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Planning a Hybrid Event – The guide

The events industry is facing its most challenging period ever, and the pandemic isn’t going away any time soon. As a result, event planners have had to completely pivot the way they run events, bringing them online and working hard to make sure they flourish in a different environment. 

But while the events industry has moved online, the need for in-person human interaction still prevails. And, as and when restrictions start to be lifted, hybrid events will become a big part of how events are run, offering attendees the best of both worlds.

So in this article, we examine what exactly hybrid events are, how to plan one, and what you need to do in order to make yours successful.

What is a hybrid event?

A hybrid event is any type of event that combines traditional, in-person elements with “virtual” components. This means people can attend the same event either in person, or online using virtual event software. The content is created and adapted to reach both the in-person attendees and the virtual ones equally over the same time frame. 

Why a hybrid event right now?

Hybrid elements were already becoming popular in the event industry before the pandemic. But the pandemic has paved the way for hybrid events to become the new normal after social distancing protocols are relaxed. There are a couple of key reasons for this. 

Firstly, hybrid events offer a safe way to participate in events without having to attend in person. Since the pandemic started, people have become used to attending events virtually, and the convenience and safety of doing so will remain post-pandemic, despite eased restrictions. Meanwhile, attendees who want to access the more human element of the event will be able to physically attend. 

Secondly, hybrid events open events up to people who would otherwise be restricted by location  – effectively you can attend from anywhere in the world. This offers event organisers a new opportunity to reach more people with their event content without the geographic restrictions faced with just an in-person event. This bigger audience reach can help them to achieve more of their event goals.

It’s undeniable that for event planners, hybrid events offer a unique opportunity to reap the benefits of both virtual and in-person events at the same time. But, it’s important to balance the pros and cons of hybrid events before deciding to plan one.

Pros and cons of a hybrid event

Hybrid events are being pitched as the future of event planning, an ideal compromise. On paper, they strike a balance, offering something for guests who want human interaction and guests who seek the safety and convenience of virtual attendance. 

But despite such promises, there are pros and cons, and as an event planner, it’s important you understand what these are.

Benefits of hybrid events

 

They’re safer for in-person guests 

In a COVID-19 world, hybrid events are considered safer than traditional in-person events. That’s because they allow you to include all the aspects of your original event plan without worrying about overcrowding, making it easier to implement things like 50% capacity and two metre social distancing.

They’re more eco-friendly

The fewer in-person guests you have at an event, the less energy resources you need and the less waste you produce. This means hybrid events are naturally more eco-friendly than traditional in-person events. The virtual aspects of the hybrid events also make them a great option if you’re looking to green your events.

They allow you to reach more guests 

Hybrid events allow you to attract your local target audience with the in-person element of your event, while also giving you much more scope to attract people from all over the world. This means you have a wider audience reach, while still enjoying the benefits and status of an in-person event.

They can be cheaper to run

Taking half of your event online means that you might be able to save money on variable costs such as attendee parking, refreshments and snacks and the cost of your event venue. Depending on your event, hybrid events might help you reach more attendees without spending the same as you would normally.

Cons of a hybrid event

Potential issues with internet connection and connectivity 

A key problem with running hybrid events is dealing with poor internet connection. Poor connectivity can mean virtual attendees don’t get the full event experience, making engagement difficult. It can even result in frustration and event abandonment. 

Extra planning and organisation resources

A hybrid event combines aspects from virtual and in-person events, leaving more elements to plan compared with planning a singular event type. Event planners need to understand how to plan both types of events and pull them together harmoniously. This can add pressure to the event planning process. Remember – to plan a hybrid event well, you’re essentially planning two versions of the same event.

Getting sponsors onboard

Sponsors may be less receptive to getting involved with hybrid events. They may be concerned about a lack of exposure compared with traditional in-person events. Technology and marketing plans need to be shared with sponsors in order to convince them that interaction and attendance will still give them the exposure they want. 

Cybersecurity risks

The virtual element of hybrid events means they are more susceptible to cybersecurity hacks and stability issues. High quality, up-to-date operating platforms and software architecture is needed in order to avoid risks around security. This can accrue additional costs and management which might add to overall event outgoings. 

SDASM Archives via Flickr

Tips for planning a hybrid event

Now you understand the benefits and drawbacks of hybrid events, you can decide if a hybrid event is right for you. Planning a hybrid event is basically the undertaking of planning a singular virtual event and an in-person event simultaneously – so can come with new challenges. So let’s explore what you need to consider when planning your hybrid event. 

1. Finding the right hybrid-friendly event venue 

As with all in-person events, hybrid or not, your event venue is crucial. For a successful hybrid event you require a stable and fast internet connection, more connectivity than a normal in-person event. Your venue must be able to accommodate this to a very high standard.

In order for the virtual element of your hybrid event to run smoothly, your venue needs to be fully equipped with: 

  • a dedicated internet connection that allows high bandwidth, low latency for live streaming purposes
  • great sound and audiovisual offering to minimise ambient noise while streaming 
  • extra safe internet for added cyber security 

Make sure your venue can accommodate these needs – otherwise you might find yourself needing to cover the additional costs of internet or audiovisual equipment on top of your venue rental. To avoid issues, choose a venue that has a proven track record of hosting events with hybrid elements. 

Aside from connectivity, your event venue must also have experience managing events in a pandemic world, including reduced capacities and increased hygiene measures. 

At 20 Bedford Way, we offer a range of different event spaces at affordable prices, complete with excellent internet connection that supports live streaming. Our event venues are thoroughly cleaned to COVID-secure standards. 

2. Invest in the right virtual event software

For the virtual side of your hybrid event, you’ll need foolproof virtual event software that doesn’t falter. Our article about how to plan a virtual event is full of ideas and information about which software is best for virtual attendance.

Finding the right event platform for your hybrid event depends on your own specific needs, although connectivity, ease of usability and adaptations that allow for meaningful interactions are crucial. You need to make sure that virtual guests have effective tools to help them network and interact with the talks as easily as the in-person guests.

For hybrid events, you also need software that can support live streaming. On top of this, you want them to have features such as: 

  • Virtual lobbies/rooms for networking
  • Public and private chats
  • User polls
  • Sponsor areas and ads
  • Reporting on user engagement metrics

And remember – finding and investing in the right software is important in making your virtual guests feel as valued as your in-person guests. After all, there will usually be a charge to attend, and expect to receive the same amount of care and attention to their needs.

3. Create interactive content that can be enjoyed by everyone

If event planners have learned anything over the last few months, it’s that content is king. Since more events have had to become virtual, the power of accessible, good content has been key in attracting attendees. 

As hybrid events become more popular, content will remain important, but it will also need to be easily accessed by both your virtual and in-person attendees. 

This may mean creating different versions of the content for each audience. For example, a live talk at your event venue may be live streamed to virtual attendees with the option for them to interact. Alternatively, lower budget hybrid events may choose to film and then upload event content for virtual attendees to access after the talk is over. 

It’s up to you to decide how you want your virtual guests to experience your content and make adjustments accordingly, but finding a way to interact with the audience through the screen is crucial.

You can do this by: 

  • Using a platform that allows you to see the audience’s faces so speakers can react 
  • Asking guests to add questions, interact in the live chat 
  • Having different tiers of guests – those who pay more for a ticket can play a more interactive role in the event.

4. Decide how you’ll charge for your tickets

For hybrid events, you will need to decide if both types of attendees pay the same fee. 

This can be difficult, but the best way to approach this decision is to assess if there’s a difference in value and experience for each type of attendee.

If you have planned your hybrid event well and fairly, both audiences should: 

  • have access to the same content, albeit in different formats
  • both be protected from physical and virtual danger (for example cyber attacks for virtual attendees and health risks for in-person ones)
  • be able to interact with the event in real time, or as close to real time as possible

If your event manages to do all these things for both audiences, charging the same for each type of ticket is totally valid. However, if your virtual attendees won’t receive the same amount of attention, it’s fair to reduce the cost of their event ticket.

The Library of Virginia via Flickr

How to run a hybrid event on a budget

The events industry has been hit hard over the last few months, so if you’re running your event on a smaller budget, there are still ways to incorporate some hybrid elements to your event effectively, without spending too much. 

These include: 

  • Film your event and grant access to online attendees after the event has finished, instead of live streaming,
    • This reduces the need to live stream the event, which in turn means internet connection and live streaming capabilities are less important  
  • Choose affordable event venues to host your in-person event
  • Work with sponsors to help you cover the extra costs involved in a hybrid event
  • Use non-paid software or tools such as the Story feature on Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn to live stream key talks and take questions from viewers 

Hybrid events at 20 Bedford Way 

 

There’s no doubt that 2021 will continue to challenge the events industry but there is light at the end of the tunnel for event professionals. With the internet on your side, there are endless possibilities for you to continue to innovate around events, meeting your goals and keeping your attendees happy – no matter how they attend.  

If you’re looking for an event venue to host your hybrid event, 20 Bedford Way is here to help. Our central London venue is fully equipped with high speed internet, audio visual equipment and fully trained event staff who can help you pull off your event – affordably and within your budget.

For more information, call us today on 020 7612 6143.

 

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