What Is A Hybrid Event?
Since the COVID-19 pandemic erupted around the world in early 2020, hybrid events have increased in importance. The ‘hybrid’ part of the term refers to how hybrid events combine in-person and digital elements, enabling these events to utilise well-established practical benefits of both.
However, this quick definition doesn’t quite capture what differentiates a hybrid event from other types of event with which it could too easily be confused. For example, a live-streamed in-person event – like a sports game or presidential inauguration – should not be deemed a hybrid event, and neither should a live event that only gives its remote attendees access to on-demand content.
What makes an event truly ‘hybrid’ is its interactivity, which allows both in-person attendees and those based remotely to actively participate in proceedings. While it would not be practically possible for you to give both sets of audiences exactly the same experiences with your hybrid event, both its in-person and digital aspects should be specially optimised for the respective audiences.
In essence, then, any event enabling attendees to participate either in-person or online can be considered a hybrid event. This is a broad definition that encompasses anything from a meeting where some people actively contribute input via Twitter to a meeting with content live-streamed to a software interface where dedicated chat rooms are also available.
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A wide range of corporate events traditionally held exclusively in person can be carefully engineered to accommodate virtual participants, too. These events include conferences, seminars, workshops and tradeshows. These corporate events, when set up as hybrid events, can be sorted into two broad categories: internal hybrid events and external hybrid events.
Internal events are those – like induction and training events – that you would hold for your company’s internal stakeholders, such as employees and executives. As you could struggle to bring all of these stakeholders together in the same room, a hybrid event would make sense in this case.
External events are geared towards customers and clients, both current and prospective. These events are for the benefit of people outside your company – and transitioning those events to hybrid form can attract more attendees as well as reduce your carbon footprint. External events that can work well in a hybrid format include conferences and product launches.
Delivering a hybrid event can have various practical benefits. Many of these were particularly evident after the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, with many businesses able to put on functions readily accessible to potential attendees from all over the world at a time when lockdowns and travel bans kept millions of people predominantly tied to their homes.
At this time, hybrid events also eased social-distancing efforts for those people who were able to attend in person. Many hybrid event venues were set up in a way that made COVID-safe attendance straightforward for people presenting or otherwise participating in hybrid events.
Even in ‘normal’ times, however, it’s easy to argue the case for hybrid events. Here are some of the most noteworthy advantages of delivering an event in a hybrid rather than fully in-person way:
Larger potential attendance – A pandemic is hardly the only reason why many people could struggle to attend an event in person. Some people simply lack the time or means to travel to a venue, especially if it is at a great distance from their home. Going hybrid would remove this barrier.
Greater flexibility – As you present a hybrid event, you could record various live-streamed segments of it to post on your website or social media pages once the event has finished – allowing people to consume this content at a time more convenient for them if they couldn’t make the live event.
Reduced carbon footprint – In limiting the number of onsite attendees, you can also reduce the amount of carbon-emitting travel that the event’s attendees would need to undertake.
Better sponsorship value – With a hybrid event, your sponsors can advertise to both your onsite and offsite audiences, giving these sponsors twice as much exposure as previously. Hence, you could potentially amass more sponsorship money as well as attract a higher number of sponsors.
How To Plan A Hybrid Conference
Of course, each hybrid conference will have its own end goal. However, any hybrid conference has the objective of engaging as many attendees as possible – regardless of how large a share are participating in person and how many of them are following the event remotely instead.
Therefore, you should be meticulous with how you plan your own hybrid conference. You could invite a select number of people to come along in person, and then, for those invitees who won’t be capable of or comfortable with attending in person, set up an online event platform whereby they would be able to join virtually. Other people could also join in this way on a voluntary basis.
While you would have to impose a fixed capacity limit for the in-person component of your live event, no such restraints would need to apply with your virtual audience. However, this isn’t the only reason why you should be careful with which physical venue you choose for your hybrid event.
Many venues you are considering – like historic buildings or even relatively modern conference halls – were probably originally built long before hybrid events became ‘a thing’. For this reason, how suitable any given venue is for a hybrid event can depend largely on the people running the venue – as they might have already figured out various ways to make that venue hybrid-ready.
You should be concerned if a venue’s team seems confused when you ask them about holding a hybrid event there. At best, a venue like this could require you to do a lot of legwork to suitably equip the space for your hybrid event. At worst, the venue might not be suitable for a hybrid event at all.
Conversely, it would be encouraging if the venue’s team can answer this long list of questions about whether that venue has all of the facilities and equipment your event requires. Here is an overview of just some of those questions you should put to the management team:
What is the onsite wireless connection’s bandwidth?
What event platform software do you support for hybrid events?
What cameras can you offer for my hybrid event?
Could you replace any stage elements free of charge?
Is a rehearsal accounted for in the rental fee?
So, what answers do you want to hear? Ideally, the venue should offer bandwidth of at least 50 Mbps (Megabits per second) and professional cameras of at least 1080p resolution. Meanwhile, support for multiple event platforms would give you easily appreciable flexibility.
Once you have booked the venue, you will need to arrange the event space in a way that makes it appealing for your in-person and online audiences alike. You don’t want the hybrid event to be left feeling as though it is essentially two completely different events divided by audience.
This is one reason why you need high-resolution cameras – as basic PTZ cameras will probably produce image quality indistinguishable from that provided by your home’s CCTV system. In other words, the footage could look too grainy, reminding the online attendees that they are exactly that: online. For an engaging live stream, you will need a minimum of two cameras.
While you will ultimately have no option but to deliver content at least subtly differently to each group, you still want the event to feel immersive to each. That means holding joint activities in which members of both groups can freely participate.
Certain aspects of a conference – like networking – are hard to faithfully replicate in a digital context. However, there are still several little steps you could take to reduce, as far as possible, any discrepancy between the in-person and virtual components of the event.
One idea could be to mirror your event’s floor plans and venue on whatever virtual event platform you use for the occasion. Your remote attendees could then intuitively make their way around the ‘venue’ – that is, its virtual counterpart – and so get an accurate grasp of the conference’s scale.
Live polls and Q&As are examples of activities that can work just as well over video as in person. For example, in the event space, you could put up screens on which both questions and answers from the virtual attendees are displayed, allowing the in-person contingent to see them easily.
Remember to place those screens strategically around the stage so that all of the attendees will be able to see them and the information on them. Your aim should be for the audience watching from home to feel like they are at the actual venue rather than just watching a video.
Well before the event itself gets underway, though, you might also need to perform a balancing act in deciding when exactly to host it. This is for the convenience of both its in-person and remote audiences – as it would be ideal for the former to be within easy travelling distance of the venue, while many members of the latter could be scattered across a number of time zones.
Working With Expert Venue Finders
Many long-established principles of choosing a good venue for an entirely in-person event are just as applicable when doing so for a hybrid event. You want somewhere that has a positive vibe and, as a result, helps people to get the most out of attending an event held there.
However, if finding the right venue is hard enough for a ‘normal’ event, imagine the potential for frustration when doing so for a hybrid event, where many of the traditional rules pertaining to events are thrown out of the window.
You could – for example – struggle to find a venue that has enough of the right equipment or is available for that one obscure time suitable for all of the event’s prospective attendees.
Hence, when it comes to finding a venue for a hybrid event specifically, you could benefit immensely from receiving specialist advice and guidance. All of this could come from our hybrid event venue finder that we would be happy to give you access to.
There are various boxes that the venue must tick in order for it to facilitate a hybrid event of an impressive standard. With our hybrid event venue finding service, which we offer entirely for free, we can help you to find the best possible venue for your event’s specialised requirements.
We understand that you could be pressed for time as you look for just the right hybrid event venue. However, rest assured that, with our quick turnaround times, we can respond to your initial enquiry on the same day we receive it.
After you have told us exactly what you need in a hybrid event venue, we will peruse a long list of venues in this category and present you with a shortlist featuring at least 3-4 options from which you will be able to choose. This shortlist will only include venue choices tailored to your budget.
Our venue finders are experts in their field and have forged relationships with a wide range of venues. As a result, we can provide you with great-value deals for premium spaces you might have previously been unaware of or thought were beyond your budget.
We can also give you access to venues exclusive to our clients and ensure that you are able to get the best possible rates and terms for your chosen venue. If you find yourself struggling to choose one, we can help you there, too – while keeping in mind the specific purpose of your intended event.
You might need to book a wide range of equipment for your hybrid event – but, with our event supplier connections and partnerships, we can assist you in sourcing these crucial items cost-effectively.
Working with our venue finders isn’t an arduous experience, either. On the contrary, it’s a hassle-free and thoroughly fun experience – not least because the premium service we provide to each client is always personalised to their specific requirements.
To get in touch with a venue finder from our team, please call +44 (0)161 929 4948 or email [email protected]. Our website also has a contact form you could complete and submit to give us an outline of what you need in a hybrid events venue.