Hybrid events are here to stay, and venues and planners must continue to work together to maximize the opportunity presented by this unique — and challenging — event type. Luckily, there are plenty of professionals who have already begun to pave the way. And what better way to learn than from those who have been there before? That's where these hybrid event examples come in.
Thanks to the help of hosts, attendees, planners, and industry news sources, we’ve gathered a variety of hybrid event examples from 2020 and on to serve as inspiration. This list includes the use of different technologies, location types, industries, and much more. The throughline? Every example can, in one way or another, serve as a practical model for hybrid events moving forward.
Discover 5 of our favorite hybrid event examples from 2020 and beyond:
1. WEC Grapevine
Meeting Professionals International became a leader in how to host hybrid events when they put on their signature education event, WEC Grapevine, in November 2020. The event took place virtually and at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center, which took significant health and safety cleanliness standards to ensure attendee and guest safety.
"MPI set out to show how to safely bring back business meetings and events," wrote MPI's Rich Luna in an article titled WEC Grapevine: Safe and Successful. "In the process, the association delivered much more with its signature education event, the World Education Congress (WEC)."
MPI's work included making critical choices based on limited information, providing duty of care, and working collaboratively to adjust to the realities of this complex event type.
"Live events are changing, and MPI’s WEC Grapevine is providing the blueprint," reads a section on WEC Grapevine's website. "Presented both live in-person and live digitally (no canned, pre-recorded content), WEC Grapevine is a first-of-its-kind experience; two events, planned and executed simultaneously with one remarkable takeaway — to move our profession into recovery. The learnings are focused on what you need now, in an environment tailored to the future of how attendees will engage."
The "can't-miss event for people who produce events" totaled 1,739 attendees — 608 in-person, 1,131 virtual — and paved the way for 2021's version of the event, which will also be hybrid.
“I could not be any prouder of our team that was the first to author a robust Duty of Care for our industry,” said MPI COO Darren Temple. “We took what we knew to be the best standards in a pandemic, and coupled them with our own innovative and rigorous expectations, and the rest was a (duty of care) that is now the standard.
“I was also so impressed with all of the live registrants that did a magnificent job of protecting each other by adhering to social distancing and wearing a mask. Without the support and protection of our live community, we could not have made WEC the success it was.”
Many attendees echoed MPI's sentiments, including Zoe Moore, who said she "observed a lot of protocols that put me at ease" upon arrival.
“There were hand sanitizing stations, temperature check points, floor signage, staff reminding attendees to ‘mask up y’all,’ and several other methods used to ensure safety of attendees.
“I had a pleasant time at WEC seeing industry professionals that I haven’t met in person or seen in a while. While it was difficult to not hug and embrace, I felt a sense of responsibility to everyone to do the right thing. MPI had protocols in place and reminders to connect with the elbow bump.”
Annette Gregg, senior vice president for experience at MPI, said that the event "delivered exactly what we were hoping to do: demonstrate how we can hold conferences and convene audiences safely.
"We didn’t sacrifice any of the experiential elements: excellent education, great entertainment, participatory activities, exemplary food and beverage. Through detailed safety protocols with our venues and suppliers, constant and clear communication to our attendees and vigilant monitoring onsite, we created an environment where people felt safe and they could focus on connecting with each other. And our digital event showed a level of production and quality that truly put the digital participant at the center, as part of the show. It was unlike any other digital production done in our industry.”
2. The 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards
It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of hybrid event examples, but 2020's installation of the Primetime Emmy Awards was just that.
The event was hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, who was live on location at Los Angeles' Staples Center. But instead of being joined by an audience, he was accompanied by cardboard cutouts of celebrities and a few select presenters. Everyone else, including hundreds of nominees, tuned in from various locations around the world.
So, how did this hybrid event achieve such success? It's all in the details.
According to PCMA, "producers sent camera kits to the nominees’ locations. If their comfort level and local COVID-19 safety regulations allowed, film crews set up the shots to achieve the best quality possible. The result was an evening of livestreams free of the echoing, pausing, and glitching so many of us have become accustomed to in our Zoom meetings."
The takeaways? Great audio and video equipment and the use of several different on-location filming spots help keep people safe while also entertaining audiences staying safe at home.
3. Wonder Women Tech
October 2021's Wonder Women Tech has transformed from in-person to hybrid, giving attendees the option to tune in virtually or join the fun at the Long Beach Convention Center. The venue will feature "state-of-the-art safety precautions, and a wide-open arena with an outdoor venue for safe distancing and interaction."
To help accommodate hybrid events, Long Beach Convention Center's turnkey onsite facilities now also include turnkey digital interactivity, making it easy for Wonder Women Tech and others to run their events smoothly. In addition to providing fully scalable indoor and outdoor spaces, the Long Beach Convention Center offers engagement strategies for live chat, social media integration, and remote interactivity. They also offer audience interaction technologies such as live, live stream, interactive, and on-demand.
At Wonder Women Tech, the venue's in-person stage will host 150+ speakers, musical performances, and more, while the event's virtual offerings include workshops, speaker series, networking hangouts, a virtual career fair, and so on.
"It's the collision of IRL, in real life, and IRT, in real-time," said Long Beach CVB innovation strategist Amy Blackman in a video on the organization's website. "It's the future of how we will experience events."
4. Impact Weekend Live with Maya Elious
The organizers of this February 2021 event had to think on their feet as they encountered major unforeseen and last-minute changes. In an interview with Cvent, Jillian Smith, owner and director of OneTouch Events, explained how the annual event was quickly transitioned to hybrid.
“This ticketed event was reimagined late in 2020”, shared Smith, “when we were forced to change our in-person attendance due to local city ordinances. We quickly mobilized a virtual strategy to support the over 250 ticket sales, to support roughly 120 in person and all others via an online platform. This was an undertaking of epic proportions as we in the event community were all new to the hybrid model with pandemic policies and procedures that must be in place for a safe, socially distant, and governmental compliant, gathering.”
Smith said that OneTouch Events worked to make the virtual experience mimick the in-person one, providing attendees with "at-home swag boxes, materials, virtual event check-in/registration, and online support before and during the course of the event week.”
Combining physical and virtual elements like this goes above and beyond the traditional hybrid event that solely relies on live-streaming and recorded sessions to engage attendees.
Another component of the success of this hybrid event example, of course, was strict testing and rule-following.
“The in-person experience was modified with registration groupings to reduce headcount in a single space, implementation of a Pre-Event Covid Negative Campaign, where no attendee or staff member were permitted onsite without a valid COVID negative test result three days prior to the event," said Smith. "Floor plans, meal service, and other onsite activations required 6' of distance and contactless methods to promote and ensure a not-a-superspreader event! ... And we were not!”
5. Design Hive LA
Design Hive is an arts and education center and event venue based in Los Angeles. They specialize in hands-on workshops but had to take their classes virtual in 2020. Now, they’ve moved to an innovative hybrid event model with both in-person and virtual attendees for most of their events.
Next up on their calendar? Happy Hour: Resin Cheeseboard. This one-off event is led by an expert artisan who will provide a step-by-step tutorial on how to design, mix, and pour your own marbled serving paddle.
Those who join the event at the studio will also enjoy light refreshments with plenty of safety measures in place to ensure peace of mind. Meanwhile, those who tune in from home will receive a materials kit plus a customized wine and cheese pairing menu to go along with their new creation.
Other upcoming hybrid events on their calendar include hands-on game design, block print aprons, and LED felt monster plushie making. As they raise money for the construction of an outdoor workshop and to expand their digital community, these hybrid events will be vital to their continued success.
Put these hybrid event examples to good use!
Up next, take a deeper dive into hybrid events with our guide: Hybrid Events for Venues: How to Prepare for the Future.