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Hybrid Event Trends You Need to Know

The past year has seen the emergence of a new trend in the event industry with the rise of hybrid events. While virtual events proved their worth during the pandemic, people are now eager to get back to in-person events. The increase in popularity of the hybrid format has led to the development of new technologies, making it easier than ever to seamlessly integrate virtual and in-person events.

If you want your hybrid events to “keep up with the Joneses” if you will, there are several trends you can follow to keep events exciting and relevant for your audience. New technologies, strategies and other trends can be easily implemented to boost audience engagement, satisfaction, and more. We’re here to break down the top trends you should follow and why. Here’s a rundown of the categories of hybrid event trends we’ll cover:

  • Event Industry is Pivoting Towards Hybrid Formats
  • Trends That Are Improving Session & Event Engagement
  • Use of Creative Marketing Approaches
  • Health, Safety, and Security Trends
  • Creative Marketing Approaches
  • Technology Adoption Trends
  • Data-Driven Event Strategies
  • Other Relevant Hybrid Event Trends


Let’s dive into the hybrid event trends you need to know for 2022 and beyond.

 

Event Industry is Pivoting Towards Hybrid Formats

The pandemic has boosted the popularity of virtual events out of necessity, but attendees, presenters, and hosts alike are eager to get back to normalcy and back to in-person events. More and more event organizers are pivoting to a hybrid event format to get the best of both worlds. Currently, the event industry is focused on hybrid strategies and we see that continuing for the foreseeable future. Check out our overview of hybrid event benefits to learn more about why you should consider a hybrid format for your events.

 

Trends That Are Improving Session & Event Engagement:

1. Organizers are opting for shorter sessions

With hosting virtual audiences, either with a virtual event or hybrid event, event organizers need to take things up a notch to keep their attendees interested. Updating event programming to include shorter sessions is a way to keep people engaged when attending a session.

Why it matters:

Your in-person and virtual audiences may have busy work days, making it important to keep your sessions short. According to Markletic, 63% of event organizers say the ideal length of a live-streamed event is 60 to 90 minutes. Event organizers will need to take these things into consideration moving forward to ensure that their attendees are engaged and enjoying themselves.

Actionable takeaways:

  • Schedule shorter sessions to meet limited attention spans and fit into attendees’ busy schedules
  • Make content available on-demand so attendees can watch when it suits them best
  • Ramp up the excitement to capture and keep the attention of attendees

 

2. Event planners are including more breaks between sessions

In addition to keeping hybrid event sessions on the shorter side, organizers have started adding more breaks between sessions as well. These breaks can include casual interaction opportunities like online live chat rooms, gamified surveys, or entertainment segments. Consider adding live performances like a comedian, musician, or DJ for some break time fun.

Why it matters:

Whether attendees are at your event in-person or virtually, giving them a break between event segments is important to keep them engaged during presentations and prevent boredom. Adding fun activities between sessions is an easy way to keep your attendees engaged and happy. They’re also more likely to feel satisfied with their experience attending your event.

Actionable takeaways:

  • Give your attendees time to take breaks between sessions to keep them attentive during the presentations 
  • Consider adding fun interactive activities or entertainment during breaks
  • Create breakout rooms between sessions to give your audience an opportunity to network

 

3. Organizers are employing creative networking strategies

People attending hybrid events will be looking for easy ways to interact during your event. According to Bizzabo, attendee networking is the biggest hurdle for event marketers working in the virtual event space. Trendy ways to offer more interaction between attendees include adding online polls, surveys, live chats, 1:1 messaging, and Q&A sessions. 

While hybrid events offer the flexibility of attending online or in person, your audience will expect to garner the same benefits of attending whether they attend physically or virtually. Provide the best of both worlds by facilitating interaction between your audiences with digital communication systems.

Why it matters:

While hybrid events offer the flexibility of attending online or in person, your audience will expect to garner the same benefits of attending whether they attend physically or virtually. Provide the best of both worlds by facilitating interaction between your audiences with digital communication systems.

Actionable takeaways:

  • Allow your attendees to network with one another by adding more interactive sessions, forums, and chat features
  • Learn more about your audience with online surveys, polls, and Q&A features
  • Keep things entertaining and exciting with games 

 

4. Organizers are sending out activity kits for virtual attendees

Your attendees certainly won’t all have the same learning style, and some people prefer hands-on learning to simply watching a presentation. Accommodate your attendees various learning styles with fun sensory experiences and hands-on activities by sending out physical activity kits to your virtual attendees prior to the event. This will help your virtual attendees have a more dynamic experiences and feel as though they are a part of the fun.

Why it matters:

Going the extra mile to send out activity kits will increase attendee engagement and satisfaction. These attendees will also be more likely to attend your next event or tell their friends about their amazing experience.

Actionable takeaways:

  • Accommodate your attendees’ varying learning styles with diverse session types
  • Increase engagement with hands-on activities for both your in-person and virtual audiences
  • Make sure your virtual attendees don’t feel left out of any part of your events’ experience

 

5. Increase in personalized experience and messaging

Using the data you gather about your audience through your registration site or virtual event platform, you can customize the experience they have during and after your event. Based on the information they provide as well as how they interact with your event content, you can personalize the messaging and marketing communications you have with a particular attendee.

Make your audience feel valued by curating their experiences based on what they are looking to get out of the event. Promote specific event segments to them depending on their interests and goals, and help them network with other attendees who share similar interests. This also goes for marketing emails you send out post-event – they can be personalized to suit certain subgroups of attendees as you see fit.

Why it matters:

Make your audience feel valued by curating their experiences based on what they are looking to get out of the event. Promote specific event segments to them depending on their interests and goals, and help them network with other attendees who share similar interests. This also goes for marketing emails you send out post-event – they can be personalized to suit certain subgroups of attendees as you see fit.

Actionable takeaways:

  • Personalize your attendees’ experiences at your event using data gathered from your registration site or hosting platform/software
  • Curate marketing messaging for specific subgroups of attendees
  • Help your attendees with shared interests network with one another

 

6. Flexible session tools are becoming increasingly popular

Some of your virtual audience members may be attending sessions in the middle of their busy workday. If something comes up and they are not able to attend a live session, your event hosting tech should allow them to watch the session later on-demand when it suits their schedule. Allowing attendees to enjoy your event live or on-demand post-event provides a better attendee experience.

Why it matters:

More people may be inclined to register for your event if you advertise that sessions will be recorded and available on-demand whenever they can fit it into their schedule. This is especially helpful for attendees who may live in a different time zone than the one you’re hosting the event from. Your event sponsors will love the extra exposure of their advertisements when content is available for post-event replay as well! According to a survey conducted by the AIM group, 99.5% of event sponsors say that having event content available on demand is useful to them. 

Actionable takeaways:

  • Allow attendees to enjoy event content whenever it suits their schedule
  • Attract attendees in all time zones with flexible sessions
  • Make content accessible to attendees post-event to refer back to later

 

Use of Creative Marketing Approaches:

7. Organizers are using past event content to market future events

Hybrid events have made it easier than ever to capture and save recordings of speeches, presentations and other sessions. In many cases, you will be broadcasting your event live to people attending virtually, take that opportunity to record your sessions to use for marketing later. Sharing snippets of the highlights of your events on social media or in ads is an amazing way to showcase your organization’s events and attract potential attendees.

Why it matters:

Showing examples of the best moments from past events is an great way to get people excited about your future events, or convert previous virtual attendees into in-person attendees next time.

Actionable takeaways:

  • Repurpose recordings of event content to attract potential attendees to future events
  • Highlight why your events are worth attending
  • Make recordings available to attendees post-event to refer back to later (your sponsors will love the lasting exposure too!)

 

8. Shift towards global marketing strategies

The virtual portion of your hybrid event can be attended by anyone, anywhere, so you’re no longer limited to marketing your event only to those in the vicinity of the physical location. Open up your marketing efforts to a global audience of potential attendees. Learn more about why you should take your brand global by checking out this interview with Impact XM’s VP, Lorre Crisswell.

Why it matters:

Increase the size of your audience exponentially by opening up the possibility for people who are too far to travel to your event in-person, can’t fit the entire event into their busy schedule, or who cannot afford to travel. Grow your potential ROI by expanding your audience pool. Companies sponsoring your event will also love that their ads are being displayed to a broader demographic.

Actionable takeaways:

  • Increase attendance by opening up your event to a global audience through virtual participation options
  • Sell more tickets and increase your event’s revenue
  • Appeal to potential sponsors by highlighting a larger audience to present their advertising to

 

9. Building a community around the event 

An amazing new marketing tactic for hybrid events is to foster a community of attendees. Why limit networking opportunities to just the day(s) of your event? Build hype around your upcoming event and continue the conversation about past events by creating an online space where attendees can network with other attendees, access recordings of past events, and more.

Why it matters:

Ongoing communication about your organization’s events will ensure the success of any future events you host. Your attendees/community members will love the opportunity to interact with each other in online forums, and your community hub can help them stay in touch and be updated on what’s coming next in your event calendar.

Actionable takeaways:

  • Help attendees connect with each other around their shared interests
  • Build hype for your upcoming events with people who already follow your organization and have enjoyed your past events
  • Fuel your marketing content calendar by keeping the conversation going about events you’ve already run

 

Health, Safety, and Security Trends:

10. Pre-event health screenings are here to stay

A huge concern coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic is audience health and safety. For the foreseeable future, hybrid event organizers will need to prioritize the safety of their in-person attendees. The addition of pre-event screenings and rapid testing to check people for COVID-19 before allowing them to enter your event is a trend that is likely to last until the coronavirus is no longer a concern. Checking temperature and having attendees fill out a health survey are simple steps that can be taken to increase the safety of your event and reduce the risk of potential exposure to COVID.

Why it matters:

Attendees will come to expect health screenings as a new norm, so although it may seem tedious, it’s entirely worthwhile to ensure the safety of attendees and reduce the risk of liability should anything happen. Rapid COVID-19 testing can be completed in around 10 minutes, and could be included in the registration process when people arrive. The addition of strict health and safety protocols are very important right now. 

Actionable takeaways:

  • Prepare your attendees in advance and let them know that they will need to be cleared by your event’s health and safety team before entering the event
  • Drastically reduce the risk of your event becoming a spreader of COVID-19 by taking a few simple precautions
  • Consider adding COVID-19 rapid testing as part of your event’s registration process

 

11. Increase in the use of wearable tech 

Use of touchscreen technology for registration at live events has become a thing of the past. Organizers are now ensuring that the attendees stay contactless with the addition of wearable technology. Smart wristbands or badges are being introduced to allow for payments and data acquisition without the need for people to share pens, use touch screens, or other points of contact that could potentially lead to COVID-19 spread. These wearables can also present social distancing reminders and track which attendees are in the vicinity of each other throughout your event, so should one person fall sick post-event, you can notify anyone who may have been exposed.

Why it matters:

While many people have contact tracing set up on their mobile devices already, the addition of smart wearable technology can provide an extra layer of protection. Reduce the risk of your event becoming a health hazard with a combination of health and safety policies and methods. Your attendees, presenters, and employees helping run your event will all surely appreciate you going the extra mile to ensure their safety.

Actionable takeaways:

  • Provide wearable smart wristbands or badges to keep your event contactless
  • Remind attendees to social distance
  • Boost your company’s reputation by hosting the safest possible events in a post-pandemic world

 

12. Increase in use technology to keep virtual attendees safe

With the virtual component being a key element of hybrid event format, organizers are recognizing that the safety of their virtual audiences is also a priority. The recent growth in the number of virtual events has led to a significant growth in cyber-crimes as well. It is becoming increasingly important to use popular security features such as passwordless logins and reCAPTCHA tests, to prevent bots and hackers from accessing your event platform.

Why it matters:

Cyber security needs to be one of your top priorities when planning a hybrid event. If your attendees’ personal information is exposed as a result of attending your event, they are highly unlikely to attend any future events you host, and it could seriously tarnish your reputation. Eliminate the risk of cyber-attacks by adding simple and effective online security measures.

Actionable takeaways:

  • Ensure the event platform you choose offers encryption of your attendees’ personal information
  • Prevent bots from joining your event sessions by adding reCAPTCHA forms at login
  • Make your attendees feel safe attending your hybrid event online

 

13. Use of third-party security audits is becoming a necessity

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the FBI has reported a 300% increase in cyber-crimes. More organizations are opting for a third-party audit of their security systems to minimize the risk of cyber-crimes. Even when you have extra security measures in place to try to keep your attendees safe, there is a chance that something might not be set up properly, or that something might slip through the cracks. Security audits can help catch any of these issues before anything goes wrong.

Why it matters:

Having a third-party security audit done before actually running your event will ensure that your security systems have been tested and approved before you safely proceed with hosting your event virtually. You can let your attendees know what systems you’ve put in place and that they’ve been endorsed by the company that conducted the audit.

Actionable takeaways:

  • Ensure your security systems are running properly
  • Make your attendees feel safe and comfortable to attend your online event
  • Find out about any flaws in your online security before issues arise

 

Technology Adoption Trends:

14. Increase in use of new event technology

Since the popularity of hybrid events has grown exponentially in the past year, new event hosting platforms and supplemental technology has emerged, making things easier for event organizers. A regular Zoom meeting may no longer meet your attendees’ expectations, so using fresh, trendy technology will help keep your audience engaged. 66% of event organizers say that live sessions help keep up attendee engagement.

Why it matters:

Your event may be the tenth session someone is attending that week. What can you do to make your hybrid event stand out from the rest? It’s important to capture your audience’s attention and leave them satisfied with their experience, no matter where they’re joining from. Utilizing new technologies will make for a more seamless experience for your attendees, and help keep your audience engaged.

Actionable takeaways:

  • Use event platforms that can provide similar experiences to both on-site and online attendees
  • Use technology to set up “breakout rooms” and divide attendees into small groups for a more intimate experience, networking opportunities, etc.
  • Opt for event tech that can deliver immersive experiences to your attendees

 

15. Cross-platform accessibility is becoming increasingly important

For those who are attending your event virtually, it’s important to allow them to access your event platform from all kinds of devices (desktop, tablet, smartphone, etc.) and on all operating systems (Mac, PC, iOS, Android, etc.). More organizers are opting for a dynamic hybrid event platform that is compatible with all device types to accommodate the needs of all their attendees.

Why it matters:

You wouldn’t want a potential attendee to miss out on your event just because the event hosting app you’ve selected isn’t available on their device. Do your research and ensure that the system you’re choosing is cross-platform compatible. Being compatible with all device types will also allow your event to be more globally accessible.

Actionable takeaways:

  • Make sure attendees don’t miss out on your event because of their device or operating system
  • Ensure seamless transition between devices and platforms
  • Choose a platform that can be customized for your event needs

 

16. More events are leveraging VR/AR tech for immersive experiences

New technologies allow your attendees to have immersive experiences at your hybrid events. Augmented reality (AR) adds on-screen digital elements to your real physical environment in interactive and fun ways. Virtual reality (VR) technologies allow the user to be immersed in an animated, digital environment by wearing a headset and sometimes other wearable devices allowing them to interact with the digital world. These technologies can be super fun ways to show off digital exhibits of your company’s products and/or services, or simply to add an entertainment factor to your event.

Why it matters:

These computer-generated displays will offer memorable experiences to your audience. Plus, you can save space at your physical venue by creating digital exhibits that can be enjoyed through AR or VR technology by your event attendees.

Actionable takeaways:

  • Create memorable digital experiences for your attendees to enjoy at your event
  • Save space at your event with virtual exhibits
  • Showcase your company’s products and services in a cutting-edge, modern way

 

Data-Driven Event Strategies:

17. Organizers are utilizing past event data to plan better future events

The technology used for the virtual aspects of hybrid events is making it very easy for event hosts to gather valuable information about their attendees and their preferences. They can track the success of events by measuring how long people watched certain sessions, number of comments posted, clicks, views, and more. This data can be used for improving future events based on what worked best for your event and what didn’t.

Why it matters:

The data that can be gathered from hybrid events is very powerful – much more so than the typical post-event surveys that would be given to in-person attendees. By leveraging the data from your hybrid events, you can enhance the attendee experience and reduce the cost of future events by cutting features that weren’t as engaging or successful.

Actionable takeaways:

  • Boost attendee engagement at future events by adding more sessions similar to those enjoyed by them in the past 
  • Learn what works best with your audience and what doesn’t
  • Gather lead data and share as an asset to event sponsors

 

18. Shift towards the use of centralized data hubs

With new all-in-one event hosting platforms being more readily available, it’s easier than ever to gather and visualize attendee data in one unified system. Gone are the days of collecting paper surveys and manually processing data in spreadsheets. Host your event and gauge its success with built-in data collection, tracking, and reporting.

Why it matters:
Save time and money in the long run by investing a little more into the event hosting platform you choose to go with. The extra data you can collect is valuable and worth spending a little more to get the information-rich data about your attendees, their experience, and overall event success. A Bizzabo survey of event organizers showed that 89% of businesses who used event technology saved around 200 hours of work per year – wow!

Actionable takeaways:

  • It’s worth investing in top-notch event hosting software to make for a better experience for your attendees, and get the most data possible
  • Save time and money by eliminating the need for manual data processing
  • Host your event and get reports about its performance all in one place

 

Other Relevant Hybrid Event Trends:

19. Event industry is seeing a shift towards sustainability

Hybrid events allow organizers to use smaller physical venues and capitalize on growing their virtual audience while keeping in-person attendance under a certain limit. Without the need for travel and accommodation for as many attendees, plus lower amounts of food and other supplies, the environmental impact is much smaller for hybrid events than traditional in-person events. Keep your company’s carbon footprint on the smaller side with a more sustainable hybrid event approach.

Why it matters:

Taking a more sustainable approach to your hybrid events will make your events more environmentally friendly, which can boost your company’s reputation. Cutting back on your event’s physical presence will also help you cut down costs, making your event less expensive and more profitable to run.

Actionable takeaways:

  • Attract more attendees and new sponsors by creating a sustainable event 
  • Give your company’s reputation an eco-friendly boost
  • Reduce the cost of hosting your event by cutting back on in-person attendance

 

20. Event professionals are prioritizing upskilling

Event organizers and planners will need to consistently up their game when it comes to hosting hybrid events now and in the future. Both attendees’ expectations and hybrid event popularity are at an all-time high, and continuing to rise, so event planners will need to continue to boost their skills to match those.

Why it matters:

For your organization to maintain its competitive edge, and keep your events relevant, event planners need to continue to learn about new event technologies, follow trends, and provide flexibility.

Actionable takeaways:

  • Future-proof your career by keeping yourself up-to-date with the latest trends
  • Get familiar with new event platforms and technologies and how to use them
  • Continuously up your event planning skills to adapt to the ever-changing hybrid event landscape

 

21. New roles are emerging in the industry

To support the influx of hybrid event popularity and growing attendee numbers with the ability to attend virtually, new roles are emerging in the hybrid event space. Event organizers can hire specialized staff that are trained and knowledgeable in modern event platform software, moderators to monitor and control the company’s online presence on social media, experienced hybrid event producers, and more.

Why it matters:

Make your event run as smoothly and professionally as possible by hiring new, specialized staff to help you run your hybrid events. They’ll help support your organization in keeping up with today’s live event trends and technologies. These people may even be able to complete their services virtually, thereby saving travel and accommodation expenses.

Actionable takeaways:

  • Hire trained and specialized professionals to help your organization run the best hybrid events possible
  • Cut down on in-person staff with virtual event support services
  • Save time by adding experienced event tech staff to your team and eliminating the need for technical training of existing employees

 

In Conclusion:

As an industry, we will never return to a just live event world, but we will continue into a new phase that offers exciting possibilities. One important thing to remember though from all of this is event professionals should stay on top of recent trends and consider them when planning their next event. If you’re looking for more hybrid event resources, head over to Impact XM’s rundown of top hybrid event statistics you should bear in mind.

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