With 63% of companies with 2000-5000 employees using hybrid events as part of their events strategy, hybrid events are a key player in the events landscape for 2021.
Hybrid events are events that combine an in-person presence with online aspects. The aim is for people to attend the same event online or in-person depending on their preference.
Whether or not you already host such events, these can be the most complex type of events to plan - 38% of event organisers say it takes more preparation time to host a hybrid event than a dedicated in-person event, so read on to find out what these preparation steps are and how to make sure your hybrid event is successful.
1. Event Structure
As with any event, the key is to start with an outline of the plan for your event. Note down which people will be speaking, and what the topics and activities will be centred around.
However, hybrid event plans need to ensure that the structure is acceptable for two types of audiences. Your in-person audience will be more accepting of long sessions with fewer breaks. Your virtual audience will inevitably find it harder to concentrate on long-form content as they are surrounded by home distractions and are most likely not in a workplace setting.
We recommend starting with a welcome session. This might be followed by a sequence of sessions that are suitable for both audiences to view. These should be the most important sessions, such as a Q&A, so that both sets of attendees have the opportunity to interact and the morning is broken up into the most important parts for them. The key is to let both sets of participants assimilate the knowledge that your event is all about spreading.
The sessions towards the end of the day can be more tailored to your in-person audience, but offered as an on-demand video after the fact for virtual attendees. These videos should be more spaced out to allow for less of a strain on their attention span.
We’ve been discussing the event in terms of times of the day, but will this be the same for all of your attendees? If your event is partly online to accommodate for many attendees from other countries, make sure that the time you have selected is doable for worldwide attendees. Use a tool like Savvy Time to scroll through the day and see which time it will be in different countries.
2. Reaching Your Online Audience
Once you’ve figured out the plan for your event, you need to fulfil the biggest purpose of hybrid events. This is to reach people who cannot attend the in-person aspect of the event. So, how will you reach them?
In 2020, most organisations reached their online followers using video calls on Zoom, Skype or Teams. They also tended to display events via GoToWebinar. Such platforms were (and sometimes still are) used as a crutch, despite:
- The low video quality of these video calls.
- The inability to have two-way communication on GoToWebinar.
- The unengaging nature of such webinars, which are essentially screenshared PowerPoints that are passively viewed.
And these are clearly ineffective at making online event attendees feel connected, as an overwhelming percentage of event organisers (71.1%) say that connecting their in-person and virtual audiences is their biggest challenge.
A more engaging way to present the online portion of your event despite it only being viewed onscreen, is to get a high-quality livestream of your event broadcasted to your online attendees. Alternatively, these livestreams can be replaced by on-demand videos which your online audience can view while your in-person audience views a slightly different in-person presentation. This way, online attendees can at least feel more immersed in the event, with dynamic camera angles, changing shots between PowerPoint slides and actual footage of the speakers and audience, and good picture quality. These all contribute to a more engaging experience.
However, you need to ensure that you acquire a livestreaming team that does not instantly deplete half your budget. 38% of enterprise organisations say that their biggest hybrid event expense is the costs related to their venue, audio and video, and branding. Therefore, your first step here is to search for organisations that will offer you a free quote, tailored for your desired package. It should preferably include all audio, video, and branding costs. They should be aware of what your objectives are, and committed to helping you achieve them.
3. Virtual Event Rehearsal
Technical difficulties may be a concern if you have low bandwidth at your venue. This is regardless of how you’re broadcasting your event to reach your online audience.
And even if the technical aspects go off without a hitch, you need to make sure that your event is evenly structured to serve both your online and offline audiences.
You might also be wondering whether your speakers will be able to adequately communicate with an online audience – even if they’re brilliant at addressing a crowd, they also need to speak to a camera and be sure to address online viewers too. This might feel awkward for them.
Therefore, a rehearsal of your virtual event is very important. You need to make sure that it goes smoothly for two different audiences. This is especially the case if you are utilising a third-party livestreaming supplier, as they need to know how your organisation runs its events and where you want each camera to be positioned at any one time.
4. Pre-Event Anticipation
In the run-up to your hybrid event, it is important to garner event sign-ups from both sets of attendees to ensure a balanced event; the cost of both the in-person and online aspects should both be worth it due to how many people attended each side of the event.
A set of social media announcements or even a promotional video can be very effective in teasing the type of content that people can expect, and help them choose whether to attend online of offline. This can encourage people to commit to attending, rather than being undecided on whether to attend online or offline and therefore forgetting to commit to registering.
We have helped many hybrid events reach online audiences in the past; if you would like us to record or livestream videos of your events so that you can easily engage remote audiences, get in touch with CPD Online by filling out our contact form.