How To Plan and Execute a Successful Hybrid Event
The events industry has been one of the most disrupted industries over the past two years. Since the pandemic, many conferences, trade shows, and similar events have either been closed down or reduced in scope. Some have been forced to go virtual, while others have had to scale back their in-person offerings. There is no perfect solution, but hybrid events have become one of the best ways for businesses to host events for their staff and customers. Since many businesses have distributed remote teams across the globe, hosting a hybrid event has become a necessity to include everyone involved. Instead of wasting tens of thousands of dollars to fly everyone to one central location, businesses now have the option to host a virtual and in-person event at the same time. By doing so, they can reach a larger audience, save on costs and still provide an engaging experience for attendees.
What is a hybrid event?
A hybrid event is an event in which some attendees participate in person while others participate remotely. The event can be live-streamed or recorded and then made available later for those who are unable to attend. With this strategy, hybrid events leverage the benefits of both in-person events and fully virtual events. The key is to find the right balance between the two so that all attendees feel included and engaged.
There are several types of hybrid events. Some common ones you may recognize include:
- All-hands meetings: All-hands meetings are meetings in which all employees of a company are encouraged to attend. This type of meeting is often used to communicate important company updates and everyone is required to attend. Employees who are unable to attend physically are accommodated by being able to participate virtually.
- Webinars: Webinars are extremely powerful at generating leads and educating customers about your product or service. Many businesses make their webinars hybrid by giving attendees the option to attend either virtually or in person.
- Trade shows: Trade shows have taken a hit since the pandemic, but many are slowly starting to open back up. Some trade shows offer a hybrid experience in which attendees can participate both online and offline.
- Product demos: Product demos often take place in-person, but many sales teams are incorporating a virtual component to reach a larger audience. A good example of hybrid product demos are Apple's product announcements. They usually take place in-person, but are also live-streamed for viewers at home.
How do you plan a hybrid event
The first step in planning a hybrid event is clearly defining the objectives of your event. More specifically, this includes the specific outcomes your business is looking for out of hosting this event. Examples of hybrid event goals can be generating new leads, educating customers about a new service or building brand awareness. The more specific you can be about your objectives, the better you can tailor your event to meet your needs.
After establishing your goals, it's vital to start outlining the agenda of your event. This will give you a good estimation of how you want your event to look. Your agenda can include aspects of your event like the speakers, the topics that will be covered and the format of your event. You should continue to refine your agenda until it's exactly how your event will go.
Many companies have logistical nightmares in their hybrid event due to mistakes in their registration. You need to have a streamlined and foolproof registration process to avoid any issues. The best way to do this is by using an event management software that will automate most of the process for you. This will help you set up all of the email funnels, reminders and other things needed to register a participant for your event.
If you've done any events previously, you'll know that costs can quickly add up and can even make an event non-profitable. Putting together a high-quality hybrid event is not easy, and lack of financial planning can add unnecessary stress. When doing cost planning for your event, take into consideration the major costs like the venue, tech, food, and live-streaming. You should also have a plan for any unexpected costs that may come up. By having a financial buffer, you're much more able to adapt to situations and reduce the likelihood of anything stopping your event.
How to conduct a successful hybrid event
Once you've planned your event well, you still need to conduct the event to make sure all parties are satisfied. It takes deliberate effort and management to ensure your event goes according to plan. Some things to keep in mind when conducting your hybrid event include:
Announcing the hybrid event on the day
Since you're planning the event, it's very easy to assume that everyone is paying attention to the same details as you. For most people, your hybrid event is just another work commitment they have during the week. This is why it's important to announce the event on the day it takes place. Make sure to use all the mediums that your participants will find you on to remind them of the event. You can announce your event by hosting a podcast, announcing via email, LinkedIn, other social media profiles and internally if the event includes other people from your organization.
Following your agenda and handling any issues
The agenda you create will act as the blueprint for your event. The more accurate you can make it during the planning phase, the less guesswork your team has to do in order to create a great event. Make sure your entire team has an agenda with the exact timeframe of what they're supposed to do and when. This will make sure everyone is on the same page and avoid any potential issues that can come up. Delegating different parts of the events to different personnel is the best way to divide up the work and handle responsibility evenly across your team.
Catering to both in-person and online audiences
A common mistake done in hybrid events is forgetting about one type of audience in favor of the other. It's important to remember that both types of audiences are there for different reasons and should be accommodated for evenly. There should be different people who focus on each individual audience and ensure they're both being engaged. For example, the person focusing on the in-person audience can make sure everyone has nametags and are introduced to each other. Whereas, the person focusing on the online audience can be in charge of monitoring the online chat and passing questions to the speakers. It's important to have dedicated people for each audience so that no one feels neglected.
Follow-up activities after the event
A great hybrid event doesn't end when the last person leaves the venue or signs off the live-stream. You should make sure to have a follow-up plan so you can keep the momentum going even after the event. You can do this by sending a follow-up email to everyone who attended with a link to the recorded live event. Doing these small actions will allow people to get the most value out of your event and keep them engaged even after it's over. If your hybrid event included any sales or marketing, you can forward any lead magnet that was done to your respective teams and generate more sales for your business.
Things to avoid in your hybrid event
There are some common mistakes that many businesses make when hosting their first hybrid event. Some of the common mistakes you should avoid include:
Neglecting online attendees
Many companies have not done hybrid events before, so they tend to default to their in-person event experience. This means that they often neglect the needs of their online attendees and focus too much on the in-person event. Doing this can alienate your online audience and cause them to have a much poorer event experience.
Not testing technology
The most embarrassing thing that can occur during your event is technical difficulties. This is why it's important to test all the technology you'll be using beforehand. This includes testing your internet connection, video prospecting tools like skype, data analytics tools or and any other type of technology you'll be using. By testing everything ahead of time, you can avoid having to pause your event and frantically trying to figure out what went wrong.
Lack of rehearsals
Depending on the type of hybrid event you're hosting, you might need to do a few rehearsals beforehand. This is especially true if it's customer-facing or if it's a large audience. Your speakers, performers, and any other type of presenter should all be aware of the event's format and should have the chance to rehearse before presenting it live.
Choosing a poor hybrid event platform
You will likely use some kind of software or event management platform to conduct your hybrid event. It's important to thoroughly test out your software to ensure it has features you want. Some features you should look for in a hybrid event platform include:
- The ability to handle both in-person and online attendees
- Integrated live streaming
- Tools for engagement
- A good user interface
Avoiding these common mistakes will put you in a good position to execute a successful hybrid event. Using some of the mentioned tips will give you a great framework to start planning your next event. Keep in mind that each hybrid event is unique and to personalize your event to your specific goals and your audience. To learn how to start conducting hybrid events for your business, explore our product here.