December 13, 2022
By Mike Fletcher

Feeling lost when it comes to hybrid events? You're not alone.

For the majority of planners and event marketers, 2022 has been all about the bounce-back of in-person events. Packed conference auditoria, face-to-face networking and the buzz of the exhibition show floor have reminded us all of what we missed about live events during the pandemic.

But it's important not to forget that virtual events provided a ton of benefits – including greater audience reach for content, a lower carbon footprint and additional opportunities for sponsors and exhibitors to showcase their products online.

Hybrid events allow you to combine the best of in-person and virtual. And they don't have to be complex or prohibitively expensive to execute. Read on to learn new ideas and cost-effective ways to successfully host a hybrid event.

What does a hybrid event look like in 2023?

The definition of ‘hybrid’ has evolved significantly and so too have the available hybrid event solutions.

Hybrid isn’t one thing and how you blend virtual and live depends very much on your goals and objectives for each type of event. It makes sense to go hybrid when you have disparate audiences wanting to engage with different content in different ways. But how you go hybrid is up to you.

How you marry hybrid event design with the user journey can positively impact your company’s sustainability goals, DEI initiatives and overall event strategy, so that savings can be made, emissions reduced and KPIs achieved.

To give you a few ideas to get started, let's look at a few hybrid event examples and the benefits of each.

Four hybrid event examples to spark your imagination

1. The Hybrid Broadcast

  • Best for: Congresses contained within one plenary hall where both audiences will share the same experience
  • Advantages: Lower overall carbon footprint, professionally recorded footage, wider online reach, additional sponsors advertising opportv

According to a study published in Nature Communications, limiting the in-person audience of a plenary-based conference to only those delegates who work or live in the locality - insisting that everyone else join online, can reduce an event’s carbon footprint by up to two-thirds.

A year ago, this single-room professional broadcast set-up was deemed too expensive and too complex, since it required the hire of additional camera systems and a Master Control Room where all the vision mixing, video switching, graphics and VT, audio, remote feeds, recording, re-routing and show-calling takes place.

But increased demand for hybrid events has since seen many venues evolve their in-house production and technical support offer so that they’re better placed to share the load and offer more cost-effective set-ups.

Top Tips: Ensure your moderator and on-stage presenters address both the audience in the room and those online by maintaining eye-level contact with camera line of sights and acknowledging the virtual viewer when they speak. Consider the online viewer experience for when in-person attendees are on coffee breaks or at lunch. Sponsors or stakeholders could use this virtual-only time to hold online meetings, stage a webinar or showcase product videos.

2. Hub & Spoke

  • Best for: Connecting regional offices, remote workforces or delegations based in different countries.
  • Advantages: Centralised content can be shared with disparate teams without the need for long-haul travel or hotel accommodation.

The Hub & Spoke format allows for multiple in-person audiences located in different venues to connect to a centralised studio online for content.

The ‘Hub’ is where the overall moderator and main presenters are based and has at least a small audience, as most presenters present much better when they can interact with a live audience. The ‘Spoke’ locations can be meeting rooms or even regional offices.

Essentially, each ‘Spoke’ has its own small in-person event managed by a local host. Attendees can watch the ‘Hub’ presentations, engage in polls and real-time Q&A with the speakers, and even break out into workshops before reporting back via the local host to share ideas and feedback with other ‘Spokes’.

Think of it like the Eurovision Song Contest: the central moderator manages the overall event flow and talks with both the presenters in the studio and each ‘Spoke’ host on-screen.

Top Tips: Consider varying time-zones for ‘Spokes’ in different countries. This will determine your timings for ‘Hub’ presentations. Starting an event from London at lunchtime for example will require a breakfast gathering for delegates in New York. Think about how to energise different audiences participating at certain times of the day.

3. Match of the Day

  • Best for: Providing audiences unable to attend or tune into the live event with highlights and key takeaways.
  • Advantages: No live streaming. Instead, the ability to polish and edit your content before making it more widely available.

Sky Sports doesn’t talk about ‘hybrid football’ and yet the way football fans experience a game and consume the content depends on whether they’re sitting in the stands, at home in front of the TV or watching highlights on the move.

If the in-room event experience equates to being a spectator at a football game and the ‘Hub’ studio format resembles watching the match on TV, the ‘Match of the Day’ format is the highlights package, curated for an on-demand audience, which for whatever reason, couldn’t be accommodated for on the day of the event.

The ‘Match of the Day' format allows you to polish, pinpoint and edit recorded content from your event and make it available to registrants as a library of sponsored assets.

Since you're not streaming live, you only have one event to organise at any one time. Plus, there’s less cost associated with capturing and editing rather than streaming.

The presentations can be beautifully edited but also you can add some exclusive virtual event content to spice up the original programme and give sponsors additional value.

Top Tips: This highlights package could double-up as an ‘Echo’ format, allowing you to stage a separate virtual-only event featuring the best bits from your in-person event, plus interviews and extended Q&A with speakers who took part. Guests or event sponsors could then analyse the trends and talking points, just as football pundits would analyse the game.

4. Community 365

  • Best for: Keeping audiences connected to both each other and your event brand all year round.
  • Advantages: By giving in-person audiences year-round digital content, you’ll increase brand loyalty and develop better partner relationships.

Embracing hybrid in 2023 isn’t just about tackling carbon emissions or reclaiming the audience reach enjoyed during lockdowns. It should also be about keeping your event community or disparate workforce connected and engaged with your content all year round.

The Community 365 hybrid format does exactly that. With this format, you'll build a content repository around a once-a-year event that grows over time.

You can add webinars, blogs, reports, podcasts and highlight packages to grow a community that will be more loyal to your in-person event offer and will show potential sponsors the value of your audience.

Top Tips: Start with a virtual element built and deployed before the event to amplify the in-person occasion, build the excitement, create community and possibly even deliver one or two online presentations. Delegates could even use the virtual space to arrange meetings with sponsors or other attendees. Use the platform to keep your event community connected, educated and informed.

Make hybrid events work for you

The true definition of hybrid is a thing made from two different elements. In the case of events, the two elements in question are ‘live’ and ‘digital’.

How you blend them to achieve your specific event or communications objectives is entirely up to you. But by outlining the examples above, the possibilities of hybrid are so much more than a livestream.

Create a hybrid blend that works for you and your attendees and use technology that will have you covered for every solution.

Download our Hybrid Event Strategies for Dummies guide for more insights on how to craft hybrid strategies and satisfy in-person and virtual attendees.

Mike Fletcher

Mike Fletcher

Mike has been writing about the meetings and events industry for almost 20 years as a former editor at Haymarket Media Group, and then as a freelance writer and editor. He currently runs his own content agency, Slippy Media, catering for a wide-range of client requirements, including social strategy, long-form, event photography, event videography, reports, blogs and ghost-written material.

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