Hybrid events are the future of event planning. With the rise of virtual events and the need for in-person gatherings, it’s important for event planners to know what to look for in a hybrid event platform.
What is a Hybrid Event?
A hybrid event is a type of event that combines both in-person and virtual audiences. The in-person component of a hybrid event is usually a live event taking place at a physical location, where attendees can engage in person with each other and the event’s speakers, or exhibitors. The virtual component allows attendees to participate in the event from anywhere in the world through a hybrid event platform, enabling a much larger audience to engage with the event.
Hybrid events provide an alternative to traditional events. They offer a way for you to reach a larger target audience. The virtual component of hybrid events can include live streaming of keynote speeches and panel discussions, virtual exhibit booths, and access to content. Additionally, virtual attendees can network with each other and the event organizers through chat rooms and other interactive features.
Hybrid Event Benefits
Hybrid events offer numerous benefits to event organizers, attendees, and sponsors. For organizers, they offer a new way to reach a wider audience, expand their brand reach and generate revenue. For attendees, hybrid events offer the convenience of participating from anywhere in the world and the opportunity to network with others. Sponsors can use hybrid events to reach a broader audience and showcase their products and services.
How Do I Choose a Hybrid Event Platform?
It can be challenging to ensure both virtual and in-person audiences have a similar experience at your hybrid event. For example, research showed that about two-thirds (67%) of organizers say that ensuring they have the right technology to create a smooth experience is a challenge. And another 71% said their biggest challenge was connecting in-person and virtual attendees with one another.
Choosing the right hybrid event technology provider is key to a successful event. Here are some tips to help you find the best hybrid event platform for your event.
1. Experience matters
Hybrid events aren’t as simple as just live streaming sessions. They require careful planning, engagement, and logistical management that differs across both formats. Finding a way to create an in-person audience experience that also translates and keeps virtual participants connected is difficult, to say the least. In addition, hybrid events include a variety of logistics and multiple hand-offs from the AV crew to the hybrid platform. Choosing a provider that has deep experience and will help you from planning to set up to live day execution is critical to a successful event.
2. Registration and access
If you do not already have event registration software in place, you’ll need a hybrid event platform that can handle registration for both in-person and virtual attendees. Depending on your unique event, the platform might also need to provide additional functionality.
- Flexible and customizable landing page that has tabs for the agenda, speaker bios, sponsors, etc.
- Payment processing and discount tiers if you are charging a fee to join.
- Role-based access to sessions, rooms, and content. This way you can set up full VIP access vs. basic access options.
- Customizable email confirmations and reminders
- The ability for attendees to create their own personal agenda.
3. Visual design
Hybrid event platforms can have either basic 2D designs or immersive 3D designs. 2D platforms are much easier to set up, however, they do not offer the immersive attendee experience that 3D platforms provide. The decision ultimately comes down to budget and resources.
4. Webinar sessions
Make sure the platform supports audience engagement such as Q&A, Polls, and surveys. Depending on your audience, you may also need add-ons such as closed captions, language translation, or CE credits. In addition, the platform must support a high-end TV camera feed, which is typically RTMP format. Finally, make sure the platform utilizes adaptive bit rate to ensure the highest quality video stream.
5. Audience engagement
For virtual attendees, hybrid events offer various ways to engage and participate in your event, such as viewing live keynote speeches and panel discussions and exploring virtual exhibit booths. Virtual attendees can also participate in Q&A sessions and chat rooms, enabling them to connect and network with others in the industry. Additionally, many platforms offer a variety of other engagement features to consider such as gamification, scavenger hunt, push notifications, meeting scheduling, and a virtual photo booth.
6. Networking and community building
If networking is an important component of your event, look for a hybrid event platform that offers matchmaking, meeting scheduling, lounges/forums, as well as interactive workshops. Forums are great because the conversation can live on past the live day(s) throughout the on-demand period.
7. Exhibit booths
Survey your exhibitors ahead of time to find out if they have the time, funding, and resources to set up and staff online exhibit booths in addition to their onsite booths. If so, make sure the platform offers interactive booths that can include content as well as engagement (i.e., chat) with virtual audiences. Many platforms also offer a handy meeting scheduling feature.
Depending on your audience you may also need ADA support (screen readers, etc.), language translation, and other features to make your event accessible and inclusive.
If you are planning a synchronous hybrid event, you’ll need a mobile app for the in-person attendees. This enables your virtual and in-person attendees to network and interact with each other.
You will need to determine the type and amount of support you’ll need to set up and produce your hybrid event. Many organizers want a dedicated project manager to walk them through the setup process vs. self-service. During live days it is a best practice to have dedicated support for the platform as well as the webinar sessions. If there is a problem you have a very short time to resolve or you’ll lose your audience.
When choosing a hybrid event platform, consider an experienced provider, a user-friendly interface, customizable options, technical support, video and audio quality, interactive features, scalability, and a post-event analytics. By keeping these factors in mind, you’ll be able to find the best platform for your hybrid event.
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