The last 18 months has seen the rapid digitalisation of the events industry and the rise of hybrid events. When we talk about hybrid, we mean a blend of online and in-person programme content.
The virtual element of a hybrid model comes with huge benefits:
- It’s more sustainable
- Virtual engagement is better for safety of delegates
- It allows those with limited budgets and travel restrictions to get involved
- It creates a legacy, allowing delegates to view content ‘on-demand’ post event
- It has given us the ability to connect with audiences globally
The majority of our association clients have seen an increase in numbers from virtual events by at least 30% offering increases overall on their bottom line.
Here are ten tips to help you with planning your next successful hybrid event:
- Strong in-person offer – For in-person delegates this requires greater commitment and cost to attend, so the offer must be stronger and provide added value. Ensure you spend time on thinking about why your delegates should make the effort to attend the physical event.
- Great content – Content is always king when delivering any event, however you should ensure that the content is tailored to the two different audiences. Virtual delegates could for example link into live plenaries and some workshop sessions but view other content on-demand. Streaming everything out to both audiences does not work, it is time heavy for the Event Manager, can be costly and difficult to get right. The virtual delegate attention span is shorter, so this should be reflected in the programming, you could edit and cover key messages only from some sessions, for example.
- Facilitation and engagement – When running interactive sessions ensure you have two facilitators, to separately manage both the virtual and in-person audiences. This will help ensure both sides get an opportunity to engage. You can engage your virtual audience by creating polls and Q&A, for example.
- Registration – Hybrid will allow you to offer flexible registration, so delegates can sign-up to attend in-person but then move to virtual if circumstances change. We recommend within your pricing structure to have a set ticket rate for virtual delegates for the full event without breaking this down to a day ticket. This will ensure the sales level of the event overall will be maximised. As a general rule, virtual tickets are priced between 30-35% of the in-person tickets.
- Production – The spend on this really depends on your audiences. We work with Academics, who are familiar teaching via Zoom and Teams, so streaming out using these are acceptable. Production doesn’t have to be expensive as we recently hosted an event streaming out on Zoom into Cvent Attendee Hub which was really cost effective. And feedback from the delegates was that they had a really positive experience. When planning, think about creating different camera views to make it more interesting for your virtual delegates.
- Venue partners – Ensure you ask the venue what they can offer to allow you to stream out as a hybrid event. Many venues have now implemented the technology required as part of their overall package making this more cost effective for you. It is also worth ensuring the internet offers the correct upload/download bandwidth you need to stream seamlessly.
- Delegate Communications – Your event will have separate pricing and programmes, so therefore you need to have two different sets of confirmation emails, FAQs, joining instructions and feedback surveys for each audience.
- Roles – When delivering a hybrid, you will need different team members to manage each audience. Ensure you think about who will manage the virtual audience on-site for example. Hybrid is most definitely more work for events managers, so you would ideally plan for a larger team and allow for this in your budget.
- Networking – Our experience tells us that trying to mix the two audiences to network live at the event does not work. Those attending in-person want to network with other people in the room. The focus should be trying to get the two groups to network amongst each other.
- Commercial sponsors – Hybrid gives you a fantastic opportunity for commercial sponsors to obtain a larger/ wider audience reach. We know however that virtual exhibition stands alone do not represent a valuable experience for anybody. In order for your sponsors to get the best ROI, you need to ensure they are weaved into the content of your event, you could offer sponsored roundtable conversations, interviews, videos, and even virtual meeting room chats on relevant topics. Alongside this, another idea would be to introduce the ability for sponsors to book 1:1 appointments with both audiences.
As events managers we now need to think about creating engaging experiences for both in-person and virtual delegates.
For those attending in-person, it requires more commitment but in turn will provide greater engagement and offer opportunities to build deeper relationships. Virtual delegates on the other hand will have the chance to tap into content even if they are time poor or restricted on travel.
A hybrid event should be viewed as one event delivering two experiences.
Author: Sarah Byrne – Director, Mosaic Events