Virtual events are growing in number and capabilities but many businesses are still looking for better opportunities or rather alternatives. One such alternative is: hybrid events.
As the world begins to sort-of adapt to the coronavirus pandemic, realizing that it’s not a temporary thing but rather a long-term situation, businesses, sectors, and industries are adapting to the new normal.
In the virtual events industry, one of those forms of adapting is the rise and development of hybrid events.
A 2021 survey of over 3,000 respondents found 34% of event organizers planning to “invest more in hybrid events in the next few years.” (Markletic)
But before we delve deeper, let’s first understand what hybrid events are. We’ll talk about how they work, what the top challenges are, and how to get the most out of them.
This article is the first in a series.
What is a hybrid event?
You’re familiar with in-person events and with virtual events.
Hybrid events are a mixture of these two event types.
Part of the event is in-person, with people mingling, exploring, and networking face-to-face, while the other half is in a virtual venue.
Attendees get to pick which part of the event they’d like to attend. They may opt for a mix themselves if they live in the same city where the event is held.
According to Markletic’s survey, 57% of respondents said they’d prefer the in-person version of the hybrid event over the virtual one.
Hybrid events may be small with a few hundred attendees or large with thousands of participants.
Generally speaking though, the hybrid experience requires more effort because the event is carried out partially on a platform (or more if you include social media) and partially in a physical venue.
Roughly 38% of event organizers told Markletic that hybrid events require more time to prepare “compared to hosting a dedicated in-person or virtual event.”
Statistics for hybrid events
To better understand the hybrid experience, let’s look at some statistics.
Since this event type is more-or-less new, naturally it comes with some challenges.
- 35% of organizers struggle to find “the right venue” to host the event.
- 46% said their event speakers struggled to engage the virtual and in-person audiences at the same time.
- Nearly 33% of organizers experience connectivity issues during the event.
- Nearly half (49%) of organizers surveyed said they had issues when it came to scheduling the event for an international audience across multiple time zones.
But don’t worry. It’s not all dismal for the up-and-coming hybrid experience. According to the Markletic survey:
- Over 2 thirds (86%) of B2B organizations “see a positive” return on investment (ROI) from their hybrid events “7 months after the event date.”
This shows that while it does take a while for the ROI to settle for companies, it’s generally a positive outcome.
Another survey by Bizzabo (from 2020) showed that event marketers expect 2021 to see more hybrid events “than ever before.”
In addition, 59.4% of event marketers believe the “hybrid solution” will be “a key part of their 2021 event strategy.”
Here are a few more stats:
- In terms of measuring the success of a hybrid event, 89% of organizers use “attendee satisfaction”, while 23% use the Net Promoter Score (NPS).
- For B2B organizations, “pipeline generated” is their top success metric for hybrid events
- Around 66% of organizers say live sessions increase audience engagement and overall event success.
Hybrid events: The Pros and Cons
You’ve seen some of the challenges businesses face when hosting a hybrid event along with some attractive stats.
But let’s get into the deets with the pros and cons of the hybrid experience.
First: The Pros of Hybrid Events
In a way, the hybrid experience offers similar benefits to those of virtual events.
1. A combined offering
The reason hybrid events are making waves these days is because both attendees and businesses long for in-person communication.
Remember when you could walk up to a booth or people in a business-match-making session and converse face-to-face?
Many people miss that. And many others believe they aren’t getting the same impact of an in-person event in the virtual one. Still, some prefer the virtual setting, while others are afraid to get sick so their best solution would be a virtual event.
So what now?
The answer: Hybrid Events.
This is where businesses try to get the best of both worlds: The online experience and the in-person experience.
2. Large and diverse audience
Since the hybrid solution offers a virtual experience, it’s able to attract a large and diverse audience from across the globe.
With the opportunity to attend virtually, attendees from different countries and time zones can join your event.
In addition, people who would have had to travel or drive long distances to attend in-person wouldn’t struggle with this since there’s a virtual option.
3. No fear of getting sick
With the virtual side of the event, health-conscious attendees and those who heed social distancing measures won’t have to worry. They can attend from the comfort of their homes.
4. Big opportunity for engagement
In a hybrid setting, you’re operating on two levels, which means you have the opportunity to engage your attendees both virtually and in-person.
That said, and this is one of the cons of hybrid events, you’ll need to cater to two types of audiences.
You can use different engagement ideas so both you and your audience can get the most out of the event.
5. Keep track with a mobile app
One of the things that help attendees engage and stay active in your virtual event experience is having a mobile app that allows them to network, engage, and respond to polls.
The mobile app can also help attendees on both sides of the hybrid event engage and connect at the same time. It’s one app for the whole event experience.
If you’re using Eventtus for the virtual side of your hybrid event, you get to use the mobile app for your event.
Second: The cons of hybrid events
When the world had to shift to everything-virtual, many businesses forgot the hard work they had to put in physical events.
And since the hybrid event offers an in-person experience, it comes with the downsides of physical events.
1. Longer time to plan
In-person events can take up to a year to plan. Hybrid events share this issue and even more of it because businesses have to plan two sides of an event.
2. Needs a bigger budget
One of the benefits of a virtual event is that it costs a lot less than a physical one. The hybrid event requires a bigger marketing budget than the virtual and in-person experiences.
That said, as an event organizer, you can cover much of the cost from your exhibitors, sponsors, and tickets. But the cost of the event may result in higher ticket prices for your attendees.
3. May cause confusion among attendees
One of the top problems businesses who conducted hybrid events struggled with was connecting the virtual audience with the in-person side of the event.
According to Markletic’s survey, 39% of hybrid event attendees who attended virtually said “they felt not included in the event.”
4. Health concerns because of packed areas
The reason hybrid events are growing is because of the pandemic.
However, you’ll need to address health concerns and attempt to reduce crowding in the physical side of your event.
Networking in hybrid events
Networking is an important factor whether it’s a virtual, hybrid, or in-person event. There’s no doubt about that.
In fact, many attendees say they prefer the in-person experience because it helps them network better.
According to Markletic’s survey “81% of event organizers say that networking capabilities are a key contributor to audience satisfaction of hybrid events.”
No surprise there. The top 2 reasons attendees go to events is for 1) education, and 2) networking.
As an event organizer, you’ll need to consider attendees on both sides of your event and create a number of ways to engage them.
While there may be engagement opportunities that work for participants attending virtually or physically, like polling, you’ll need to consider creating different engagement options for each side of your event.
How to create a successful hybrid event
The hybrid event planning process resembles prepping for physical event in many ways. So, if you’ve hosted in-person events before, you’re half way there.
To help you create a successful hybrid experience, we’ve compiled a list of 8 tips.
1. Choose a theme and create an agenda
The first step in creating any event is to know what the main theme or idea is and create a tentative agenda.
Knowing what you’re going to focus on, what you’re going to talk about, and what your speakers will discuss is the foundation of event planning.
2. Define your goals and KPIs
The second step is to list your goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) for achieving those goals.
You need to know the ‘why’ behind your event. Why are you creating a hybrid experience? Is it branding, awareness, authority-building, lead-generation? A combination of these?
Write down your goals and how you can achieve them through your event.
3. Determine your budget
Your hybrid event budget is extremely important. But you already know that. Once you’ve laid down the basics, you need to determine how much of your marketing budget will go to this hybrid event.
If you’re planning several events during the year, determine how much you’re going to spend on each of them.
For budgeting, you’ll need to allocate a sum to the virtual event platform you’re going to use and a larger sum to the physical venue.
Don’t forget your speakers and any helping hands you might want to hire for the event.
You’ll also need to determine how much you’re going to spend marketing your event.
4. Find virtual and physical venues for your event
You’re creating a hybrid event, which means you’ll need two venues: a virtual one and a physical one.
Once you sign up, you’ll be redirected to a quick demo explaining all the perks of the Eventtus virtual platform.
5. Segment your audience
One of the most important steps in conducting virtual and hybrid events is knowing who your audience is and dividing them into segments.
The thing is, your hybrid event will attract various audiences and segments. You need to be aware of who you are talking to and who you’re engaging and networking with.
Remember that what works for one side of your hybrid event may not work for the other.
6. Take precautions
Since part of your event will be in a physical location, the pandemic has mandated that event organizers take precautions and encourage social distancing.
Your attendees will have to wear their masks at all times. And as an organizer, you’ll need to ensure that workshops and networking groups don’t get too crowded.
You may want to check with the physical event venue about their precautions as well.
7. Be prepared for engagement and networking
Part of being an event organizer is keeping your audience engaged.
In a hybrid event setting, that’s two multi-segment audiences across two locations (the virtual venue and the physical one).
Check out our list of creative virtual networking ideas and tips to keep your online audience engaged.
Make sure your virtual audience doesn’t feel left out.
8. Don’t forget your sponsors and exhibitors
Your sponsors and exhibitors are very important to any event, virtual, physical, or hybrid.
You’ll need to explain to them how hybrid events work, what to expect, and see if they want a virtual booth, a physical one or both.
We’ve created list of tips for event organizers, sponsors, and exhibitors who aren’t familiar with having a virtual booth.
To sum up
Hybrid events offer opportunities and difficulties at the same time. In a way, the benefit of having an in-person side of the event also acts as a downside.
But this duality isn’t hindering businesses from conducting hybrid events. After all, both people and businesses are longing for the physical experience. So, there’s a growing need.
So if you’re planning a hybrid experience, look again at the success tips we’ve mentioned and use them to create a successful hybrid experience.
For the virtual side of your event, check out Eventtus’ new demo (when you sign up). If you’re using Eventtus for the first time, you get $250 in credit to try out the virtual platform.
Got questions about virtual or hybrid events? Leave them in the comments below.