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Welcome to the world of hybrid: how to run online events when offline goes live (and should you?)

All right - last year was challenging, as it required quite extreme changes to the processes of organizing festivals and conferences. Almost every company is well aware of that by now.

Some businesses' strategies were to wait this unfavorable period out. That's one way to deal with it, but the possibility that everything will return to exactly how it was before the pandemic outbreak is doubtful. It seems that now is the right moment to accept a mix of offline and online worlds and adapt to the alteration.

The real question right now is - what’s coming up next? And how to get ready for the new system?

Welcome to the world of hybrid. Let’s show you around.

Welcome to the world of hybrid: how to run online events when offline goes live (and should you?)

They have already switched to digital

Webinars have made a big entrance into the marketing world and fortified their position during 2020. It’s not surprising, as they are a common ground between sales and marketing.

Some flagship IT event organizers exploited the situation by starting to run online versions. Surprisingly, besides small workshops and open-access live videos, there were also huge conferences and festivals happening in digital.

A one-time online event with on-demand video content

For example, NVIDIA's flagship event - the GPU Technology Conference (GTC), was an entirely online experience. Although it took place in March 2020, you can still watch the saved keynotes and view demos or other video content in its "on-demand" section. It was a free event for the first time in history, but access to some training sessions required payment or a Developer Program membership.It’s the perfect place to get inspired by some useful strategies for running online events. You can implement some tactics like recording your webinars in HD and reusing these videos to create even more content!

Events reimagined

Salesforce World Tour Sydney Reimagined used to be an in-person conference, but like NVIDIA it has switched to an online event. They announced the change on their official website and explained their decision. This is good practice when making a new version of a conference - no matter if yours will go digital-only or hybrid. They’ve also recorded some of the speeches to reuse the content after the conference. The videos they picked are available on their website.

Welcome to the world of hybrid: how to run online events when offline goes live (and should you?)

Be everywhere with your workshops

Cognilytica is an AI and machine learning company that runs an AI in the government event at the George Washington University each month. This time it has moved to a virtual format.

They prepared the AI & ML Project Management Training & Certification Boot Camp to make the most of digital possibilities. To enable those who are interested in taking that course, Cognilytica have prepared an online version. It's a paid, self-paced virtual training that you can complete whenever you have spare time.

If you wish to run an event that can be prepared in advance, evergreen webinars might come in handy. With this solution, you can record a lecture and add relevant Call To Action buttons to pop-up at the right times, share short video content from streaming platforms, or even carry out surveys. Then all you have to do is schedule the webinar for a specific date. You can reuse this content later and earn on your knowledge. This makes your online speeches organized and spontaneous at the same time.

The merging of online and offline realities

The digital environment has never been so close to daily life in the way it is now. We’ve probably all experienced an increase in internet usage. As many of us couldn’t join meetings or events in person (not even go shopping in-store!), online experiences have become more valuable.

Although we're getting used to such a world, it's still quite problematic for many. Social relationships maintained thanks to real-life meetings have unique value - there's no doubt about that. But let’s recollect how the latest events used to look like in recent years before the pandemic.

Welcome to the world of hybrid: how to run online events when offline goes live (and should you?)

New technologies on the rise during offline events

Even in 2019, 52.6% of event professionals were invested more in events' technical aspects than the previous year. We don't even have to say how much this trend accelerated in 2020. And it's probably here to stay with us even with the traditional form of event management.

Real-time polls and surveys were a must at many conferences and lectures. They were powered by digital tools and shown on big screens to audiences. Thanks to automatic calculation and fast results, they spiced up performances with quick tests and studies.

Digital visualizations of extraordinary projects, plans, and strategies were also an integral part of conferences. VR devices started to gain popularity amongst gaming events, expos, and other IT and non-technology-oriented meetings. Also apps such as free personal trainer software got incredibly popular.

Some workshops were available both offline and online to enable participation for those who couldn’t attend. With video meeting platforms employees could see and hear exactly what their co-workers were looking at and even cooperate with them during group tasks.

These are just a few examples of how both worlds are inextricably linked to each other.

What will it be like in the hybrid future?

As time went by, two main approaches to the event industry emerged. Some brands were incurable optimists, counting down the days until they could organize their event in the traditional form again. Meanwhile, others became buzzkills, predicting ever-lasting digital-only conferences and festivals.

The experts, however, prefer a more balanced attitude. Paddy Cosgrave, the CEO of Web Summit, believes that the future is hybrid. The expansion of online conferences might be an opportunity to discover new possibilities and take the event industry to the next level.This is a good reason to get more creative and motivated to discover new event formats.

Welcome to the world of hybrid: how to run online events when offline goes live (and should you?)

Use the inclusivity of online events in hybrid versions

What can be problematic during offline events is access limitations for those who have some disabilities. Online conferences might be a better option for them, depending, of course, on the specific problems they have to overcome. However, using computer programs might turn out to be a hard nut to crack as well.

To offer the perfect solution for every participant, no matter what problems they face, you can implement facilitations to a hybrid event. Take what's best from the digital version - you might need to get creative in this field, but it can be worth the fuss. Maybe you could generate automatic subtitles that will appear on the screen while you're talking? Or share digital assets during the event besides giving out material ones? And if your participants have problems with mobility, consider using breakout rooms as a part of speed-dating or any integration activities. To manage your timing more effectively, you can implement solutions like a work timeclock calculator - and measure how long each activity takes to meet your deadline.

When hosting an online conference, make sure to provide your participants with the agenda and instructions regarding the webinar platform of your choice. Thanks to that, your event can run more smoothly, and if any problems do arise then attendees can signal them in advance.

Welcome to the world of hybrid: how to run online events when offline goes live (and should you?)

Make online lifelike and offline intermediary

When eventually running an event offline, you should also think about implementing new strategies. Have a broader, holistic perspective. Make use of new technological solutions to enchant your audience. Take this into account particularly if you're running an event dedicated to Millennials or Gen Z, who are naturally used to multitasking and high-tech solutions.

Use multiple screens, share content for mobile devices, show short videos and eye-catching visual branding elements to draw your audience's attention. This also works the other way around, though. When creating an online event, try to make it as engaging as possible. Also ensure top-notch quality - no one likes to watch a pixel festival instead of the artist's face during a concert. To make your visitors' experience nearly lifelike, you could use a 360° camera for live streaming. This works seamlessly with LiveWebinar, thanks to its special Samsung solution.

Pro tip: You can create an omnichannel equivalent by using digital tools during offline conferences. Add more attendees who can’t join in person. This is possible with online video meetings - you just have to invite people via email or a unique URL. Send the necessary materials (involve video marketing!) to invitees and make them feel as if they are located there with other participants. You may also prepare a press kit to attract even more people, use an email warm up service after your event and schedule some social promotion via social media management tools.

The future is happening now

Every moment is right for improving your strategy. Carry out research and see what your competitors are planning to do in the coming months.

As marketers claim, 63% of them plan to resume in-person events in 2021. At the same time, over 19% state that they're not planning any offline meetings this year. This shows a variety of approaches - it's up to you which path to choose.
However, when asked about the future of the event industry, respondents are almost unanimous. According to the same source, a whopping 97% of marketers are confident that hybrid events will become more substantial going forward.

Welcome to the world of hybrid: how to run online events when offline goes live (and should you?)

If you aren’t ready to handle your conference in a new format this year, make a plan for the upcoming one instead. But, when doing so, keep in mind that there’s still plenty of time to take control of the situation. Some companies haven’t yet announced any specific dates for their virtual meetings, and neither do you have to if it will take more time to organize the online equivalent of your event.

There's a list of huge digital events planned for Q1 2021. 25 conferences will take place in March alone, including big fish like the Gartner CIO Leadership Forum, Microsoft Ignite, and the CNBC @Work Summit. You may want to attend them to either learn insights on virtual event organization for the future, or to improve your existing conference.

Have the best of both worlds

What's new and unknown always seems challenging. To overcome this fear and seize upcoming opportunities, it's necessary to think outside the box. For a comprehensive strategy, it's good to attend some events to learn more about running online meetings and gather insights or make observations.

And because it might be relieving to know that someone has your back, it’s a good idea to choose a webinar platform that can handle the technical aspects for you. If you are still wondering whether it’s possible to move at least some parts of your event to online then contact our team and ask for a customized plan.

Are you ready to get the best out of the offline and online worlds? Take our hand, and let's dive into it together. We can fully customize our offer to your needs.

Good luck with your event and may the odds be ever in your favor!


Ola Czmut
Ola Czmut

Happily combines a love of writing and new technology as a copywriter, and enjoys the puzzle of putting together a good article. In her spare time she likes to catch up on the latest, greatest books, bake chocolate chip cookies and ponder her next travel destination.

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