A successful hybrid event can be tough to pull off because, essentially, it is two separate events: a physical event and a virtual event. To make it run smoothly, you need to have a working knowledge of both event styles.
If your physical event has been canceled due to social distancing guidelines and COVID-19 safety requirements, a virtual event was your best option. But now, with safety measures relaxing slightly, shifting to a hybrid event style will give you the best of both worlds.
If this is your first time planing a hybrid event, know that you are not alone. Here is what you need to know about hosting a hybrid event, as well as our top 7 tips and tricks for making it successful.
Hosting a Hybrid Event
Hybrid events are hosted in-person while using online technology to include a virtual or remote audience. Event attendees love hybrid events because they provide flexibility in terms of how they interact with and/or attend the event.
When hosting a hybrid event, you should at least have some idea what your attendees would hope to gain from the event and you should be prepared to host both the physical and online sessions yourself.
In order to do this successfully, you’ll need a hybrid events platform. An events platform is a software tool designed for streamlining many administrative aspects of an event and allowing both the organizers and the attendees to focus on the content. It can handle ticketing and registration for you but also help you bring the event to your virtual attendees.
Since a hybrid event thrives off of high-quality technology, you’ll want a sophisticated platform and hosting management system in place to make sure your hybrid event goes according to plan.
Things People Are Looking for in a Hybrid Event
Hybrid events are a great way to bring people together at the best of times, let alone during a global pandemic. With the remote option, hybrid events create more opportunities for people to attend and elements like gamification, virtual maps and lobbies, and pre-recorded or live streaming options, many people will feel like they are there in person!
That said, there are a few things that people are expecting when you are hosting a hybrid event.
The first thing that people are looking for is the option to fully attend virtually. Your hybrid event should fully host virtual attendees, which means that they can attend and participate in each session, participate in networking events, and speak to vendors and presenters. Online attendees should be able to attend a live session, as well as have the option for online-only sessions.
If possible, use an event app. An event app is a useful tool for people who are attending the event physically.
Common Complaints About Hybrid Events
As an event organizer, before you set out on planning your hybrid event, it’s important to understand what could go wrong and some of the issues that are common to hybrid events:
- Poor feed quality: An online event relies on internet connections, high-quality hardware, and functioning software. Depending on who is hosting the technology, the feeds of your guests, and the thousands of variables that could affect your technology, any digital event can be prone to poor feed quality. Poor feed quality can drastically decrease satisfaction and lead to a poor attendee experience. Choppy video feeds and feeds cutting in and out on a presenter distract the user from the content. As the event organizer, you need to make sure that the virtual component is fail-safe and that you have IT professionals on hand to support tech issues.
- Not enough options: A hybrid event caters to both remote attendees and in-person audiences. Therefore, when hosting a hybrid event, you need to make sure that there are enough options for both, providing value for the attendee investment. Usually, this means that the virtual portion is lacking, and virtual attendees either struggle to connect to the video feeds, can’t chat in the forums, or there are not enough options for mingling and networking. Remember, a hybrid event is like hosting to event styles in one, you need to make sure you meet the needs of both audience groups.
- Poor event experience: Attendees who have had a poor or dismal event experience will usually do one of two things: they will either take to social media to bad-mouth the event, or they will be silent on social media. You want all your attendees, virtual or in person, to love your event and to boast about it on social media! To do this, keep your attendees engaged and give them what they want.
As with any live event or virtual event, there are sometimes moments where things go wrong or when the event does not live up to expectations. It’s normal for these things to occur. However, with the right preparation, you can keep these instances to a minimum.
Our 7 Tips and Tricks for Hybrid Events
While every event has a list of to-dos, we thought it best to compile this list of 7 things that are absolutely necessary for your hybrid event to stand above the rest and be successful.
1. Invest in a virtual event platform
Whether you have hosted a virtual show and are moving it to a hybrid event, or you are holding your first hybrid meeting due to relaxed shelter-in-place orders, it is vital that you do your research and decide on a virtual event platform that can give you a lot of options.
Having an event software for a physical event is crucial for staying organized. But when you go hybrid from a physical event, you then need to make sure that the software you use can accommodate a remote audience and allow you to upload videos, offer live chat options, and provide lead generation features for your sponsors and vendors.
A high-quality virtual event platform can give you all of this while maintaining high levels of audience engagement.
Features to look for in virtual event software include live chat, lead generation, social media connection, the ability to upload pre-recorded videos, live video and feed recording, among others.
2. Hire a virtual emcee
As an event organizer, you are probably well aware that a traditional event will have an emcee, a moderator, or someone to motivate your audience to stay alert, engaged, and excited about the content.
This is why it is important to consider a virtual emcee. A virtual emcee is meant to be a guide to the online audience.
Having a virtual emcee as part of your team will put your event above that of your competitors in the event industry. It will keep each session participant focused and keep each attendee more engaged with the content overall.
3. Test, Test, Test
Even if you are an old pro at hosting an online event like a webinar or virtual conference, you need to test your systems to make sure that the virtual experience you are providing is a good one.
Test and retest before launching so you can review and revise the content before attendees have access. Do a run-through of your entire program to identify any troubles that might crop up.
Testing will usually work out the kinks in the software that you are using and help identify any issues around scheduling and uploading/downloading content. Take special care to ensure that the live chat functions are working properly.
4. Hire support
Whenever you host an event with a virtual element, it is important that you have event professionals on hand with the right qualifications to support you. This means tech support as well as customer relations, sponsorship specialists, and marketers. If something goes wrong, these professionals can help mitigate any trouble.
5. Send out a questionnaire to your future or past guests asking them what type of event technology they are interested in
Your future virtual attendee may not understand the ins-and-outs of your virtual event platform or how the hybrid event is designed and scheduled to run. But they do understand what it is they like and dislike about an in-person or online event.
Sending a questionnaire to your past guests can help your prepare for future events and allow you to narrow down the expectations of a virtual attendee. And what’s more, this questionnaire can help prepare your prospective attendees for your future event. It can serve as a subtle form of event marketing. It shows respondents that you value their opinion and primes them to look forward to what you are planning.
Simply post the questionnaire on social media or include it in an email campaign.
6. Consider hosting your event as Simulive
If a virtual event is broadcasted live to a global audience, you know you have to contend with different time zones. Even planning virtual meetings to accommodate each person’s time of day can be a struggle, now think about how hard it is with such a large number of participants.
It is important that when you are managing audiences across a number of different time zones that you are as accommodating as possible. With an event that is running live, it is nearly impossible to do this.
However, Simulive, you can pull it off. A simulive event is an event that is promoted as live but instead contains pre-recorded content. In the case of a hybrid event, you can schedule the live sessions and then schedule them on your virtual platform for more accommodating timeframes.
While some attendees might understand that the event is not true-live, a Simulive event will still allow the presenter or moderator to engage with the virtual audience through live chat that takes place during the prerecorded playback. This means that virtual attendees can participate as they would if they had been able to attend the live session.
7. Consider the GBAC Star Facility Accreditation
Given the rise of COVID-19 and safety measures like hand sanitizing, personal protective equipment, and social distancing, all trade shows and conferences should be able to display that they have the necessary knowledge and safety measures in place to protect their in-person attendees.
Event organizers who are hosting a hybrid event, like a physical and virtual trade show, should consider booking a venue with the GBAC Star Facility Accreditation in order to provide their in-person attendees with reassurances that they have done their due diligence and are implementing adequate safety measures.
Hosting a Successful Hybrid Event
Running a hybrid event is a lot like running two different types of events. To start, you need to consider that the physical portion runs smoothly and contains the proper safety measures while still ensuring that the virtual elements are tested and monitored regularly.
Fortunately, by following these tips, and using a comprehensive virtual event platform like Accelevents, you should have no problems at all! When you are ready to get started, contact us to learn more about how we can help!