Few will deny, live events are the best way to bring the best and brightest together to connect, inspire, and teach each other in a dynamic setting. But we have also learned the benefits to streaming our events, most notably access to a larger, broader audience. Just look at the 2021 NFL Draft producing the 3rd most watched draft in the history of the NFL by making this the perfect hybrid event.
Now, event planners can experience the best of both worlds with hybrid events. But be warned, planning a hybrid event isn’t as easy as simply merging your approaches. Follow our strategy to plan your next hybrid event, and your guests- both far and wide, virtual and live- will be excited they came.
Related: Van Wagner Launches New Website to Showcase Hybrid and Virtual Event Production
Planning Your Perfect Hybrid Event
Organizing a successful hybrid event necessitates a comprehensive strategy that merges aspects from both live and virtual settings.
To ensure all aspects of your hybrid event go smoothly, you need to think through potential issues that might surface, like navigating different time zones, mastering streaming platforms and software, and providing easy registration and check-in procedures…to name a few. So let’s get started, shall we?
Establish Your Hybrid Event Objectives
To deliver a successful and meaningful experience for everyone involved, from the hosts and presenters to the sponsors and participants, you need to define what your goals and objectives are. What are you hoping your business will gain from this event?
What do you want your attendees to take away from the event? Your sponsors and partners? These questions will guide you in deciding everything from the theme and structure of your event, to the content and presenters, as well as brainstorming what resources you will need to make it all happen. Remember as details become overwhelming that the goal is well worth the production effort to produce the perfect hybrid event.
Find Your Perfect Hybrid Event Production Partner
You’ve heard it before – Don’t try this at home. Global hybrid event production really should involve a professional hybrid event production firm. These teams have the experience in broadcasting technology, content production, graphic design, motion graphic development, virtual meeting room moderation, remote audience engagement and much more you may not consider when taking on a hybrid event. There are plenty of firms out there; Van Wagner Productions is a new division of Van Wagner Sports Productions now offering corporate virtual and hybrid event production. When seeking perfection, partner with leaders in the business and your message and engagement will be on cue.
Create Your Budget
To make your hybrid event memorable and cost-effective, you need to provide virtual and live attendees with an equally engaging experience, which entails allocating a good amount of your budget to a high-performing virtual event platform, as well as investing in additional software to manage registration and ticketing, reports, etc.
You’ll also want to consider extra costs associated with gift cards needed to offer virtual participants comparable food and drink options that are provided for your live guests.
Set Up Your Marketing Strategy
Marketing for a hybrid event isn’t drastically different from marketing for a virtual or live event, just a bit more complex. The trick is to make sure you are covering your basis for reaching each audience with the most compelling messaging. And although you do need a strong live attendance to succeed, the virtual component is a huge selling point and should be emphasized in all your content.
BUT, before you hit the pavement selling your event, you need to have an engaging event website built that has all the logistical, programming, and registration details needed to convert interested visitors on the spot.
Develop Strong Partnerships
Partnering with relevant brands and sponsors is a savvy tactic all the way around- expanding your audience and reach, increasing exposure and business for your partners, and enriching the experience for your attendees.
Seek out partners with something valuable to contribute, whether it be credibility, technology or expert presenters, and make sure you provide ample marketing and networking opportunities for them as well. And don’t forget to include them in your marketing strategy, tapping into their network and social channels to promote the event.
Compare the Virtual Event vs. In-Person Event Experience
You want to prepare both your online and in-person attendees equally, so they know what to expect and don’t miss out. Consider what information onsite participants might need (parking, accommodations, directions, etc.) that might differ from your virtual guests (technical assistance, background information and resources, etc).
And just like at a live event, you want your virtual event coordinator to update online participants on what’s coming next, incorporating ways to keep them entertained during breaks so you don’t lose them!
This is perhaps one of the most important steps that is often left out of the planning schedule…and could determine whether your event goes down as a hit or a sinking ship.
Rehearse! Schedule at least one (preferably more) test run of the event from both sides of the screen to make sure everything flows. This is also your chance to troubleshoot your technology to ensure all the bells and whistles are ready to go.
Tips For a Perfect Hybrid Event
Once you’ve mapped out your overall goals and strategy, it’s time to reflect on ways to fine tune your event and make it extraordinary. Here are a few tips to enhance the experience for both you and your attendees.
Related: Event Planning Guide: Hybrid Style
Know Your Audience
In hybrid events, your virtual and in-person audiences will have different needs and expectations. Brainstorming ways in which you can provide the most value for each audience will be critical in providing a meaningful, engaging experience for all.
For example, think about the level of knowledge your online participants will have on your topic vs. your live audience to gauge what content and resources you will need to provide. Also, consider how much importance will your online guests place on networking and relationship-building vs. education and training.
Place Priority On Your Digital Audience
Your virtual attendees need to feel like they are getting the same valuable experience as live participants, connecting with peers and presenters in meaningful ways.
One of the biggest challenges of a hybrid event is keeping virtual attendees as engaged as live attendees. Consider sending branded snack packs with note pads, ring light, and paddles for showing agreement or disagreement. Your presenters can now ask, please with a show of paddles, how many people have been challenged by this business obstacle – both audiences may participate and both audiences can see each other, making this engagement live and real on both sides.
Assigning one person solely dedicated to managing and engaging with virtual attendees will ensure they are happy and getting the attention they deserve. This same person can assign social media challenges and share feedback live on social channels.
Allow a Flexible Registration
Remember, registration is when most of your conversions happen, so you want your registration software to be powerful and flexible enough to handle the process.
First, you want to have a dedicated webpage that is quick and easy to find and use. Next, you want to make sure you create separate, personalized registration paths for your in-person vs virtual attendees so everyone is receiving the correct information and ends up in the right session at the right time.
Allow Flexible Access Options
One of the perks of a hybrid event is being able to reach more people from virtually anywhere in the world. But this also presents one of the challenges- accommodating various time zones and internet speeds.
Make sure your sessions are on-demand and participants know how and where to access them. It’s also a good idea to offer a couple of key live sessions at multiple times so people can engage in the experience and participate in Q&As.
Keep Content Engaging
Content at a hybrid event might be even more important, tasked with engaging live and virtual attendees equally. However, you might not always be able to deliver the same content in the same way for both audiences.
One way to connect your virtual and onsite audiences is by encouraging interactions via polling, contests, and Q&As. You can also emulate your live breakout sessions online, creating virtual spaces where smaller groups can gather and connect in a more intimate setting.
Related: What is the Difference Between a Virtual and Hybrid Event?
While nothing equals the deep level of engagement that happens at a live event, a hybrid event can allow you to reach people, virtually, who you would never have been able to otherwise, in much larger numbers. And once you dial in your approach- making both your live and virtual guests feel like they are equal participants in a shared, valuable experience- you might decide hybrid events are the only way to go.