As planners are pivoting to virtual and hybrid events, venues need to take a lot into consideration. In this post, we take a a look at hybrid events for venues. We discuss what they are, break down some of the steps venues should take to ensure success, and give examples of successful hybrid events from recent years.
What are hybrid events?
Hybrid events are events that incorporate both in-person and virtual, live-streaming elements. They have grown in popularity in recent years, and with COVID-19 impacting the industry and the ability for large groups of people to gather, hybrid events are expected to be a significant part of the future.
In fact, in an informal survey held during April’s Global Meeting Industry Day, 62% of event planners said their events will be a hybrid-style moving forward, while 18% said there will be a greater demand for virtual-only events.
In fully understanding hybrid events, it’s important to not overcomplicate things. As noted in a 2014  Meetings Today article, hybrid events are more common than you may realise. Take the the world cup, for example. Football games feature thousands of in-person attendees, but each event is also broadcast to millions of people across the world.
“The same thing is happening in the event space,” said Dan Lotzof, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Inxpo. “Every meeting you go to today, somebody is virtual, dialing by phone, calling on Skype, using WebEx. What we are starting to see is that every single physical event has an online component because it is impossible to get the entire audience there in person every time. The virtual space is a dream come true for planners and for sponsors.”
It’s time to embrace hybrid events!
It’s possible that we’ll be dealing with hybrid events for years. As such, learning what it takes to host an engaging and successful one is becoming increasingly important.
“There is no way we are going to an event industry that is 100% offline,” predicts Julius Solaris, editor of EventManagerBlog.com. “The event of the future will be hybrid by definition. Face-to-face events will have a virtual component.”
As hybrid events become the norm, this could have some long-term effects on the event industry. So as a venue, maintaining a high standard of transparency and open communication with the planner will be crucial. If one of the members of the event pipeline fails to be transparent, the whole event could be jeopardised.
Why will event planners want to hold hybrid events?
Even before COVID-19, hybrid events had a significant advantage over traditional events for event planners. Let’s say an event you wish to attend is taking place in San Francisco, US. But you live in the UK and can’t justify the time or money. What’s the answer? Virtual participation.
Hybrid events have a significant reach – bringing attendees from all over the world. And, this has recently been made possible by high-speed internet connections.
In a survey of our clients, 67 per cent said that hybrid meetings (the blend of virtual and physical), which we have been delivering successfully for several years, will be more common – Nick Hoare, Chief Operating Officer of etc.venues
Now, hybrid events are critical. They will become the staple of a safe event. COVID-19 has impacted the world in various ways – one of the significant being the inability to travel and attend events. In an informal survey held during the Global Meeting Industry Day, 62% of event planners said their events would be hybrid moving forward. Here are the reasons why event planners will need hotels and venues to accommodate hybrid events:
Virtual participation will give event planners a way to keep in-person attendance manageable to provide social distancing. For an optimal, socially distanced set up, diagramming software and virtual tours are a great way to showcase event space to planners and construct hybrid-friendly layouts.
Planners have tighter budgets – that much doesn’t need to be said. Virtual participation will cut down on cost for the event planner – in terms of meeting space size and catering primarily. Hybrid events also bring more eyeballs, attendance and prospective customers to events, which means more ROI!
Even if someone wanted to attend your event in-person, travel restrictions across the globe would likely make it impractical. Event planners won’t want to exclude a group of possible attendees just because they can’t enter the country.
From our recent conversations with event planners we realised that only pushing events online in the current climate is one-dimensional and to an extent, so are traditional events on its own. With hybrid events, a physical event can also be a live event virtual online – Bradley Hill, Audio-Visual Manager of Church House Westminster
Download our extensive guide to reopeninge your venue or hotel, including guidance on food and beverage, health and safety, social distancing and of course, hybrid events: “The Hotel Manager’s Guide to Restarting MICE and Transient Business“
How can hotels and venues prepare for hybrid events?
When hybrid events come about, it will be important that hotels and venues have the capabilities to support them. You’ll also need to consider your meeting space and how it could best be adapted to suit a hybrid future.
Planner RFPs will include a virtual component
It’s not enough anymore to provide free Wi-Fi. And a fast bandwidth is no longer optional. As events grow more technology-reliant, event planners expect so much more. Venues must now cater to large numbers of virtual attendees and accommodate advanced event technologies. That means having enough bandwidth and connection speed.
With the emergence of 5G technology, hoteliers need to look at their investments and consider whether they will be relevant in a 5G world. Your digital infrastructure needs to be top-of-the-line, robust and able to adapt when 5G comes into play. Don’t lose out to competitors here!
Don’t take this aspect lightly. Tech glitches can bring down an event. For hybrid events, a largescale tech glitch could spell disaster for your event planner.
They will also need additional space when it comes to equipment such as lighting and cameras.
Don’t worry, though. Plan ahead – you’ll need to ensure your technological offering is cost-efficient and will benefit you in the long run. What’s more – hybrid events are likely to grow in popularity even after COVID-19 is long gone!
Partner with virtual or hybrid experts
It might not be realistic for some venues to invest in new tech. Buying all this high-end equipment can come at a high price. Instead, if it suits you better, partnering with virtual or AV experts could be an alternate option.
Event planners want broadcast standard pictures, sound and transmission in world-class venues for the many important hybrid meetings that will be a major feature of events over the coming months – Nick Hoare, Chief Operating Officer of etc.venues
Some hotels and venues are already doing this. events.etc have partnered with Glisser, an all-in-one audience engagement software for live events and the classroom. This partnership will build on the venue’s high-speed Wi-Fi and state-of-the-art technology, applying their presentation software and integrated audience response system.
Accommodate flexible formats and engagement
Hybrid events are more complicated than just providing a live stream. While speaker presentations may be simple, breakout sessions are likely to leave virtual attendees feeling left out.
Planners will want to include video breakout sessions for virtual attendees, Q&A sessions, polls and networking sessions.
Make sure you’re able to set up all of your meeting rooms for virtual participation so virtual attendees have the freedom to attend each session, talk or activity.
Test, test and test again
Don’t skimp on this part – it’s essential. Test every element of your setup, from microphones to live streams to internet connectivity. Hotels and venues wishing to become a reliable hybrid event venue need to ensure exceptional experiences for attendees and event planners alike. Pull off a hybrid event with minimal hiccups, and you could earn yourself repeat business!
What technology will planners require for a hybrid event?
Cameras and tripods:
When looking into the right cameras, you need to consider a few things:
- Will this be a panel discussion or an event that requires close-ups? Do you need more than two angles? In this case, you need multiple cameras. You’ll also need a switcher and someone to select the camera angles to show.
- You’ll need a camera that supports all screen sizes.
- Does the planner want HD and will the stream support it?
High-quality microphones are essential. Wireless lavalier microphones are a great option as they appear better on camera and prevents ambient noise.
When mics are accidentally left on, this can create a poor audio experience for a hybrid audience. Consider having an audio operator who shuts mics on and off. Wireless handheld mics are also essential for Q&As as well as mic runners to go to audience members.
- Webcasting gear
- A video switcher
- A streaming platform/service to which virtual attendees can connect
- Servers for storing and hosting streaming video (if the streaming service doesn’t provide this)
- Other standard AV equipment
Examples of successful hybrid events
Various companies have taken on the concept of a hybrid event and turned them into incredible experiences for both in-person and virtual attendees! We thought we’d share some examples with you:
It shouldn’t come as a shock that Twitch, as “the world’s leading live streaming platform for gamers”, could pull off a fantastic hybrid event. Each year the site hosts an event to bring together live streamers and fans from all over the world, both in-person and vitually!
Nominated for the IBC 2019 Innovation Award, Riot Games are leading the way when it comes to hybrid events such as their League of Legends World Championship. The nature of their esports events, however, mean a complicated technical setup.
Their biggest challenges when it comes to hybrid events are networking, hardware and broadcasting. Each become more complex when the remote and local implementations are considered.
Hosting an event based on an online video game makes these events even more complex. Companies such as Riot do intense research when sourcing venues including securing quotes, installing circuits, setting up high-speed point-to-point connections and working with local networking teams.
Read about their technical challenges and how they overcome them.
As one of the biggest events of the year, its only natural that Apple would choose a hybrid event format. With people all over the world awaiting information about new releases, the events are live-streamed.
Supporting hybrid events can help you win more MICE business!
Next up, discover how to drive MICE business with video marketing.