Hybrid vs Virtual Event – Core Differences and How to Adapt your Engagement Strategy

Vishant Khare
• July 28, 2021
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aximizing engagement is a critical component for a successful event. When attendees are entertained and involved from start to finish, you increase the likelihood of them talking about it, which in turn, can generate more organic opportunities.

Forbes reports that 49% of experts say that audience engagement is the most significant contributing factor to the event’s success.

That said, creating a robust engagement strategy should be at the core of your event planning efforts. With an effective engagement strategy in place, you can extend the life of the event beyond the event itself and facilitate technical dialogues to maintain connections with your participants. However, putting together a comprehensive engagement strategy can be challenging, especially if you do not know the type of event you are organizing.

Among the most popular event types that are gaining traction during the pandemic are virtual vs hybrid events. Both types of events allowed organizations to ensure event success even in the face of unprecedented obstacles. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the core differences between these two event types and provide you with essential tips you can use to adjust or improve your engagement strategy and prepare your attendees and team for virtual event or hybrid event management.

Table of Contents

What are Virtual Events?

Virtual events are online events that involve individuals interacting in a digital environment instead of meeting in a physical location. In short, a virtual event is a lot like a physical location-based event, only online. These events are usually composed of multiple sessions which often feature webcasts and webinars. 

This makes it easier for you to host global conferences, trade shows, recruitment fairs, or even product launches without spending resources for venues and additional miscellaneous event expenses. However, regardless of its cost-effectiveness, creating let alone maintaining engagement for virtual events can be difficult with so many external factors that could distract the participant’s focus from the event itself. 

After all, many individuals have accumulated far more screen time than they would like and it is not uncommon for fatigue to set in. Start re-adjusting your engagement strategy by delivering more immersive experiences and bringing presentations to life with interactive sessions. This can include organizing surveys, polling, and Q&As or perhaps using breakout rooms to give participants to network with their peers outside of the presentation.

What are Hybrid Events?

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Hybrid events combine virtual and in-person components to help organizers reach a wider audience. As such, hybrid events may range from simple physical events with live streaming elements to multi-faceted events with a truckload of participants and several concurrent livestreams. Although there are so many examples of hybrid events and they most often differ in a multitude of ways, they share one commonality which is putting the audience journey first for both in-person and online spectators.

This includes treating live and virtual audiences equally to ensure that they can get the most value from your event. An excellent way of doing that is getting to know your audience, where they are and how to reach them. More often than not, hybrid events are inundated with different types of audiences that have unique tendencies in consuming your content.

A rule of thumb in successfully hosting a hybrid event is to consider both audiences when planning your content. Assess whether your content will translate well over video for your virtual audience and ensure that it is physically engaging to keep in-person participants from checking their devices. When done successfully, hybrid events can improve engagement and provide the flexibility organizers need to adapt to the digital transformation in the midst of the changing world. 

Virtual or Hybrid Events: Which Is Better?

It is not uncommon for planners to experience a conundrum when choosing the event approach to implement, considering the advantages of both virtual and hybrid events. One way for organizers to resolve this issue is to define their event and establish goals around it. If you want to organize panel discussions or interview-style programs quickly at a lower cost, your best bet is opting for virtual events. 

Virtual events also provide you with complete control of external factors since you no longer have to worry about bad weather or angry protesters showing up at your event. It is, however, important to note that virtual events rely mainly on technology. Therefore, you must ensure firsthand that you are utilizing a reputable virtual management platform to prevent unstable connections. 

On the flip side, a hybrid virtual event might be your primary option if you want flexibility to reach the greatest number of attendees. You can also save costs with hybrid events though it is not much compared to virtual events since you do not have to spend time or travel expenses for the entire participant pool. However, it should be noted that hybrid events involve a myriad of complexities since it means producing two events at one time. 

Why Use a Virtual Event Software Platform?

The importance of using a virtual event software solution is too hard to ignore regardless of whether you want to host a hybrid event or a virtual affair. Using a virtual event platform, you can boost attendee interaction between exhibitors, sponsors, speakers, and their peers. The advantage of virtual event platforms is that they are geared with multiple networking tools such as built-in live chats and break rooms that allow attendees to communicate and keep the conversation flowing. 

Considering that roughly 66% of audiences list networking as the primary reason to attend events, using a virtual event platform allows you to provide quality user experience. Virtual event tools can further enhance engagement by adding gamification initiatives. For instance, you may opt to leverage the augmented reality features of a virtual event solution to let attendees transform areas of a virtual venue using jigsaw puzzle pieces. 

Speaking of features, you must determine your event needs and goals to find the right virtual event software solution. This is because each virtual event solution comes with unique features and plugins that are specifically designed for a particular type event. Outlined below are non-negotiable features that your virtual event software should have to increase engagement. 

Engagement and Communication Plugins

The importance of a public relations career or expert in place to oversee your event is too hard to ignore. 

However, that can be too costly which is why ensuring that your chosen solution is brimming with engagement and communication plugins is critical in keeping attendees interested and invested in the event. 

These engagement and communication features include feedback surveys, Q/A, group chatting, and live polling. 

You also ensure that it has virtual breakrooms for attendees to communicate with their peers and bring users together to talk about common interests. 

On-Demand Support Team

Technology is unpredictable which means that even the smallest hiccups can affect the participant engagement and experience severely. 

When choosing a solution, recognize the importance of having an on-demand support team for the event organizer to turn to if tech issues occur. 

An on-demand support team also ensures that you can focus on making events shine rather than worrying about the possible issues.

Reporting

Monitoring attendee engagement is no longer an option for virtual events, considering that the average attention span is now only eight seconds. 

Using the reporting capabilities of virtual event software platforms, you can generate insights on the viewer’s overall engagement before, during, and after the event. 

You can then use these insights to re-adjust your engagement strategy and achieve better results the next time you host an online event. 

Achieving Full Engagement with a Virtual Event Solution

Driving event engagement in a virtual setting is challenging but is completely possible. One way for event planners to do that is to take advantage of robust virtual event software platforms such as Airmeet, which is geared with dynamic features to deliver authentic engagement and interactions. Airmeet, which boasts extensive features such as speed networking, social lounge and event chat, offers a free package on top of its quote-based pricing packages.

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