Beyond Virtual: Navigating the Hybrid Event Landscape

We’re hearing it over and over again “the future is hybrid”.

Before the pandemic, hybrid events were not that common. But for the foreseeable future, they won’t only be common, they’ll be necessary. How fast hybrid events will evolve in 2021 and 2022 will hinge on how fast the pandemic ends (fingers crossed) and, of course, what federal and local legislation will allow.

By definition, a hybrid event is “an event that combines live in-person elements with online digital components with a strong focus on content sharing”. While this rings true, there is a wide range of hybrid event options and configurations.

Is your hybrid event a small gathering of a few people socially distanced in an audience, with live presenters hosting a virtual event, or is it a large conference of hundreds on-site with thousands more joining the event from around the world via a carefully curated online experience? While planning your function, consider that virtual attendee expectations will be extremely high after many months of sitting in virtual event settings. How are you standing out from the rest?

Staring at a computer screen is “so 2020.” It will be extremely important for planners to incorporate unique elements into their events for online participants. Recognize that remote attendees won’t have the same attention span as those attending in-person. Virtual attendee expectations will be extremely high after many, many months of sitting in virtual event settings, so think digital-first while planning your event.

Consider unique elements like 1:1 access to speakers and sponsors, advance personal touchpoint mailers or kits – bonus if they are branded! exclusive content, and anything else that might lend itself to providing a memorable event experience for online attendees.

You’ll want to ensure the venue has the necessary bandwidth to accommodate collaboration between in-person and virtual attendees, so everyone feels like they are part of the action! You’ll want to ensure the venue’s system can handle in-person attendee Wi-Fi and live streaming at once.

Planning a hybrid function is often double the workload, but it can also double (or more) the profit. Tiered registration options can make your event more accessible, thus increasing typical registration numbers. Consider capturing content for “on-demand use later and charge a fee for anyone who could not attend the meeting but is interested in viewing content.

The entire world is eager to get back to normal but we’re working towards new norms and standards that will rely heavily on virtual engagement and components when it comes to the events industry. Large gatherings will likely be banned for some time, so mastering hybrid events and knowing how to leverage online event strategies will give you an essential creative edge and a strong comeback when that happens.  The future is different but bright for events, but we need to be objective, smart, proactive, and determined to make it so.

– Your Tycoon, Ali XO