A hybrid event is a trade show, seminar, conference or other meeting that combines a “live” in-person event at a physical location with a “virtual” online platform component for remote attendees.
Traditional thinking has said that some events lend themselves better to a live format, while other communications are a better fit for delivery online. So what’s right for your communication needs? Live, virtual, or a combination of both?
Savvy marketers and event professionals are increasingly answering “both”, and understanding the power of hybrid events. Coordinated as a combination of in-person meetings and virtual presentations, a successful hybrid event blends these elements seamlessly to derive greater reach and participation, tailored messages, memorable experiences, extended contact, valuable data collection, and of course, greater cost effectiveness.
Even more compelling is the ability to reach a far broader audience than with a typical “live only” meeting or event. Those individuals who, for whatever reason, would not be able to physically attend an event can easily devote the time to a virtual experience of that event. The upshot of virtual material is that it can remain available beyond the meeting/training time frame, enabling an even larger audience than ever before. The end result is a wider reach and deeper saturation of the message than previously possible.
Hybrid events may sound more complicated than traditional events, but they’re really not. Hybrid events help presenters get out one unified message to all audience members—whether in-person or across the globe. Hybrid event platforms leverage the investment made in a live event by making the same experience available to your target audience who can’t attend in-person.
Hybrid Event Survey Takeaways and Tips:
- Starting with the end in mind significantly increases the success of a hybrid meeting. Organizations that proactively add hybrid elements early on generate stronger outcomes than those that add hybrid components later in the process. They see hybrid elements as a way to overcome challenges in existing live events.
- Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability aren’t considered important factors for hybrid events. Meeting professionals rarely use CSR, “green” or sustainability as justification for the increased use of hybrid events.
- Meeting professionals believe hybrid meetings are expensive. They often raise the issue of price, which conflicts with the potential for substantial cost savings. There are few indications that meeting professionals are weighing total production costs against expenditures.
- Hybrid events create a legacy after the event. 50% of respondents say they record conference content for on-demand access. Organizations recognize the value of sharing content with people who are unable to attend onsite. This means that information shared and exchanged at the face-to-face event is easy to access after the event.
- Meeting professionals who organize hybrid events must recognize their diverse audiences, which have different needs. Most attendees would prefer the virtual experience of a hybrid event to resemble a talk show or other television format, but most event organizers produce hybrid events in traditional lecture formats.
- Hybrid meetings create challenges in the buying process. Meeting professionals generally source technology and address connectivity demands early, before knowing their exact needs, which means that they sometimes contract with venues and service providers that are unable to support their needs.
- Not all the content presented at a live event is suitable for remote audience. Meeting professionals with experience creating hybrid events say that they are adapting the content of their face-to-face events to the needs of the remote audience by, for example, offering shorter sessions. Hybrid event organizers often seek to reduce production costs by live-streaming only the most popular sessions. Others seek to limit what is offered to a remote audience as a way of encouraging more people to attend the face-to-face event. Anecdotal data from survey responses and e-learning experts suggest that broadcast sessions shouldn’t be longer than 30 minutes.
Content is what gets people through the door, engagement is what keeps them there and makes them come back for more.
- It’s even more important to train speakers for hybrid events than for face-to-face because the attention span of remote attendees is shorter, speakers must be more engaging. They must acknowledge remote attendees and look at the camera. The loss of physical connection requires speakers to develop new skills to engage. The camera is your friend. So, you’ve got to attend to that camera, and remember there are people with interest in your event on the other side of it.
- Meetings Cannibalization is a myth. Given time and budget, delegates still prefer face-to-face meetings. But, organizations are still afraid. About 37 percent of meeting professionals say that they face skepticism from stakeholders who think that hybrid will eat away at face-to-face events, which speaks to the need of more education and bench marking.
- Meeting professionals are measuring hybrid events in the same ways as traditional events. Metrics include inputs (number of viewers, social media interactions) and delegate satisfaction, which are both easier to gather online than face-to-face. However, digital event tools allow the collection of far more in-depth data that, if used effectively, can facilitate more output-driven metric.
Live, in-person events are certainly an integral part of most marketing communications plans; however, there is no denying that hybrid events have certainly earned a permanent place and a bigger piece of the budget. Handled well and properly planned, both the “live” and virtual event experiences can be mutually compatible, with one serving to enhance the other to derive optimal reach and results.