While virtual events have been the default for a couple of years, hybrid is likely to become the norm long term.
One way brands kept audiences engaged during lockdowns was through virtual events. But as restrictions loosen and with vaccine rollouts, in-person events are returning.
Companies have realised the benefits of virtual events, such as saving costs or decreasing one’s carbon footprint. Therefore, they’re not looking to discard virtual events entirely but combine them with onsite events. Enter the hybrid model.
As people resume activities outside the home, the physical and virtual world are starting to collide as hybrid events. It occurs when you hold an event virtually and on-site simultaneously.
“We are seeing a heartening change back to more onsite physical events, where people gain in-person face time with one another,” explains our Lead Producer, Alex Chua. However, he notes that meetups are still on a relatively small scale. Therefore, a hybrid event is a way to go to hold an event on a global scale. “Going virtual not only makes economic sense, but it also allows business personnel worldwide to participate in the same event.”
A hybrid event gives your attendees and speakers a level of flexibility, meaning they can choose whether they’re able to attend in-person or virtually. This increases your reach and makes it easier to engage wherever they are. Thanks to technology, virtual attendees can engage like any in-person attendee would via live chats and polls, moderated Q&As and participate in video conferences or discussions.
One example was a recent Johnson & Johnson event we helped with. “As a global company with tens of thousands of staff, it’s not exactly possible to house all of them within a single venue, especially during this time. Therefore the hybrid approach works well,” says Alex.
He added that having a global event means our Singaporean technical crew must work together with other technicians across the region and offices to troubleshoot any issues that arise to ensure the event runs smoothly across the board. “The event was eventually well-received by both people on-site and virtually,” says Alex.
The potential of increased attendees also makes it easier for you to attract sponsorships. Brands have realised that hybrid events are not going anywhere, as 70% of respondents predicted that the hybrid model is the way to go post pandemic. They can set up virtual booths and assign one of their C-level executives as a speaker. By having booths on-site and virtually, they get double exposure and maximum coverage.
While it’s true that sponsors and yourself would need to fork out some money for the proper infrastructure, such as choosing the right video conferencing platform, an Internet provider with adequate bandwidth, and other components, you might save money in terms of goodie bags or catering. Not to mention, you’ll decrease your overall carbon footprint, endearing yourself to a more environmentally-conscious society today.
Regardless of the reason why you choose the hybrid route, there are several factors to consider to build a successful hybrid event:
Yes, having a hybrid event means you can invite anyone from anywhere without needing to shell out transportation and accommodation costs. However, coordinating speakers’ schedules will be crucial, especially if they’re speaking live. If you choose to pre-record it, you may have a little more leeway, but you exchange that with the excitement of going live.
Not only for the speakers, but the right time zone will also be crucial for your virtual attendees. While they can participate in the comfort of their own home, having the event at mealtime or late at night would deter them from joining. So, determining the goal and target audience of the event is a must before any larger-scale planning moves forward.
You can also offer on-demand content from the event itself, meaning audiences that miss the event can watch or stream the speeches and presentations anytime. This can be achieved by uploading it to your website and social media — so even non-attendees can enjoy your content — maximising the reach of your content even after it’s over.
When deciding on the venue, you must decide how many people you expect to attend. This allows you to plan how attendees are seated, adhering to health protocols and the like. Moreover, you’ll need to ensure that the venue has adequate internet speed to connect with remote attendees and speakers smoothly. Lastly, you would need to ensure there are technicians who can assist you when problems arise.
Choosing the right platform and software is essential to support your hybrid event. Ideally, the platform should come with the following features:
“The platforms available in the market are namely SpotMe, InEvent, and Hopin. All offer similar functions and features and essentially get the job done. Remember to consider the user interface though. Is it easy to use and intuitive for your audience? After all, these platforms only have a few seconds to engage the audience,” remarks Alex.
Aside from its user interface, Alex added that the platform’s stability and engagement tools should be taken into account, meaning how many people can log on during the event itself and what tools are available for you to engage with your audience.
“Deciding the total number of attendees should not only apply to on-site only, but to virtual as well. Choose a platform that has enough capability or capacity to “welcome” your attendees and have the right tools to engage them. Without it, your attendees will jump off and find an alternative.”
We’ve mentioned the importance of a host in enhancing your webinar experience. The same principle applies to your hybrid event. The host is the one who transitions your event from one part to the next, directs the flow, and engages your audience — similar to a ringmaster in a circus. Of course, the host must also be knowledgeable about the topic discussed at the event and personable to the audience and speakers.
“Businesses are transitioning to hybrid events, and it is here to stay. Before the pandemic, people had to attend an event in person or not at all. But, today, they are used to the option of being able to watch it live through streaming or watch it on-demand,” notes Alex.
Businesses must embrace hybrid events to better engage with audiences and customers effectively today. Not doing so will result in companies being overlooked and left behind in the marketplace.
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Click2View is Southeast Asia’s premiere full-service independent B2B content marketing agency servicing clients like Microsoft, Google, Visa, Prudential, and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.