The fact that there is great interest in hybrid events can be inferred from the commonly used search term "What is a hybrid event?". And rightly so.
By expanding your conference or event with an interactive live broadcast you reach a wider audience and generate far more involvement with your target audience. Recent online hybrid conferences report participation figures of +400%! In this article, I like to explore the possibilities regarding your next event. So, how do you go about it?
What is a 'hybrid event' anyway?
The definition of a hybrid event I like to describe as "a physical meeting in which an online audience also participates". Essentially, both the physical as well as the online audience come together and participate in the same experience or content at the same time, from different locations.
Forget live streaming - engage your audience at a hybrid event
We've all watched live streaming with the speaker in a tiny frame and his slides on the side. Rather dull, or maybe just okay if you’re not tempted to just 'zap' away. A hybrid event is much more than just a static recording. In a hybrid event, you introduce an interactive online component in conjunction with the physical element of the program. This enables you to reach a large (international) audience who can actively participate in your event.
3 essential ingredients for hybrid success: make it interactive, short, and entertaining
To succeed online, you need to seduce your audience. After all, they can leave with a single click of a mouse button. That's why, with our team at LiveOnlineEvents, we always look closely at what works in the world of television, and we combine that with the potential of the Internet.
These are the prerequisites for a successful online broadcast:
- The images must be dynamic
There should be at least three or four cameras shooting from different angles. This allows you, the viewer, to be literally as 'close' to the content and the experience as you possibly can be. The switching between shots will help keep viewers glued to the screen.
- The program must be interactive
Hybrid events differ substantially from TV viewing: the participants are sitting with their hands next to a keyboard. It is therefore prudent to give some thought on how your online viewers can participate. For example, by asking questions (via chat or Twitter) which will be answered live. Other forms of interactivity are also possible, such as a poll, quiz or a collaborative online brainstorm.
- The time must be limited
Being a participant in a hybrid event is a special experience where you find yourself watching the same content with all sorts of people from all over the country (or world). 'Watching alone together'. In order to focus that energy and have as many people as possible simultaneously online, a successful broadcast takes a good two hours – which is a reasonable attention span for an online audience. Moreover, you can also make it very clear that there is much more 'event' going on that the online viewer will miss. That should give them the incentive to attend the physical event next time!
- There must be a clear theme
It is relatively easy to attract viewers with an appealing subject. Cherry-picking is the key: choose a clear theme, and build your program around it. Ideally, it’s the subject that speaks most to your target audience. In this way, you attract viewers who are not yet familiar with your event or conference, but after seeing the online broadcast may be encouraged to consider physically attending the next one.
- Be as entertaining as a sports broadcast or talk show
A good broadcast is as entertaining as a football game or a modern talk show. There is always a presenter, there are guests, and there is a moderator who directs the online content. These are the simple rules of television, and you'd be extremely remiss if you did not heed all those years of collective experience.
Components of a hybrid event: this is how you build the broadcast
A typical online broadcast of a hybrid event looks like this:
- a preview where the context and the subject is laid out. You can use this to introduce important keynote speakers and experts. Or to showcase parts of conferences or events that took place at another time (think snapshots of other sessions, interviews with physical participants, entertainment etc).
- a live recording of a presentation or seminar, with possibly the opportunity to ask questions online. The online moderator can gather these questions from remote viewers and put them to the speaker or chairperson.
- commentary/conclusion. Here an exclusive Q & A with the keynote speaker, for example, especially for your online audience, can be a big drawcard.
A 'Hybrid Hub': Watching satellite events together
The hybrid broadcast lends itself well to watching events together. It increases the involvement even more (think of watching football in the pub!). It’s also a great incentive for interaction. With conferences, for example, you could think of organizing ‘hubs’ at universities or on the premises of sponsors. At corporate events, we find that the colleagues of the people participating in the physical event back in the office in order to be better clued up on what their colleagues have learnt.
A Hybrid event can generate a reach of up to 10 times its size
Nothing beats the power of a physical encounter, everyone knows that. However, a hybrid broadcast will not reduce physical participation. On the contrary! Because this is what happens: people who can not attend or who have never been heard of, can still pick up the highlight(s) of the conference online. If these are good, it prompts them to want to travel to the physical venue next time.
It's a fact that at any event more people from the potential target group are absent than those who are present. For example, at an ICCA hybrid event in 2013, 84 participants were physically present, whilst the online broadcast attracted an additional 604 participants from 75 countries.
Of these, nearly 300 contributed via chat or Twitter. And precisely because of all these interactions on Social Media, it enables you to reach a whole new audience. In the case of this specific event, that reach extended to over 40,000 accounts! That's the beauty - with a hybrid event you give people a reason and a subject to talk about on social media with regard to your conference or event. And that’s exactly what you want.
The Long-term effect of hybrid events: extra reach and new participants
With a hybrid event you don't just remove the 'place' factor, but also the 'time' factor. The broadcast can still be viewed (in parts) online later, which expands the long-term reach and also taps into a whole new audience. In addition, all the questions from online viewers can be a wealth of inspiration - this is literally what your target audience wants to know more about!
Online broadcasts are very attractive to sponsors
The wide reach makes a hybrid component even more attractive to sponsors. They are not onlly visible to the physical participants of the conference or event, but also to online participants. And not only during the event, but also for years afterwards through online videos. Combined with the fact that a hybrid event works particularly well to generate Social Media buzz, an online broadcast is one of the most attractive propositions to sponsor. Like many of our clients at LiveOnlineEvents, you could probably produce such an online broadcast entirely cost neutral. And who does'nt want that?!
The most important first step: experience a hybrid event for yourself!
This is the most important tip I give at all my presentations on hybrid events: make sure you have experienced it as a participant at least once! Only then will you understand how it feels to participate remotely and why it’s such fun and so spectacular. You’ll also have a better idea of what the challenges are and where you, as the organizer of your event or conference, need to focus your attention. In short, would you like to experience how it works for yourself? Drop me a line and I'll let you know when the next broadcast is scheduled. You are more than welcome to join in. Who knows - Maybe your contribution will be included in the show!
Freelance Project Manager, Entrepreneur and networker with a passion for events and Social Media. Gerrit is partner of How Can I Be Social (HCIBS), co-founder of Triqle Event Intelligence, board member of the Green Meetings Industry Council (GMIC) in the Netherlands and professional speaker.