The benefits of virtual events are well documented; increased audience sizes and sponsor opportunities, lower costs, inclusive and more environmentally friendly to mention just a few.
On the flip side people still want to attend events in-person, even if it’s just some events, some of the time.
Best of Both Worlds
Combining in-person and virtual event attendance to deliver the best of both formats gives us the hybrid event.
While we may think of hybrid events as simply a mix of virtual and in-person attendees, hybrid events take many forms.
Think of all the stakeholders and imagine any combination of in-person and virtual participation. For example, a hybrid event may consist of speakers presenting in person at a venue or studio to an entirely remote audience.
Or, speakers and attendees could be a mix of virtual and in-person participants. In addition, sponsors and exhibitors may have a virtual and/or a physical presence.
As the majority of hybrid events include in-person and virtual attendees we’ll focus on one of the key considerations for this format: ensuring virtual attendees don’t feel like second class participants.
Catering for and connecting both groups is key. Hybrid event platforms can help as they drive both audiences to use technology to effectively participate together in key aspects of the event.
For example, live audience polling and Q&A at a conference.
In-person attendees have been using technology to answer polls and to submit questions to speakers for more than two decades. In a hybrid event setting both audiences use the same hybrid platform for polling and Q&A, in-person attendees most likely on their phones, and remote attendees on desktop computers, laptops or any mobile device.
Both audiences can also use the hybrid event’s chat function, the private activity feed and of course any social media associated with the event.
Conference Sessions and Breakouts
When it comes to conference sessions, in-person attendees tuning into concurrent sessions in other rooms is not a new idea. This have been facilitated by a variety of devices and headphones over the years.
In the new world of hybrid events, platforms allow in-person attendees to tune into the live stream of any concurrent session no matter where in the venue they are, blurring the lines between in-person and virtual attendance.
Conferences often include smaller breakout sessions. Event planners can leverage the breakout room functionality within hybrid platforms to include remote attendees in these small group discussions. An onsite AV team can manage the audio and projection of virtual attendees on screen in the room.
Attendee networking is often thought to be exclusive to in-person events, with virtual attendee networking deemed clunky and uninspiring.
This is no longer the case. The tech to facilitate virtual attendee networking has improved manifold. Virtual attendees can ‘bump’ into each other in dedicated networking rooms, easily join and politely withdraw from video chat discussions, just as they would in person.
They can also select which individuals or groups to interact with based on their topics of interest. In the case of hybrid events, planners have the opportunity to include multiple networking sessions – some virtual and some in-person at concurrent and/or at alternate times.
Running these aspects of the event through your hybrid event platform puts both audiences on an entirely equal footing.
If You Need To Switch
Hybrid events also have another string to their bow. It’s quicker and easier to switch from a hybrid event to a virtual event than it is from an exclusively in-person event to a virtual event, if government restrictions change suddenly.
A small mercy for event planners whose job is listed as the fifth most stressful on the planet…and that was before Covid struck!