Hybrid events – where in-person audiences are mixed with audiences attending virtually – are the next step in the world getting back to business, including the events and meetings sector. Though, to be honest, that definition is a bit too simplistic perhaps. The Events Industry Council provides this definition: “A meeting that combines face-to-face and virtual aspects.” But what that combination means exactly is up to event planners, it seems.
Many events will go this route to ease into getting back into the swing of things. Close to 70% of event planners are organizing hybrid events in 2021, said a survey conducted by swapcard. A research paper also done by swapcard revealed that 33.5% of the 352 event planners asked about the biggest challenges in producing a hybrid event selected “engaging two audiences” as the biggest challenge; “networking between two groups of attendees” was chosen by 19.2% of event planners.
Their research also shows that “the majority of planners will plan some form of hybrid event in the next few months.” The writer of the paper brings up a number of pertinent questions that event planners the world over are likely asking of themselves right now. Let’s consider two of them:
- What’s the experience for the two audiences?
- Should these audiences be treated differently?
The experience for virtual and in-person attendees
Hybrid events combine in-person attendees with those attending virtually. Sometimes organizers will offer the option to attendees and let them decide. Other times, the decision might be made for them based on logistics and/or location. Regardless, there are two audiences having different experiences.
Obviously, in-person allows for networking and face-to-face conversations which are, at the heart of it, the ideal way to foster connections. So ensure at a hybrid event that “water cooler” moments and proper networking opportunities are available for both audiences so they can engage together at times and not feel so separate. It might take some creativity but can be done!
Don’t treat audiences at a hybrid event differently
Everyone at your event needs to feel welcomed and appreciated and that they’re getting an experience as rich and fertile as the other audience. Honestly, the audience to worry about most here is the virtual one because that’s the group that has technology as an interface and who don’t get to chat and network at breaks. Focus on trying to create the most engaging experience for them, one that equals what in-person attendees get.
Hybrid events seem like the logical next step in moving toward life as it was and getting back to seeing people in person. How you devise that combination is up to you and might mean learning as you go. But offering a mix of in-person and virtual elements actually might not be just to get us through this weird hump of returning to “normal.” Mixing mediums, if you will, can add variety and excitement to any event, if executed properly.