What is a Hybrid Event or Hybrid Conference?
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 hybrid event 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 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 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 hybrid conference platform scales to 100,000+ concurrent attendees and is ISO 27001 certified for data security compliance. Finally, the company provides a dedicated project manager, Webinar manager and a dedicated live day support team to assist attendees, presenters and the organizer.
- 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.
- B2Match is a great fit for any networking heavy conference. The platform also includes built-in ticketing and online payment, and instant chat and messaging.
- 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.
At the onset of COVID-19, audiences were patient in accepting a less than perfect virtual experience. Now, the bar has been raised and expectations are much higher, especially for a paid virtual event. While Zoom style calls are very familiar, technical snafus and poor quality are easily forgiven. Virtual events, on the other hand, are a different ball game. Attendees have high expectations with the presentation of content, especially to hold their attention and keep them engaged. For event planners to achieve a strong ROI on their platform investment, as well as for attendees to realize their ROI for attending a virtual event, content needs to be creative, there needs to be a slickness to the broadcast, the attendee journey needs to be curated, and everything needs to look as polished as it possibly can.
When 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 (both set up and during live days), quality of hosting 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.
We are all in this brave new world together trying to figure out our roles and help each other along the path to learn and get better. If you need help navigating requirements for your hybrid event, please get in touch – we are happy to help.
Read more about the types of hybrid events and how to organize one.