Hybrid events have been around for years but they’re completely new to many planners. With all signs pointing to the pandemic’s (eventual) end thanks to the rollout of vaccines, it’s time to become acquainted with them, if you’re not already. Planners will need to add such events to their toolkit to compete in today’s industry and be relevant to their audiences.
Hybrid Events Defined
A hybrid event is not an in-person event with sharable recorded sessions or a virtual event with social media interactivity. It’s also not an event where an in-studio presenter speaks to a virtual audience. Rather, a hybrid event combines in-person and virtual elements in a unified experience. It treats both live and online audiences equally, allowing them to attend the event at the same time. It’s important that your team, clients and stakeholders all have this same understanding to avoid any confusion.
Now, let’s take a look at the three main models.
The Basic Model
This is the most well-known of hybrid events. It was dominant in pre-COVID times and will become popular again when delegates feel secure enough to travel.
The simplicity of this model makes it attractive to event planners. All they have to do is bring in the technical crew to stream the content to virtual delegates from the physical location that is being used for the in-person event.
The HQ and Hubs Model
A step up from the basic model, this version includes hubs or additional physical locations where in-person delegates can meet. The hubs are smaller in size than the lead venue, known as the HQ for headquarters, which is home base for the technical crew and used for streaming. As with the basic model, virtual delegates can attend, too, if they have a web link.
Even though this model has a lead venue, there is opportunity for the hubs to run their own activities for delegates. This breaks the dependency on the HQ venue. It also provides greater choice to in-person delegates, allowing them to decide how much or little travel they want to do. But while hubs add another dimension to the attendee experience, it’s a more complex event for the planner to produce.
The Multiple Hubs Model
This model is an extension of the HQ and hubs. In this version, there are many hubs where people can meet in-person. They are connected to each other through technology and, as always, virtual delegates can participate.
The multiple hubs model requires a high degree of precision planning to ensure all locations fully understand how they contribute to the production of the event. There is no single main event venue from which the streaming is carried out.
It is expected that this model will become very popular over the next year or so, as public health lockdowns are lifted and people are allowed to move about more freely, though the extent to how far they will venture from home is less well-known. Providing opportunities to travel just a short distance to a local hub seems the most likely way delegates will step back into the events world post-pandemic.
Passive versus Interactive Hybrid Events
Whichever of the three models you choose, you will need to decide how passive or interactive you want your hybrid event to be. This will depend on several factors but ultimately it comes down to your event objectives. Of course, you should consider your delegates and how they may respond to new ideas and ways of participating in an event.
Your hybrid event can be as interactive as you want. Virtual delegates can become involved in a variety of ways. They can send in questions, or take part in group chats or tasks that involve both in-person and virtual attendees. All you need to do is ensure your event allows for participation without any ‘user’ obstacles.
Equally, there are no rules stating a hybrid event has to be interactive. Some can be passive. For example, virtual delegates could just enjoy the content that is streamed. This works well for events where the focus is to provide information for consumption and questions or comments are not encouraged.
Ian Webb is head of business development at Eventsforce. The company’s customizable web-based software provides a complete end-to-end management solution for virtual, hybrid and in-person events, from event planning, marketing and registration to on-site check-in, virtual content delivery, mobile apps, abstracts and awards management, reporting and data management.