Hybrid Events have been around for over 20 years now, but we’ve only recently seen them come to a lot of people’s attentions through the encouragement of the global pandemic. As a result of this, we’ve seen a proliferation in enquiries for hybrid events, allowing our clients to engage both in-person and virtual audiences, increasing their reach dramatically.

To be honest, hybrid events are a relatively new concept for us too! Before the dreaded C-word came along, we hadn’t delivered any hybrid events. However, in the past 18 months, our knowledge, awareness, and general understanding of hybrid has developed immensely, and our hybrid event delivery skills are now at an advanced level.

Since we launched in 2018, our bread and butter were face-to-face business events, focussing mostly on conferences, exhibitions, and brand activations. But from March 2020, we were forced to dive into the virtual world, completely transforming our offerings to virtual event delivery. This was a pivotal milestone at SES, encouraging us to be flexible and adaptable during a time of global change. As it happens, this challenging time propelled us into finding our niche and becoming leaders in virtual event delivery. We really embraced getting to grips with the latest virtual platforms, which now allows us to position ourselves as experts in the field.

Given that we have a wealth of experience in both f2f and virtual events now, the concept of hybrid seemed pretty-straight forward to us. All you need to do is blend the two, right? But it’s not that straight-forward as you might think! It takes a lot of planning, preparation, and assessment to pull off a successful hybrid event.

In this blog, we’re going to share with you some of our tips on creating hybrid events!

What is a Hybrid Event?

A hybrid event is a conference, seminar, panel discussion, or other event that combines a “live” in-person event with a “virtual” online element.

With a hybrid event, you get all the benefits of an in-person event experience with the added benefit of a virtual audience. As we return to f2f events, utilising hybrid is a great way to allow those that feel confident in attending an event to do so, while also allowing others to attend virtually. We really believe that hybrid events will be the way forward within our industry; not to mention the reduced environmental impact and increased reach!

Top Tips for Hybrid Events

With proper planning and the correct AV equipment, any business can hold a successful hybrid event. Just remember, the best place to start is setting SMART event goals and objectives so that you’re really clear on what you want to get out of your hybrid event.

Here are some of our top tips for creating the best hybrid event experience:

When designing your event, remember you have two different attendee types

The unique thing about hybrid events is that you’re reaching two different audiences. One audience is physically attending your event, looking for that interactive in-person experience. While your second audience is attending virtually, tuning in to the engaging online content from wherever they are.

You need to think about how both audiences will be engaged with the event content. The best way to do this is to have two teams of staff dedicated to looking after each audience to help the two audiences interact with one another, while ensuring both audience experiences are interconnected. You should have teams ready to monitor the following:

  • Tech help team: Have a team of ready to help with any for any IT or tech-help needs. Their role should focus on all technical aspects of your live streaming or virtual platform.
  • Audience engagement team: Assign a team to moderate all virtual breakouts and live chats.
  • Social media/marketing team: Designate a team to manage online communities and share content across your social platforms.

Have a realistic and achievable event strategy

It’s important to establish which components of your event should be virtual and which should be in-person. Once you’ve decided this, you need to carefully consider who will be involved with the management of each element of the event, and ensure you have enough staff members to take care of these aspects prior, during and after your event.

Here are five areas to consider when mapping out your event strategy:

  1. Allocate internal teams: You’ll need to identify who within your team will manage the physical side of your event and who will manage the virtual component. It’s important to ensure each team has enough members to take care of every aspect. Having someone to act as an ‘attendee’ to ensure everything is going right from an outside point of view is definitely recommended.
  2. Sponsor & partners: Are there any sponsorship or partnership opportunities for your hybrid event? It would be a great idea to partner with an AV production company to greatly minimise your costs. However, it’s important to ensure you partner with a highly professional production team to execute the in-person and virtual experience. A good production team will know how to manage both. This means they can execute the in-person aspects like lighting, camera, audio, presentation/video transitions etc.) and manage the stream for the digital viewing audience.
  3. Virtual venue: How many people are you expecting to attend virtually? Does your chosen virtual platform have the capacity to deliver your event content to your expected numbers? It’s crucial to ensure your chosen platform has the correct bandwidth and streaming capabilities.
  4. Physical venue: How many people are you expecting to attend in-person? Does your venue have the capacity to host your expected numbers, as well as have space to set up your AV equipment for the virtual event elements? Can your venue offer sufficient streaming speeds and a strong enough Wi-Fi connection? Will your venue offer the best onsite experience? Do they have an area for networking? Do they have variety of food and drink offerings? Ensure your physical venue can offer everything you need for both in-person and virtual elements of the event to run smoothly.
  5. A backup plan: As we all know by now, unexpected lockdowns can be announced in a matter of days. So, it’s vital to prepare for a worst-case scenario, meaning your event is able to go 100% virtual if needs be!

Have captivating and engaging event content

You want both of your audiences to be engrossed and engaged in the content you’re putting out! You should avoid the plain and boring ‘speakers on a panel’ content and invest in professional video production to provide a cinematic broadcasting experience for your audiences.

Ensuring you have high-quality video streaming is imperative in keeping your virtual audience engaged with your content.

Also, don’t forget to prep your speakers! Rehearsing with your in-person and virtual speakers prior to your event is absolutely crucial so they’re fully prepared to deliver the best possible content.

Have a proper post-event plan in place!

As hybrid events are quite a new concept to most, we are still learning and experimenting as time goes on. That’s why getting feedback from your attendees is crucial to be able to develop and enhance your future hybrid events. Using polls and surveys is a great way to get feedback from your audience.

Capturing your event analytics, including virtual and in-person attendee data, content views, time tuned-in, speaker insights, and more will also allow you to learn what went well, and what needs improving going forward. Many virtual event platforms allow you to gather this data easily, as well as monitoring peak engagement times.

Stay flexible

As mentioned above, it’s always good to have a backup plan, especially nowadays as we know to prepare for the unexpected. Here are a few tips to prepare your event for the unexpected:

  • Venue negotiation: Before signing anything, you should ensure there’s a section within your contract that saves you from a loss should another lockdown occur.
  • Production team flexibility: Ensure your production team are equipped to deliver your hybrid event completely virtually should the in-person element be unable to take place.
  • Speaker procedures: Brief all your in-person speakers for a virtual scenario. Include all the essential details in their speaker pack to reference if there are last-minute changes.
  • Attendee tickets: Have a plan in place to convert in-person tickets to virtual if needs be.

There we have it – our top tips for pulling off a successful hybrid event! It sounds like a lot of work, right? But hybrid events are an incredible way to reach and engage wider and bigger audiences, while reducing travel and energy consumption.

Events have transformed dramatically in the last 18 months and are continuing to change and develop at an increasing rate. So, it’s important to keep up with the industry and all it has to offer to maximise your opportunities through events!

Need help delivering your very own hybrid event? Get in touch today and we’ll help you ace hybrid events!

Author - Natalia Bate