In the upcoming months, you'll see people talking about hybrid events more and more. And although it’s not a new concept, we’re only now starting to realize its real potential.
Apart from reaching out to local attendees, hybrid events can help us build and nurture a strong global online community that we wouldn’t be able to access otherwise. They also give you the chance to combine both physical and digital experiences, experiment with different formats, and engage with both an in-person and a virtual audience. However, this type of event comes with new challenges, and one of them is the workload.
Planning a physical event is hard and stressful enough, and the same is true for online events. With online events, you don’t have to prepare and decorate a venue, find a good catering service, ... you still need to design different online experiences, create a virtual stage, and manage the streaming (which is quite difficult when you have simultaneous or back-to-back sessions).
Now imagine putting all this together and having to do double the work you had before. After all, hybrid events combine in-person attendance and remote participation, and you need to create and manage both the physical and digital versions of the event. Not exactly work for the fainthearted. That’s why we’ve put together a few steps to follow when preparing your hybrid events. These steps will help you get better organized and ready for the workload to expect.
Step 1: Add new roles to your planning team
Chances are that you already have a fantastic physical event planning team. However, to manage a hybrid event, you’ll also need people in charge of the online portion, so you’ll need to add new roles to your planning teams. You can start with someone to be responsible for setting up the virtual stage and working with the event tech partner of your choosing.
You’ll also need an A/V professional who’ll be responsible for streaming the knowledge sessions. Apart from that, if you decide to offer exclusive online experiences, you’ll need a person responsible for the digital backstage. That person will connect with online speakers or experience providers (such as yoga teachers, brand ambassadors, etc.) and help them go live on the virtual stage. Finally, you’ll need someone in charge of the virtual attendee engagement.
Step 2: Acquire new tools for the online version of the event
Another thing you’ll want to consider is purchasing new equipment and digital tools for running the online version of your hybrid event. For example, you’ll need to partner with an event tech platform that provides solutions for online events. Also, if you want to level up the online experience, you may want to create a special events studio for streaming.
Step 3: Agree upon the type of exclusive experiences you’ll offer
To make your hybrid event appealing, you’ll want to design experiences that are different for the physical and online environment. For example, a physical experience can be running a light show or inviting performers who’ll interact with your audience. For the online experience, you can invite a remote violin musician and have him or her play for your virtual audience. The secret here is to know exactly what will make the physical and online experiences different and what exclusive sessions you’ll prepare.
Step 4: Set up both the physical and online networking
Your virtual audience may have limited access to networking. After all, they can’t take a coffee break, mingle with other attendees, or initiate random conversations. However, since you’ll be offering the possibility to network to people who attend your physical event, you’ll want to do to same for your online audience. You can do that by providing online networking sessions powered by your event tech platform. This way, people will be able to schedule meetings during the hours you’ve established for networking and connect online for business talks.
Step 5: Create the virtual stage
Venues are for physical events; virtual stages are for online events. That’s the place where people will be able to watch the event, chat, connect with each other, ask questions, and enjoy unique online experiences. It’s also where you’ll be showcasing the profiles of your event sponsors. Again, to create a virtual stage for your hybrid event, you’ll have to team up with an event tech software company that offers solutions for online events.
Step 6: Decide how to manage the virtual engagement component
Finally, you’ll want to keep your virtual attendees connected and engaged during the hybrid event, which means you’ll have to figure out what interaction tools and dynamics to offer. For example, you’ll need to decide how your virtual attendees will be able to participate in the Q&A sessions, answer live polls, and leave chat comments sharing their opinions and experiences. In addition, you’ll have to delegate someone on your team to monitor the chat, run the live polls, and collect the questions for the Q&A sessions.
Planning and running a hybrid event involves double the work. However, the results and its impact will increase exponentially. Apart from your regular attendees, you’ll have access to a worldwide community that’s aligned with your mission and goals. That’s why we suggest you take advantage of this break we have right now from physical events to rethink and reorganize your future steps, along with a reinforced and renewed event strategy.