid Event Platforms
What is a Hybrid Event?
A hybrid event combines both a physical event as well as a virtual experience for attendees to join from their computer or mobile device.
In the past, the online meeting portion was typically just a webcast of the presentations as an afterthought for a small remote audience. In a post-Covid world hybrid events have evolved. The onsite event will likely have limited attendance and virtual online becomes the more widely attended option.
Hybrid events are not new. We go to hybrid events all the time, they are called — sporting events. The NFL, NBA, the Olympics are hybrid events. There are limited seats available onsite, but millions of fans want to see the event. So most view it online. Yet all attend the same event, it fits the definition of a hybrid meeting.
What to Look for when choosing a Hybrid Event Platform
The hybrid event platform you choose will depend on the type of event you are hosting. A virtual conference may require different virtual component than a trade show or expo and vice versa.
- Company details: Find out where are they incorporated, what types and levels of insurance do they carry, support staff, D&B number, D-U-N-I-S number, etc.?
- Where the virtual conference platform (what country) is hosted, how its hosted, reliability, scalability (how many concurrent attendees), video latency, data security (protecting attendee personal information to keep you in compliance).
- Customization: Attendees want the virtual environment look (design) to feel like they are part of the physical event.
- Clear, high-quality video broadcasts with speaker engagement during presentations (Q&A, surveys, etc.). The virtual conference provider needs to (a) support RTMP or other production quality video stream feed (b) include engagement features (Q&A, Polls, Surveys, links to resources) vs. simply streaming via Vimeo.
- Networking opportunities with other attendees.
- Immersive exhibit hall and booth experience (like in-person)
- Entertainment surprises: E.g., gamification, social media walls, virtual photo booth, etc.
Click here for a 10 point check list for choosing a virtual conference provider.
What Are The Keys To A Successful Hybrid Event?
The success of your hybrid event will primarily depend on three things – engaging video production, content and networking. The type of content you’ll provide needs to be adjusted for both audiences and personalized accordingly.
Make sure both physical attendees and virtual feel cared for and tended to at the same level. A successful virtual environment needs to deliver much more than just streaming content; it requires a thoughtfully curated, interactive journey.
The 5 Best Hybrid Event Platforms
Here are our top 5 picks for the best hybrid event platform (in alphabetical order):
- Communique Conferencing offers options for both a customized 3D or simpler 2D experience that your attendees will love. Participants can visit virtual booths, engage with reps, network and participate in interactive live or simulive sessions. The 3D environment is incredibly realistic and mirror what you would experience at an in-person trade show. The platform also comes with audience engagement tools like polling and live Q&A’s. The platform scales to 100,000+ concurrent attendees to support larger-scale events. Finally, the company provides a dedicated project manager, Webinar manager and live day support team.
- Intrado 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.
- Swapcard originally entered the market as a badge scanning platform for physical conferences. They recently pivoted to support full conferences. Swapcard is a great fit for any networking heavy conference. Swapcard has a standard layout to all of their event templates which allows for minimal customization including adding a featured image and minimal branding aspects such as a background or featured color. Once you have planned and developed your event, you can then embed the event into your own website. Rather than sending attendees and users to a third party site.
- ON24 pivoted several years ago to focus 100% on Webinars. ON24’s webinar platform is widely adopted by companies globally. ON24 also provides a 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.
- Whova is a virtual event platform that focuses on making online events highly interactive through live Q&A’s, discussion boards, and virtual meetups.There is also a community board and chats to enable attendee networking.If your event has sponsors, Whova makes it easy for you to showcase them throughout your event.
If you comparing hybrid event platforms, make sure to inspect beyond merely features and price. To use a physical event analogy, hotels are all the same on the surface in that they all have individual rooms as well as meeting/convention spaces to rent. Beyond that, there is a tremendous difference with the support level, quality of infrastructure, capacity/scale, support for attendees, security, ADA features and the overall experience delivered to the attendees. The same goes with virtual conference providers. They have similar features, but it stops there.
A poor hybrid (technical issues, user experience, lack of engagement) event will cause your physical dollars to become digital dimes. Your sponsors are willing to pay less and attendees start expecting virtual events to be free. The organizer is left with a fraction of the previous budget for producing future events. It is a downward spiral to be avoid by properly selecting a reliable and experienced virtual conference partner.