(15 min read)
Picture this: Your keynote speaker is setting up on stage, and those who attend in person start taking their seats (notebooks and coffee in hand), all while you’ve got thousands of virtual attendees tuning in from online. The event kicks off with several engaging in-person and virtual components that give the virtual attendees more than just a live stream.
With the power of a hybrid event platform, virtual and in-person attendees can network in multiple breakout sessions and participate in fun activities such as trivia or polls. Over lunch, they can tune into a live interactive stream of DJ sessions to re-energize before attending the afternoon Q&A panel.
Welcome to your first hybrid event. It’s—quite literally—the perfect blend between virtual and in-person events.
Hybrid events provide the best of both worlds for onsite attendees and online attendees. But how do they compare to virtual and in-person events? What are the pros and cons of hybrid events?
First, the obvious difference: one is completely online (virtual), another is exclusively physical (in-person), and the other provides a mix of both (hybrid).
Both virtual and hybrid events offer the opportunity to increase reach and attendance count. Strictly in-person events can present logistical issues, such as coordinating speaker schedules and travel restrictions.
While physically present attendees might gain the advantage of being able to strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to them, the virtual components of modern online event platforms allow you to create dedicated networking spaces—for example, virtual lounges and breakout sessions—to give attendees the same networking capabilities.
Basically, it doesn’t matter how you frame it, hybrid events allow you to capitalize on the advantages of both virtual and in-person events. They cancel out the disadvantages and create a win-win.
A hybrid event allows virtual attendees to experience the event if they cannot attend an in-person conference due to health, money, or travel concerns.
Market event research published by Markletic shows that 47% of respondents saw a positive ROI from their hybrid event in as little as 3-6 months and 86% within 6-12 months.
Limiting the number of people attending in-person can help reduce transportation, food, consumption, and energy demands.
Since you’re combining the functionalities of face-to-face events and virtual meetings into a hybrid format, you get a much broader spectrum of options to deliver an epic event experience. For example, your registration process could offer multiple ticket tiers to maximize your audience. Tiers could range from 100% virtual to on-demand video access and all-access passes, including live in-person access to all sessions and keynotes.
A hybrid event allows participants to have the human connection experience in-person. But it also gives participants who may have wanted to attend in person (but are now unable) the opportunity to engage virtually via the hybrid event app, even with the on-site participants.
Combining in-person with virtual allows you to connect multiple events occurring simultaneously or at different times or locations.
Greater choice of speakers and sponsors—With some aspects of the event being virtual, you’ve got the pick of the bunch! If the speaker you want is based halfway around the world and unable to travel—poof!—hybrid events remove this limitation.
Better insight into your audiences’ behavior patterns and interests—Easily track the digital footprints of your virtual attendees and how they interact with your event. This means better targeting, and it’s easier to measure your return on investment (ROI).
Flexible networking conditions—Hybrid events allow in-person attendees to network not only with people physically at the venue but with people all over the world.
You can offer a tangible experience—Educate your potential customers and field questions in person to build a deeper understanding of your products or services. Better yet, give all your virtual attendees a front-row seat to every presentation, conversation, and performance.
Offer in-person human connection—A handshake when you greet someone. Or hearing and being part of a cheering audience in real life. These simple human experiences feel really different in person compared to sitting behind a computer screen.
Mix-and-match delivery formats—Remember, best of both worlds. A hybrid event allows you to completely push the boundaries on how you create an engaging experience. Bring your two audiences (virtual and in-person) closer together with speed-networking sessions by combining physical and virtual breakout rooms equipped with screens and webcams.
Hybrid events use a combination of delivery formats and experiences from in-person and virtual events.
You can define an event as ‘hybrid’ when it includes any meeting or event with at least one group of in-person attendees that virtually (digitally) connect with attendees in another or multiple locations.
Hybrid events require careful planning. After all, you are providing two experiences for two audiences: in-person and virtual.
By now, you understand that hybrid means a combination of in-person and virtual.
But what does a hybrid event look like?
The following list of hybrid event examples isn’t exhaustive, but it gives you an idea of how you might want to use hybrid events for your own business.
Even though hybrid events will keep evolving, here are some starting best practices to keep in mind before you jump straight into planning your first hybrid event.
Make sure the in-person and virtual hybrid event equipment set-up (i.e., audio-visual)is integrated seamlessly and delivers the same experience.
Lean into the fact that you can increase your event’s reach to a global audience. Plan promotional activities such as running competitions, sharing a video teaser, or setting up a pre-event poll.
At Airmeet it’s our job to build a robust, engaging, and feature packed virtual event platform. Thus, that’d naturally be our recommendation. But here are some tips you can use to choose a platform for yourself.
In a hybrid event setting, you need a fit-for-purpose event space with a stable internet connection and the right event platform to help you bring the virtual component to life.
Between the venue, catering, travel, speaker fees, technology set-up, and audio-visual costs—you might end up with a surprising sum. The best thing to do here is plan accordingly. Estimate costs up front, stick to a budget, and scale back where necessary.
Without a doubt, there will be more events. Make sure you’re set up to collect event data accurately. Look at things like registration and attendee rates (tracked through attendee logins or QR codes), most popular content downloads, chat metrics, Q&A, or live poll engagement, to name a few.
Now you have the best practices at a high level—let’s go into more detail on how to host and plan a hybrid event.
Like any event—if you want it to be a success, you’ve got to put in the work and plan. Planning a successful hybrid event requires stretching your creativity, effectively strategizing, and integrating the right technology with traditional in-person events to deliver new types of experiences.
With this in mind, here’s a broad overview of how to host a hybrid event(step-by-step):
Step 1: Set your goals and objectives for the event
Step 2: Decide on an event venue and a virtual event platform
Step 3: Study your audience and create personas to guide your planning
Step 4: Conceptualize your event (i.e., work out the theme and the experience from start to finish)
Step 5: Work out the budget you’ll need to bring your vision to life
Step 6: Lock in speakers, entertainment, and hosts
Step 7: Seek out relevant sponsors
Step 8: Refine your event agenda and timelines leading up to the event
Step 9: Begin crafting content for your hybrid event
Step 10: Get started with hybrid event marketing to build hype and registration numbers
Step 11: Run a mock event rehearsal to prepare for potential technical glitches
Step 12: Successfully host your event! (because you followed the steps and planned everything so well)
Step 13: Review performance and calculate the ROI of the event a few months later
Now that you know what hosting hybrid events look like at a glance let’s dig into more detail.
After you’ve got all your ducks in a row at the planning stages, you have to think further about hosting the event.
Simply put: what else do you need to consider to deliver a hybrid event experience like no other? While we discuss the requisites in the sections ahead, check out these hybrid event ideas for your next hybrid event.
Make it easy for in-person and virtual attendees to register for your event before and on the day.
Before the event: Set up a single registration form. This makes everything seamless for virtual and in-person attendees pre-registering for the event. It also helps you limit venue capacity to keep everyone comfortable.
On the day the event goes live: To fill any potential free slots on the day, you can encourage attendees to register online, or on the day the event goes live, you can have a registration desk at the venue for in-person attendees to register on the spot.
Imagine facing audio glitches, low-quality video streams, and poor lighting at your hybrid event. It would be a repelling experience for your attendees.
Your A/V team will handle all of this for you.
Having a professional team for AV production can ensure that you present the best and most stunning experience possible. A great event experience is a key to event success.
You’ve got the attendees and the quality production set-up to present your content, but something is missing—a hybrid events platform to tie everything together.
We’ll talk more on this later, but the main thing here is understanding that using a capable platform will tie everything together about your hybrid event: registration, networking, streaming, analytics, engagement and interactions, stages, live polls, quizzes, you name it.
This makes sure your attendees have equal opportunities to engage and network in a virtual space, receiving the same energizing experience as in-person attendees—all made possible by a hybrid event platform.
Hosting successful hybrid events require four well-executed elements:
Content that is crafted and delivered in a way that will knock your audience’s socks off. This includes a killer agenda designed to run like clockwork and delivers an engaging program for virtual and in-person audiences.
A sense of community ignited by carefully planned networking activities and collaborative elements designed to spark organic conversations.
Engaging activities that spur participation and keep the audience immersed. Plan activities like quizzes, polls, trivia, or activities like scavenger hunts, and mixology classes to keep your audience stimulated.
Analytics to measure success and capture multiple data points around understanding your attendee demographics, identifying patterns and trends, measuring engagement, and checking sponsor traction. Having this information will not only help you plan your next event, but it will also give you information to help personalize follow-up communications.
If you manage to hit all four of these, massive kudos.
Let’s face it: the human attention span is much shorter than we realize.
Keep your audience engaged with these five quick tips:
Spur networking by encouraging attendees to use virtual spaces like virtual breakout rooms, virtual lounges, Fluid Space, and speed networking activities. Set dedicated time for these activities.
Create networking opportunities to encourage virtual and in-person attendees to interact, like a networking lounge or speed networking activities.
Encourage audiences to share their opinion or thoughts through interactive elements such as chat, polls, or live Q&As.
Go high on entertainment by incorporating acts like a band performance, comedian, a game of trivia, or even a cooking class to break up the learning and presentations.
Find ways to diversify your content by introducing different formats and variety through the form of videos, gifs, slideshows, and audio talks.
Gift attendees some swag and other essential items they can use throughout the event—snack box, coffee, notebook, t-shirt, etc.
Covering all of the considerations, tips, and ideas discussed so far—we’ve distilled it all into an actionable checklist:
Use these answers to create KPIs so you know what and how to measure the success of the event.
Choosing the right time zone is an important decision. You have to consider how you’ll cater to on-site attendees and virtual attendees. It’s likely the time zones for the virtual audiences will be completely different. The best way to plan around this is by running multi-sessions, pre-recording live events, or offering content on demand.
Creating personas can be a foundational piece of information to look back on throughout the entire planning process. When you understand the audience you’re trying to reach, you will market your event better, create more targeted content, and design a better experience. All leading to a better ROI.
Your persona should include information about
The clearer you get on the audience you’re trying to target, the more specific you can be when choosing sponsors, speakers, and other elements for your hybrid event.
But before you start your speaker outreach…
You’ve got two arenas to consider costs:
In-person event: venue costs, food/catering, styling and decor, equipment and furniture rentals, parking facilities, signage, printing, transportation, speaker fees, staffing costs, marketing collateral, A/V equipment
Virtual event: event technology (virtual event platform), third-party integrations, content creation (videos), A/V equipment
This all adds up. Of course, it will vary depending on the scale of the event you’re planning. Once you have a good pulse check on budgets, you can confidently negotiate with vendors and speakers too.
By now, you have a good idea of what makes your target audience tick, the budgets, and the goals of the event. Time to lock in your ideal speakers, musicians, or panel leaders to give your event some clout. Give yourself plenty of lead time to have these conversations.
This is where you need to get more into the nitty gritty. You have an idea of who (even how many) speakers you want on board.
Now it’s time to think about how the event will run. How many sessions will you have? How long will they be? When will you schedule entertainment breaks? What engaging elements will you incorporate into your event?
Once you’ve got the ideas, think about the deadlines you need to set for each element of the event. Assign responsibilities with your event management team and meet regularly to keep up with the progress.
What does your hybrid event marketing plan look like? Let your target audience —and the type of experience you want to provide—help you determine what channels to use (i.e., email, social media ads, or physical mail).
With your key messaging: focus on the most important aspects of your in-person and virtual components of the event. State-of-the-art venue? Epic speaker line-up? Amazing entertainment? Unique approaches to networking? Whatever they are, make them seen and heard.
Don’t forget to promote your #EventHashtags! So your attendees can post updates before, during, and after your event.
One more thing: don’t forget to measure the effectiveness of your hybrid event marketing strategy.
Social media advertising: Track conversion rates, click-through rates, shares, and other qualitative data such as comments or direct messages
Whether at an in-person event or virtual event—technology sometimes finds a way to kick up a stink. Planning for the unexpected is hard, so just do the best you can. In the event of a technical disruption, what’s your plan? Can you have a backup internet connection available?
Schedule tests of each set-up with speakers, moderators, and entertainment vendors before the event goes live. Run a mock-up event rehearsal if you want!
Your event went off without a hitch! Nice one. Market research by Markletic said 89% of event organizers measure the success of their hybrid events by attendee satisfaction. One way to measure this is by using a Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey.
Once you’ve got your attendee feedback, schedule a review meeting with your entire event organizer team a week or two after the event to open the floor for discussion. What worked well? What didn’t? Do the results reflect the objectives we set at the beginning?
And voila, you’ve got your checklist.
Before you go off and rally your team: earlier, we mentioned using a hybrid event platform. Let’s quickly discuss this.
Even with a checklist to follow, planning an event can be overwhelming. A hybrid event requires you to cater to two distinct audiences:
How do you bring these two worlds together?
Here’s the answer.
A hybrid event platform can help you merge these two experiences together into a beautiful, seamless event experience.
Your virtual attendees and in-person attendees can interact with each other, the speakers, panel hosts, sponsors, and entertainment, all within one single platform.
Naturally, you’re probably wondering how to decide on a suitable hybrid event platform to execute your hybrid event strategy.
Say no more.
In a spectacularly (and unashamedly) biased fashion, let’s walk through how Airmeet helps you bring the best of in-person and virtual events together.
Unified registration & ticketing: You can personalize the agenda and schedule to suit the mode of attendance
Segmented tickets with QR codes: Offer different ticket types for virtual and in-person attendees
Conditional forms for easy information gathering: Gather specific information about an attendee including what sessions they want to attend and if they attended them
Interactive stage to boost engagement: Virtual event attendees have the opportunity to interact and share the screen with in-person speakers by taking the live stage virtually.
360-degree analytics for all attendees: This will help you track engagement and attendance to give you a comprehensive view of your event. Use the data to analyze your ROI and for better segmentation for targeted lead generation.
Highly rated mobile app: Your attendees will be able to tune in from their smartphone while on the go to drive attendance rates and engagement.
Immersive booths: You get complete control over the branding and experience of your booths. Add your own personality through custom links, lead magnet offers, images, and themes. You can also give sponsors branding exclusivity to a booth, helping to justify the value of getting involved with your event.
Rich integrations: Forget CSV uploads. Plug all your everyday apps into the platform to make it easier to sync your CRM, productivity tools, and marketing apps seamlessly.
Virtual events took the spotlight in a big way during 2020, but expect to see more hybrid event adoption in 2022 and beyond. In fact, Gartner predicts hybrids will dominate event strategy discussions in 2022.
Investing more in hybrid events will become the norm, with 34% of event organizers expecting to host more in the next few years.
Forrester plans to host their 2022 events in a hybrid format with both in-person and digital experiences. In their first large-scale hybrid event, B2B Summit North America 2020, Forrester transitioned to digital and captured more attendees than ever before.
We won’t be saying goodbye to in-person events, but—at an enterprise level— research by Markletic confirmed that 32% of enterprise organizations said their global events team primarily hosts hybrid events. This hybrid event trend is only expected to rise over the next year.
Sustainability seems to be an emerging event trend. To meet consumer demands for brands to develop more sustainable practices, event planners have sustainability on their radars.
For those who don’t want to ditch physical events entirely, event planners are planning more localized events to reduce travel-related carbon footprint contributions.
The moral of this story is to stay true to your brand values and align your event planning with that. Hybrid event planning can help you bring more balance into your sustainability approach. Thus, experts believe that sustainability is the next virtual and hybrid event trend.
Trends suggest that hybrid events can be goldmines for marketers and event planners. The amount of data you can collect around attendees, session statistics, engagement levels, and survey feedback presents a lot of opportunity.
Interestingly, research conducted by Eventsforce revealed data management is a key concern and challenge when running virtual events or hybrid events.
The main reason why: they are collecting more data than ever before! And 82% feel that a good data management strategy will become more pronounced and vital for running hybrid events.
Without a doubt, hybrid events can be leveraged to achieve your business growth goals and marketing objectives, and increase consumer mindshare. Given the amount of business potential, it stands to reason: events shouldn’t just be hosted once a year with all the frills. Your hybrid event strategy should be designed to deliver a whole range of interconnected event experiences throughout the year.
But like any great marketing strategy, these events need to be delivered for the right reasons, at the right time, and for the right audience.
In short, you need to stop seeing events as one-off opportunities but as always-on growth machines for your business. This event strategy is called Event-led Growth.
An Event-led Growth Strategy challenges your thinking on what you think the purpose of an event is. It requires a total mindset shift. For the marketing team, it means less focus on generating leads and more focus on building relationships. It also means crafting smaller, more specific sessions to serve one audience segment.
Event-led Growth (ELG) helps you create an immersive and integrated event experience across your entire customer journey. Think of it this way: not every marketing-generated lead should be treated the same way. Someone might be higher in the funnel and require some more information about your product and its benefits. While another lead could be lower in the funnel and ready to have some deep, detailed discussions around specific use cases.
Adopting this way of thinking helps you unify your sales and marketing departments to plan event content that will serve a specific need—and keep the customer at the core of every decision you make.
In March 2020, they had their biggest event, B2B Summit North America, coming up. As Lisa Riley, Senior Vice President and Head of Events at Forrester, puts it: “The greatest thing about Forrester is that we’re customer obsessed. We place the customer at the center of our strategy, operations, and leadership.”
What they also knew was their customers placed a lot of value on the content Forrester analysts delivered at their events.
Then it was time to pivot. They decided they would deliver the content digitally, transitioning from what was going to be an in-person event to a virtual stage.
Already knowing what their value proposition was (their content) and having the internal help to evaluate the right virtual event platform, they were able to transition within 6 weeks to successfully deliver their biggest monetized event to thousands of people in May 2020.
According to Riley, this strategy has not changed. But this success didn’t come from simply copying and pasting what they did for in-person events. They had to adapt their whole approach.
As you can see, every single aspect of their hybrid event strategy was focused on improving the customer experience.
A hybrid event combines the best of two worlds. It’s a combination of traditional in-person events and the advantages of virtual technology.
In the past, it was difficult to combine the two into one event format, but that is changing as more companies and organizations are discovering the endless possibilities of blending the two into one single event experience.
The key to a successful hybrid event is to think less about what business or financial gain you’ll get from it (that part will come later) and instead, look at how you can keep your customer experience at the heart of every decision you make.
With the right planning, strategic direction, creativity, and execution, you can deliver a hybrid event that completely transforms the way your business seizes opportunities to educate, network, sell, and build relationships with your customers and prospects. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to plan your next hybrid event!
But don’t take it from us! See for yourself
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