In the wake of the COVID-19 global pandemic in 2020, we experienced a shift to virtual in many aspects of life, from school to socializing to work, and even conferences and corporate events. As restrictions continue to be lifted and life gets back to normal, not everybody is ready to give up the convenience of virtual attendance, while others are eager to get back to in-person networking and socializing.
So, what’s an event host or activities planner to do? Enter the future of activities and events: hybrid events. A recent survey found that 70% of respondents said they believe hybrid events are the future of event hosting and activity calendars.
A hybrid event is a conference, meeting, seminar, workshop, or any other event that combines a live in-person event with a virtual online element. Hybrid event attendees can choose whether they’d like to attend the event physically or virtually. At Televeda, we see hybrid events as the future of senior center activity calendars.
Virtual events came to the rescue in 2020 in the face of travel restrictions, lockdowns, and social distancing requirements. Everything from product launches and job fairs to chair yoga for seniors and college admissions workshops—even the popular music festival Tomorrowland is going virtual!
As life returns to how it was pre-pandemic, there will undoubtedly be fewer virtual events, but they won’t disappear. There are lots of event organizers and attendees who prefer virtual events due to their convenience and affordability.
The answer to meeting the virtual versus in-person fans in the middle is hybrid events that allow you to mix in-person and virtual events. Hybrid events come with a wide array of benefits, from cost savings to enabling a better reach for the event and more "shareability" and flexibility. Hybrid events have all the makings to become the preferred event among attendees, hosts, and advertisers alike.
There are many benefits associated with the "best of both worlds" hybrid event approach, including:
One of the biggest benefits of hybrid events is that they take away attendance barriers. Hybrid event attendees no longer face limitations on travel, cost, health regulations, or even age and ability to attend an in-person event. You no longer have to say no to a cross country event, or take off a full day of work for a morning conference. This is helpful for both the hosts and the attendees.
Since hybrid events can be live-streamed and/or posted in their full form after the fact, it’s far easier to extend the reach of your event because attendees can easily share the event with their co-workers, friends, family members, and followers via a simple link. If your event resonates with these people, they will likely sign up and attend your next event — especially if they have the luxury of choosing whether or not they’d like to attend in person.
What's more, attendees and those who did not attend can re-watch the hybrid event as many times as they’d like to revisit any of the content they found to have the most value.
Virtual tools, programming, and information-sharing allow your attendees to leave your hybrid event with more knowledge than an in-person event provides. When you give your audience these extra resources, content, and live digital interaction, both virtual and in-person attendees are able to fully engage with one another, and it becomes more of a hands-on, appealing experience instead of just listening to somebody present a PowerPoint for two hours (hello, Zoom fatigue).
Some of the tools that facilitate a highly engaging hybrid event experience include chat and video chat, polls, virtual break-out rooms, and even connecting with one another via social media. All of these elements help improve engagement during and after the activity or event, bringing your audience and members back for more.
As we all know, in-person events can eat a huge chunk of your budget (and then some). Hybrid events allow you to cut down on those costs by offering a boundless opportunity to take your events to the next level and boost your impact without breaking the bank.
The reduction in overhead costs, the need for a smaller event space with fewer amenities, and less travel required for hosts or event leaders combined with wider reach leads to a better return on investment.
The budget break can help you delegate resources to areas that will enhance the event, such as the ability to hire a previously unaffordable industry thought leader or expert. Having a distinguished thought leader at your event creates a new opportunity to build new connections while giving your attendees access to new and popular speakers and industry experts.
When you reduce the number of in-person attendees, the carbon footprint of your event will also decrease because of less travel by attendees, less trash and wasted food, and a reduced need for transportation. This allows your company to be positioned as an environmentally conscious organization, and also allows you to genuinely reduce your impact on the environment.
When you go hybrid, sponsors suddenly have the opportunity to get in front of your physical and virtual attendees—doubling their exposure. Hybrid events create new opportunities for brand awareness and lead generation, which can help spur your organization’s marketing efforts.
When you offer your sponsors more value, your event will attract more sponsorship dollars and sponsors, which can further help offset the costs of running your hybrid event.
To get started hosting your hybrid event, we have a few steps to follow. (P.S. Knowing how to run an awesome virtual event definitely helps. Need to get your virtual class game on point? Read more here.)
Finding a virtual live streaming platform to host your hybrid event on is key. You should find a well-equipped platform that can provide live streaming, audience engagement, and networking features in addition to high-quality video and audio and the choice to record your sessions.
We recommend requesting a demo before making your final platform decision. During the demo, check for your desired features and make sure the platform offers ample tech support. While large streaming services are great, boutique virtual events management platforms for your industry can often provide more customization and support.
You want to make sure that all details of your event are as clear as possible. Frequent communication will help attendees get excited for the event while also getting an idea of what’s in store. A few days before your event, put together something that will really excite your crowd. For example, a fun trailer, a pre- or during-event scavenger hunt, and other engaging items can help drum up word of mouth excitement for attendees, and event drive more last minute sign ups.
Since this may be the first time some of your participants attend a virtual event, we recommend sending out a few FAQ emails to address all pertinent questions and details about the event. This communication is essential to making your attendees feel comfortable and welcomed at your event.
Since participants may be attending your virtual event from around the world, time zones may come into play. In order to avoid the need for attendees to wake up at 4 a.m. to attend your event, make sure that they can access your sessions on-demand. If possible, it’s also a good idea to offer the same session live a few times to allow people to attend at a time that works for them and still get the full live experience.
Rehearsals are another key part of preparing for your hybrid event. It’s especially important for speakers to practice, as they will be engaging with two sets of audiences, which can be tricky. Rehearsals help you ensure all of your technology is running smoothly and that all parts of your event flow nicely together. During the rehearsals, make any necessary changes and tweaks so that the event-day experience will be glitch-free and streamlined.
Sometimes the best thing to do is hire an event management platform or use a recreational management platform to help plan and manage your events, whether they are in person, virtual, or hybrid. Getting support from a team can make it easier to digitize your events, help support your staff, and really grow your virtual community.
If you’re ready to jump onboard the hybrid event train and start reaping the many benefits, use our tips to start planning and hosting engaging and valuable virtual and hybrid events today. Ample preparation is key, especially if you are hosting your first hybrid event, so give yourself enough time and practice to get it down pat before you go live.
If you have any questions about hosting hybrid events, schedule a call with us today to see how we can help scale your virtual and hybrid event offerings at your community center.
Want to join a hybrid event that's about to break world record? Get involved in our upcoming virtual bingo game!