You may have heard somewhere or from someone that it will be a while until large live events could be a thing again. With so many restrictions and preventative measures to quell the effects of COVID-19 worldwide, virtual events became the new norm for the event industry.
However, it soon became apparent that engaging the audience through a virtual event has been a challenge. As we now move into 2021, fewer restrictions exist, but with no immediate cure for COVID-19, some people are still reluctant to expose themselves to large gatherings. Yet, with controlled environments and careful precautions, live events are slowly making a comeback. Faced with these circumstances, many event planners have begun to host hybrid events to fulfil both safety and more engagement.
Let’s take a look at how you can successfully host a hybrid event.
Why Should You Host a Hybrid Event?
If you are looking to attract a wider audience and create engagement, hybrid events are the way to go. A hybrid event caters to two different audiences, the audience who physically attends your event and the audience who joins the event online from a computer or mobile device. In general, more people would prefer to attend physically. However, with the pandemic still looming in the background, the majority of your attendees have to attend your event virtually. With that being the case, it is much better to host a hybrid event because it will allow you to have a physical audience and an even larger virtual audience. The experience of a hybrid event is more dynamic and fun for the audiences. Hybrid events make for a livelier and exciting experience for those physically present and those watching online. And more importantly, hybrid events are quickly on the rise.
1. Plan Effectively
The first rule is to plan effectively. This rule is crucial and essential for the integrity and overall success of a hybrid event. To plan effectively means to consider and factor-in every possible aspect and component of a hybrid event. As an event planner, you have to be meticulous and attentive. The best way to achieve this is to collect as much information as you can. You can narrow down everything you need to know by thinking about and answering the following questions. Your responses will help you sort out everything you need to do, like the things you need and jotting down some hybrid event ideas that could work for you.
Consider the following questions to plan your next hybrid event effectively:
- What do you need, and what do you want?
- What does your target audience need, and what do they want?
- How can you prepare your audiences to attend a hybrid event?
- What are the expectations of your sponsors, exhibitors, presenters, speakers, and organization?
- Which event software provider do you plan to use?
- What is your event marketing strategy?
- What kind of equipment do you need?
- What kind of venue do you need?
- What’s your budget?
- How long will the online sessions be?
- What opportunities can you create to keep those watching online engaged?
- Can your team fulfill all the essential tasks and handle any possible issues in a hybrid event, or will you need to hire additional help or outsource?
2. Set Your Goals
It is essential to note down what you want to achieve by the end of it all. A hybrid event requires clear and realistic objectives. With your online audience, you will most likely encounter issues with engagement. So it is crucial to center some of your goals around achieving audience engagement. Keep in mind that you need to consider two different audiences at the same time. If you don’t, you might compromise the quality of service for one type of audience over another. To avoid any shortcomings, make sure always to include both audiences when setting your goals.
3. Find a Suitable Venue
For hybrid events, you will need a venue for your attendees who will be physically present. The venue should be suitable for your in-person attendees in a way that you will be able to engage and entertain them. The venue should also be ideal for the presenters and the camera. Remember, the event will be live-streamed, so impressions, the setting, and event aesthetics matter. Despite all this, you don’t need an expensive venue with a lot of space, especially when most of your attendees will be attending online. You will need to place special attention on the live streaming quality and bandwidth capabilities of the venue. It is harder to keep an online audience engaged than to keep your in-person audience engaged. Therefore, make it a priority to find a venue that will ensure optimal streaming capabilities and meet all the technical prerequisites to host a hybrid event. Ultimately, remember to be wise with your expenditures while focusing on quality.
4. Prepare for Your Participants
To properly prepare for your participants, you should first know how many participants will attend physically and virtually. Even if you don’t know the exact number, it is better to have a rough estimate than nothing at all. Knowing a rough count will allow you to plan early to set up a seating plan that is consistent with social distancing rules. By doing this, you will also have the opportunity to determine the best camera angles to bring the event to life for those watching remotely from a device. You want everyone to feel connected to the event experience, so getting those nice camera shots of the crowd and speakers is fundamental to provide a live experience. With that said, to further prepare for your online audience, design your event set up with your online audience in mind. Think about their perspective and how they will view the event online. The event should look exciting to give the online audience a feeling of being at the actual event. On how to format your live stream screen and picture settings, it would be best to consult an expert on live streaming.
5. Technical Support and Equipment
An excellent example of a hybrid event includes technical support and equipment suitable for a live event and a virtual event. Essentially, you will require the best of both. Therefore, you will have to devote more time and energy to satisfy both audiences. Again, don’t compromise on the quality of audio and video for one group over another.
Consider the following when planning to host a hybrid event:
- Set up good lighting at the venue for the live event and live streaming.
- Know how to use the event management software you will use to live stream and interact with your online audience.
- Find the right equipment to host a hybrid event (microphones, HD cameras, tripods, video transcoders, and other essentials).
- Prepare and brief a technical support team to avoid any issues.
- Test your equipment and software to ensure you can reach optimal audio and video quality.
6. Staff Support
If you want to produce a more pleasing experience for your audience at the venue and online, you will need professional support. Consider hiring the help of the following professionals:
- Digital event managers
- A video recording crew, and, if possible, a photographer.
- A social media team.
- Event hosts and moderators.
- A sound engineer.
- A video engineer.
- Technical staff.
- Event staff.
If your team already consists of such professionals, that’s great. If not, then it would be wise to outsource these professionals.
7. Choose the Right Virtual Event Platform
To achieve a good example of a hybrid event, you will need to use a virtual event platform. With the right event software technology, you can provide a better service to your attendees online. The event platform options to choose from are plentiful, so you will have to keep your needs and objectives in mind when choosing the right software for your hybrid event. Many platforms include a wide variety of tools for audience engagement, management, and marketing. To better find what you need, try testing out platform demos before you commit to a software. And create your criteria of what particular platform features and tools are essential for you to employ.
8. Communicate Frequently with the Attendees
Whether your attendees are physically present or watching online, it is crucial to communicate frequently with the attendees. Ensure that the event presenters, the social media team, the staff, and moderators are all briefed on maintaining frequent communication with the attendees, especially online. Find ways to create discussions and open up opportunities for the attendees to ask questions. More interaction means more activity and more exposure for your event. A moderator or a host would be a lot of help in encouraging attendee participation and communication. Attendees can be motivated to share content, such as photos, videos, and comments. For this, hashtags in social media are also helpful.
9. Test Your Livestream
It’s always wise to test your live stream before your event goes live. You never know what kind of issues or technical difficulties could appear out of the blue. If you want to avoid choppy or lagging video quality, faulty audio, a frozen live stream, or any other difficulties that hinder your live stream’s overall quality and integrity, test it beforehand. It will save a lot of trouble.
10. Engage the Audience and Keep them Engaged
Audience engagement is perhaps the most important factor to execute well during a virtual or hybrid event. As an event planner, engaging the participation and attention of online attendees should be a priority. It is easy for online attendees to drift away from an online event with so many distractions at home or on their mobile devices. One notification from another app can quickly hijack the attendee’s attention away from the hybrid event. As such, it is always better to develop strategies to engage the audience and keep them engaged.
In a hybrid event, you will need to think about engaging your in-person audience and your online audience. To prepare a sound engagement strategy that will help with both groups, consider the following questions:
- What kind of polls, contests, and Q&As can you have at the event?
- How do you plan to motivate your attendees to participate and engage?
- How can you encourage your attendees to interact with the speaker, exhibitors, sponsors, or presenters?
- What kind of networking and mingling opportunities can you provide for the attendees?
- What kind of software features and tools do you plan to employ to engage with the attendees?
11. Be Flexible
Hosting a hybrid event is not an easy task. A hybrid event caters to two different kinds of audiences. For this reason, an event planner should be flexible in every way to satisfy both audiences. Hybrid event ideas from other event planners are useful during the planning stage. Coming up with hybrid event ideas and testing them out is also helpful. Hybrid event ideas will help you become more flexible in trying out new experimental approaches until you find the right one for you.
With times changing fast, new options to host events are becoming readily available. Today the opportunity to host a live event and a virtual event simultaneously is a real possibility that many in the event industry are enjoying. The latest event management technology for hybrid events also makes it more convenient and comfortable for event planners to try new things and be more flexible with hosting events. For example, hybrid events have been quite an ingenious idea for events to gain more exposure, reach out to a larger audience, and deliver unforgettable moments. Try hosting a hybrid event today, it’s never too late to join this emerging trend.