Hybrid events have been popularized throughout the Covid-19 pandemic as they offer a flexible strategy that can be adapted to suit various budget sizes, health guidelines, restrictions, and session types. We predict that hybrid events will continue to be a popular format for live events in years to come, so it’s good for event planners to learn the ins and outs of this approach.
If your organization hasn’t run a hybrid event before and you’re looking for tips on how to make your event successful, this ultimate guide will help you out! Impact XM has nearly 50 years of experience with live events and we’ve compiled all the information you need to know before running a hybrid event. Here’s everything we’ll cover in this guide:
- Introduction to Hybrid Events
- Hybrid Event Benefits
- Types of Hybrid Events
- Elements of a Successful Hybrid Event
- Hybrid Event Metrics & KPIs
- Choosing the Right Hybrid Event Technology
- 5 Creative Hybrid Event Examples
- The Future of Hybrid Events
Let’s kick off this hybrid event guide with a brief introduction to hybrid events.
Introduction to Hybrid Events
Hybrid events are a combination of a traditional in-person event and a virtual event. They make it easier for attendees to take part in your events based on their availability whether they’re able to travel or not. The option to attend a live event online is great for those that are working from home, and having a larger online audience allows organizers to keep their in-person audience and venue on the smaller side, which is great for smaller budgets.
Top 5 Hybrid Event Benefits
There are lots of great advantages to adopting a hybrid event strategy. In this section, we’ll break down the top five benefits of hybrid events that are sure to persuade marketers to try out this format.
1. Greater in session engagement
Hybrid events allow for the addition of more digital elements that can help keep your audiences engaged and enjoying your event. Adding interactive activities like live chats, polls, and Q&A is a great way to increase audience interest for both your in-person and virtual attendees.
2. More ways for attendees to network
In addition to helping keep your audience engaged throughout your event sessions, interactive elements like chat forums, networking lounges, 1:1 scheduled meetings, and other designated networking opportunities provide more chances for attendees to interact with one another, as well as with speakers at your event. Invite your guests to join virtual hangouts between presentations so they can chat about the event and have a chance to form connections.
3. Easier to gather and analyze data about your event
Introducing more virtual elements to your live events allows organizers to gain access to much more data about their attendees, engagement, and overall event success. Tracking things like clicks, shares, traffic, and more will allow you to see what parts of your event participants enjoyed most and which ones didn’t go over as well. When you have sponsors for your event, they will appreciate having access to these metrics as well to see how successful their advertisements were.
4. Flexibility for your audience
Providing your attendees the option to attend your event either in-person or virtually opens up your event to a much wider potential audience, as they do not necessarily have to be able to travel to your venue to attend. For those who are attending virtually, they may be able to fit your conference sessions into their work schedule without having to take time off from work, which will appeal to many people. With the hybrid model, you can still have all the best aspects of an in-person event for those who are able to come, while keeping options open to those who may not.
5. Greater opportunities for sponsorship
Having your attendees spread across two audience locations (your physical location and online) will allow for more places for potential sponsors to advertise. As well, with the virtual portion of your event opening up your audience to a larger demographic will be appealing to sponsors as they can promote their companies to more people. Having the potential for more or larger sponsorships can bring in additional revenue to your event!
Types of Hybrid Events: 4 Formats to Consider
The hybrid event umbrella encompasses a variety of different formats you can choose from to suit the needs of your attendees, as well as your organization’s needs, budget, and capabilities. Whether you want to maximize your virtual audience while keeping your in-person venue small or have an in-person event with recordings available online afterward, there’s a hybrid event format that’s right for you. Check out these four formats to find one that suits your company’s goals and objectives.
1. Simultaneously host your in-person and online audiences
This is likely what most people think of when they hear the term “hybrid event.” This format allows organizers to reach the largest live audience all at once, with simultaneous viewers on-site at the physical venue and online for those attending virtually. Juggling two audiences at the same time can be challenging, but this format allows for lots of audience interaction and engagement.
Use this format if:
Your goal is to engage as many viewers as possible during one live event.
2. Host your event in-person and make content available online later
If you’re familiar with hosting a traditional in-person live event, this hybrid format will make for a smooth and easy transition to hybrid events. With this format, you can host your event on-site with a live audience, record all sessions, and then make them available online for streaming on-demand for your virtual audience. Making your event content available on-demand is a great way to continue profiting from your event long after it has finished, market your company and future events, and provide value to your audience. This format contributes to a strong, long-term marketing plan for your organization.
Use this format if:
You’re familiar and comfortable with hosting an in-person event and looking to branch out into the world of hybrid events.
3. Host an in-person event with a live stream available online
Similar to the previous type, this hybrid event format is great for those who are comfortable hosting an in-person event, while also allowing viewers to tune in live from home. This format would be most comparable to live award shows or sports, where an audience is present in person while viewers enjoy the show from home. This way, your most dedicated audience members can come to your event in person, while those tuning in virtually don’t feel like they’re missing out on the moments happening live.
Use this format if:
You believe that viewing event sessions live will provide more value to your virtual audience than watching on-demand.
4. Separately host in-person and online versions of the same event
To effectively cater your event to your audience, you may consider hosting ‘duplicate’ events – one being in-person, and the other being online. You can run the same types of sessions, host the same speakers, etc. while adjusting other elements to best suit the place or platform where you’re hosting the event. For example, while you might have face-to-face networking sessions planned for your in-person audience, you could offer video calls or live chat at the virtual version of the event to effectively achieve the same goal. This allows the flexibility and reach of the first format we discussed while removing the stress of juggling two audiences simultaneously.
Use this format if:
You want to maximize audience reach while minimizing potential complications and stress.
6 Elements of a Successful Hybrid Event
In order to have a successful hybrid event, there are certain things that you should consider adding to your strategy. We’d suggest integrating these elements into your event plan to set yourself up for success.
1. Shorter sessions and frequent breaks
Keeping your event’s sessions on the shorter side will ensure that presentations don’t drag on too long and lose the attention of your attendees. Keeping your virtual audience engaged can be especially challenging as they may have other things at home distracting them from your presentation (children, pets, etc.). Successful hybrid events will keep sessions short and allow breaks in between presentations. This will help hold your audience’s attention throughout your event.
Many of your attendees have likely attended countless virtual events over the past year and may be experiencing what’s colloquially known as “Zoom fatigue” – feeling burnt out from attending so many online meetings and making it harder to stay engaged. A successful hybrid event in today’s environment requires shorter sessions to match the shorter attention span of your attendees.
Try this solution:
According to Markletic, 63% of event organizers state that their ideal duration for a live-streamed presentation is between 60 to 90 minutes. Sessions longer than 90 minutes without an intermission may leave you with a much less engaged audience. Where possible, try to allow for at least a short break in the middle of longer sessions, and scheduled breaks between sessions so your attendees don’t feel bored or tired.
2. Interactive elements
To help keep your audiences engaged during your event, adding interactive segments is a great choice. Many of your attendees may have chosen to register for your event for networking, so maximizing the number of opportunities they have will add to their satisfaction. You could even set up virtual communication tools allowing your in-person audience members to interact with your virtual audience members, uniting your entire audience together.
Virtual attendees may feel like they’re missing out on the networking opportunities and hands-on activities that your in-person attendees are experiencing. A huge challenge for hosting hybrid events is making sure both your in-person and online attendees are left equally satisfied with their experience participating in your event.
Try these solutions:
- Schedule designated networking sessions for your event to allow your audience members to connect with one another
- Add interactive elements like virtual polls, online chat, discussion forums, and Q&As.
- To allow virtual attendees to enjoy the same hands-on experiences as your in-person attendees, consider sending out interactive activity packages prior to the event
3. Audience safety and security
Whether attending virtually or in-person, live event attendees want to know that the host organization is keeping them safe. Especially since the Covid-19 pandemic began. keeping health and safety precautions at the forefront of your event will be of utmost importance. Additionally, ensuring that your online event platform has top-notch security systems is necessary so attendees can rest assured that their data isn’t at risk.
For in-person attendees, organizers may face lingering Covid-19 health guidelines and restrictions that must be followed. Though these restrictions may result in more work and added cost, they are a necessary expense to keep your audience, speakers, and staff protected. For virtual attendees, any security breach within your event platform could make hosts liable for data leaks or audience members being hacked.
Try these solutions:
- Conduct pre-event health screenings to test in-person attendees for Covid-19
- Consider adding wearable wristbands to encourage contactless attendance, social distancing, and contact tracing
- Hire digital security experts to conduct a third-party audit of your event platform’s online security to ensure audience safety
4. Personalized experiences
Your attendees will feel like you value their participation and feedback more when you personalize the messaging they receive. By leveraging the data that can be gathered through digital interactions your attendees have with your event, you can customize the experience they have and communications they receive from your organization to better suit their needs and interests.
Event sessions aren’t always one-size-fits-all, and neither are marketing emails. Communicating with all of your audience members the exact same way can feel cold and impersonal. Allowing attendees to cater their experience at your event to suit their individual needs will leave them much more satisfied.
Try these solutions:
- Use event data to personalize the experience for your attendees
- Define subgroups of attendees and make it easier for those with shared interests to network with each other
- Survey your audience members to see what they’re interested in and customize the communications they receive from you
5. Cross-platform accessibility
Your virtual attendees may be limited by what devices they have available, so it’s essential to have an event platform that is compatible with all types of devices (smartphone, tablet, desktop) as well as on various operating systems (iOS, Android, Mac, PC, etc.). This will also add to the global accessibility of your event, as some devices aren’t available in all countries.
Audience members with incompatible devices could end up missing out on your event if they aren’t able to access your event software. Additionally, they might wish to switch between devices to fit a presentation into their busy schedule, so being able to seamlessly switch between mobile and desktop should be an option.
Try these solutions:
- Do lots of research before choosing an event platform to ensure it’s compatible with as many devices and operating systems as possible
- Clearly list device requirements on the virtual ticket purchase page so attendees are aware before purchasing tickets for your event
6. Content available on-demand
Making recordings of your event sessions available will be useful for those who cannot attend a session live (if they’re busy or in another time zone, etc.) as well as for all audience members to refer back to post-event. On-demand recordings available post-event are a great way to offer flexibility to your participants.
If something comes up and an attendee is unable to attend a live session, they could miss out on valuable information and experiences that they were looking forward to when registering for your hybrid event. Those in other time zones outside of where you’re hosting your event may be unable to attend live if the timing doesn’t work well for them.
Try this solution:
Record all event sessions and make them available for online viewing for all audience members (in-person attendees too!). Your audience, presenters, and sponsors will appreciate the content being accessible post-event.
5 Hybrid Event Metrics & KPIs You Should Know About
The numbers don’t lie, hybrid events are where it’s at! Check out these hybrid event statistics to learn what success metrics you should keep in mind when planning your own.
1. Attendee satisfaction
According to a survey conducted by Markletic, an overwhelming majority of event organizers (89%) say that they measure the success of the hybrid event by attendee satisfaction. To gauge how satisfied their attendees were with their experience, 88% of organizers said they use surveys. If your organization plans to host more events in the future, making audience satisfaction one of your biggest goals will contribute to a great turnout at future events.
2. Returning attendees
When your attendees are satisfied with their experience at your events, they’re much more likely to become repeat attendees at your organization’s future events. Using attendee registration information, keep track of how many attendees are repeated from any past events you’ve hosted. These returning audience members may have a higher likelihood of becoming future clients and would be a great group to send more targeted marketing communications to.
3. Traffic, clicks, and engagement
Leading up to, during, and immediately after hosting a hybrid event, you’ll likely see an increase in traffic to your website. If this boost in traffic lingers long after your event has ended, that proves that you’ve made an impact on your audience in a positive and lasting way. See which pages on your site are getting the most clicks and have the longest average time on the page. Other important metrics like session duration, interactions, and bounce rate are also great indicators of how engaged your viewers are with your website and its content.
4. Net Promoter Score (NPS)
A great tool to use to calculate the success of your event is Net Promoter Score or NPS. This tool is used by around 23% of event marketers to measure customer experience on a scale of 1-10. This is a trusted way to predict the future growth of your organization and provides actionable insights for you to consider when planning future events.
5. Success metrics for B2B marketers
A hybrid event model comes along with additional digital components that can make it easier to gather data about your event and its success. According to Markletic, two of the main metrics popularly used by B2B event marketers are “pipeline generated” (94%), and “opportunity acceleration” (34%).
Choosing the Right Hybrid Event Technology
While we won’t promote any specific event software in this guide, we do want to talk about what elements a great hybrid event platform should include. These components are vital to ensure that your event will run smoothly and leave your audience happy. If you’re looking for some guidance to help you choose the right technology for your next event, contact us to learn more.
1. Cross-platform compatibility
To make sure that none of your attendees will run into issues attending your event virtually, your event hosting software should be compatible with all major device types (smartphone, tablet, desktop, etc.) as well as all major operating systems (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, etc.). This will allow your audience to tune in from whatever device(s) they have available.
2. Virtual communication features
Something that can help increase audience engagement is including methods of virtual communication between attendees. Having a live chat where they can discuss event sessions, online polls, breakout rooms, and forums are all awesome features that the ideal event hosting platform would offer. These allow for more networking possibilities for your attendees and will also contribute to their overall satisfaction with your event.
3. Trusted cybersecurity
The absolute last thing an event host would want to have happened is for their digital audience to somehow get hacked because their information was unprotected or made vulnerable by your event platform. Your choice of hybrid event technology should be safe and guarded with strict security features such as reCAPTCHA tests and 2-step verification. If you’re unsure whether your chosen software has adequate cybersecurity, you can have a trusted third party conduct a security audit before your event to double-check.
4. On-demand streaming capability
Recording all event sessions has many benefits, including providing marketing materials you can re-use on your social media and website, and pleasing your attendees, speakers, and sponsors. There are plenty of reasons why on-demand event content is a great feature to have included in your event platform. Here are just a few:
- Provide flexibility to your audience, allowing them to enjoy a recording of an event session whenever it best suits their schedule
- Cater to those who may be attending your event from another time zone
- Make your sponsors happy by providing continued exposure to their marketing efforts
- Allow your audience to refer back to your event content or enjoy their favorite live sessions multiple times!
5 Creative Hybrid Event Examples
Many companies have used a hybrid strategy, but there are a select few that have executed them exceedingly well. The following hybrid event examples provide a great representation of successful hybrid events.
1. Growth Marketing Conference
The Growth Marketing Conference is one of the largest conferences for digital marketing professionals. This conference series is well known for providing an exceptional experience to both their in-person and online attendees. Their 2020 conference had the option for a “Virtual Access Pass” for their online audience, giving them exclusive access to valuable extra content, including recordings of over 200 webinars. We love the idea of giving online attendees some exclusive content, so they feel like they aren’t missing out on any aspect of the event!
2. Apple Special Events
Many of you may be familiar with Apple’s product launch events. Apple Special Events are always very hyped up and their customer base gets super excited to see what products will be released next. If you’re looking to announce new or upcoming products at your hybrid event, follow Apple’s lead to get your audience excited about it.
3. Social Media Marketing World
A top hybrid event for influencers, marketers, and other social media professionals, Social Media Marketing World is our next example of an awesome hybrid event strategy. One of the best things about this conference is its tiered ticketing system. There are 4 different ticket options at different price points, making the event more accessible to everyone who wishes to attend. Offering a lower-priced ticket option with limited event access is a great way to allow attendees to test out one of your events and see how they like it.
4. Emmy Awards 2020
Looking for an example of an event that adapted very well under difficult circumstances during the pandemic? Look no further than the 2020 Annual Emmy Awards. While the Emmy Awards normally have hundreds of nominees and other VIPs in attendance, in 2020 only host Jimmy Kimmel and a few select presenters were present at the event’s physical venue. Camera kits were sent out to all nominees to ensure that top-notch video and audio quality could be maintained for viewers despite having to celebrate the awards ceremony from a distance.
5. Pulse Everywhere
Gainsight’s Pulse conference also adopted a hybrid model out of necessity during the pandemic. This event was previously an in-person event, but the transition to Pulse Everywhere with a hybrid strategy was beautifully executed in 2020. Only necessary presenters and staff attended in-person to keep numbers to a minimum and comply with all COVID restrictions at that time. Allowing your virtual audience to attend from anywhere and everywhere is key to the success of a hybrid event.
The Future of Hybrid Events
Hybrid events have proven to be very effective and we predict that it will continue to be a popular format used by event hosts for years to come. Many organizations and future audience members are eager to return to in-person events and feel back to “normal,” however a large number of people are continuing to enjoy working from home, and may prefer to attend events virtually; hybrid events offer the best of both worlds! For these reasons and more, hybrid events are likely to stick around for good.
Whether you’re new to the world of hybrid events or a seasoned event host pro, we hope that this guide has provided you with lots of information and tips on how to run a successful hybrid event. If you’re looking for additional resources, check out our Industry Insights for downloadable guides, tips, trends, and more. To get started working with Impact XM for your event marketing needs, get in touch today!