With the news released in the UK last week, and the vaccination rollout successfully spreading across the globe, the possibility of attending an event in real life is finally becoming realised for us again. We are sure you have suffered from webinar fatigue at least once over the last year, so us here in the events industry can safely assume virtual events will be on the out ASAP.
So what does the event landscape look like as we climb out of the pandemic back into ‘normality’?
Hybrid events have long been popular since before COVID-19 struck us, but have become especially significant during those – all too short and infrequent – periods in the pandemic where we could gather. As people will slowly be allowed to come together again, some will want to do this in person, and some simply won’t. Many have found the virtual and home-led experiences available to them during this crisis preferable. They may want to continue accessing work, knowledge and networking in a space that is convenient, eco-friendly, financially viable for them – providing it is done correctly, of course. We can safely predict that hybrid events are the future of the event industry, starting now. But not as we know them.
Let’s take a quick re-cap over what a hybrid event is:
Hybrid events are events that have both virtual and in-person components. Some may think of hybrid events as simply a live stream of the in-person event, and in many historic cases, this has been done. Big over-subscribed events such as music festivals have been renowned for creating a ‘virtual’ audience simply by streaming live music. However, this is not enough, it never has been, and it certainly isn’t the way hybrid events are moving. A hybrid event is not…
- Streaming your sessions from your phone
- A sharable video on demand (VOD) after the event
- Putting your live audience before your online audience
Think about what your delegates get out of events. It goes beyond absorbing the content or knowledge share – even though this is a fundamental element and needs to be fulfilled excellently. It is about interacting with likeminded people, meeting associates old and new, absorbing a buzzing atmosphere, and truly interacting with spaces, people and material before you. A simple live stream doesn’t present those elements, and after the year of constant one-dimensional streams and virtualised content, your virtual audience needs to be impressed, engaged.
This is what a successful hybrid event is all about: engagement.
What do the hybrid events of today and tomorrow look like?
We’re seeing hybrid events go beyond a live stream to fully engage both virtual and in-person audiences through chat, streaming, networking, and far, far more.
What a hybrid event is and should be…
- Seamless integration of technology to facilitate participation between a live and virtual audience
- An experience that caters to all audiences in a viewer-friendly way
- Putting your online and live audience on the same level
You put a lot of effort into planning the attendee journey for your live participants. Now, you should apply the same consideration to your virtual audience to ensure they get the most from your hybrid event.
5 Crucial components to get right for an engaging hybrid event
Of course, there are plenty of things to consider when planning your hybrid event, including the added benefits they bring you as an event organiser. For now, though, we have listed the core concepts we consider to be most important that without nailing, will lead to an unsuccessful hybrid event.
1) Choose a fully-featured, integrated event platform
This is the home of your virtualised event, where your audience can access all event content, features, networking, information and more. A virtual event platform should include features that are engaging and unique for your virtual audiences, such as virtual exhibitions, video tours and interesting interactivity to provide them experiences unreachable in real life. A virtual event platform is also crucial for pre and post-event marketing, communication and knowledge share. Provide your audience with a one-stop-shop for everything they need, for as long as they need it.
2) Maximise engagement with an Event app
It is hard to find an event these days without an event app to accompany it – they have transformed the industry. Now more than ever, they provide delegates with a complete solution for networking, content access and engagement. At insight mobile, event apps and virtual platforms come hand in hand, which just shows the importance of this event tech. Together, they provide a comprehensive virtual and hybrid solution. This is where your virtual audience becomes an active audience member, rather than a passive viewer. Don’t forget this is true for your in-person events, too. It is important to provide the appropriate features for the right audience. A hybrid event should be one event with two experiences. The team and Insight Mobile are experts in this, so if you’re stuck, get in touch.
3) Content is king
Your content is arguably even more important during a hybrid event than during an in-person event. It is harder to keep virtual attendees engaged in front of a computer screen. Ensure that your content is packed full of interactive features and breakouts so that your virtual attendees can utilise the tools included in your app and virtual platform. Live polls, Q&As and breakout group activities will keep virtual attendees involved. Including virtual-specific splash screens, countdowns and introductions break the streams up. And make sure that the sessions are an absorbable length – no one wants to sit through a five-hour keynote speech, especially not behind a screen. There are plenty of ways to elevate your content for your virtual audiences!
4) Navigating time zones
The beauty of hybrid means that anyone from around the world can attend your event, broadening your audience and generating more revenue. This poses some logistical challenges, though.
Firstly, make sure all of your content is on-demand. A good conference platform will guarantee this for you. Secondly, you want your virtual audience to feel as immersed and included as your in-person audience, even if they are several hours before/behind. Repeating seminars for different time zones can help this, but interactivity tools, instant messaging and scheduled reminders can be incorporated into your event app and personalised for every single attendee, in any time zone. This way, your content will always be relevant and timely for every audience member.
5) Bring your audiences together
You want to provide your virtual audience with a different experience because, after all, it is a different experience. Much of what we have touched on focuses on doing that. However, you want to assure your event remains hybrid, i.e. a mix of two things, so as not to isolate or over-distinguish between two audiences. Finding the balance is tricky, but there are an array of options available to you with an event app and virtual platform. What about incorporating an event-long mission with prizes at the end, that involve both audiences to work together via networking tools? Or, create breakout rooms with a mix of virtual and in-person delegates to complete live polls or quizzes during sessions. This factor requires some imagination, but with the right tools, you can just about to do anything to provide your audiences with the best hybrid event experience.
So, there is your rundown on the future of events and how to make them a success. Before anything, hybrid event success relies on a timely, personalised and above all, engaging provision of content and experiences that have been tailored for each audience, wherever and however they are attending your event.
Keep an eye on our blog to learn more, but in the meantime, you’re always welcome to get in touch with any questions or ideas you have.
Thanks for reading!