Hybrid Events - What Works and What Doesn't?

Four years ago Gerdie joined Kevin in the studio to talk about the new trend: hybrid events. What about today with live online events? Do they work? And what did we learn in the last couple of years?

Kevin Van der Straeten
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Four years ago Gerdie joined me here in the studio to talk about the new trend: hybrid events. What about today with live online events? Do they work? And what did we learn in the last couple of years?


Hi Gerdie, welcome to our studio.  


Thank you, good to be here. 


We're going to talk about hybrid events. But to start with: what is a hybrid event? 


The official definition at the moment... 


At the moment? Does the definition change? 


Yes, it does. Sure it does. Actually I would like to change it right now. Because there is no official institute for definitions in this sector. But the most used definition is that a hybrid event is live with a live and online target group, experiencing the same event at the same moment from different locations. So there is both a live and an online group. 


And at the same moment? 


At the same moment, yes. And that's exactly the part which I think is changing, or that is going to change. 


Why is that? 


Because there is a trend, as you can see watching television, that people tend to watch at the times suiting them.  


Yeah, look at Netflix and all the others. You just want to watch content when you like. How challenging is it to get people actually to join live? Online then. It is getting difficult. To get them at computers at the same moment to follow an event? 


That's a challenge. Or it's becoming a challenge actually. But the added value of attaching to a live event, via the internet, through your laptop or tablet... The added value is to be part of a bigger group. So it gives a sense of belonging: "I belong to this group". And it gives you the opportunity to ask questions and to chat with other people interested in the subject. 


Okay, to get more interaction on the subject? 


Yes, so interaction is the added value to join an online event real-time. 


But if you then look at... For example, I have a congress with 10,000 guests live on the event. How many can I then expect to have online? 


I heard a brilliant example this morning from an event with 3,000 people, and 30 million online attendees worldwide. 


What event was that?  


It was a religious event actually. 


Oh okay!  


Yeah, but that's an exception. If you look at business events... 2-3 times as much as the audience in the venue. 


It is actually a larger audience online than at the venue? 


Yeah, our goal is at least to double, but what we see is 2-3 times, yes. Depending on the marketing efforts because to recruit online participants is something really different. 


How is that? 


It's because the conversion for online participants finds place in the last 48 hours. 


That's the opposite for normal events. There you want a registration 2 or 3 months up front.  


Yeah, as soon as you can. Yes, but online people decide very late whether they will join or not. So at the moment the organiser is for example already in the car with the badges to the venue, then it only starts for the online participants. 


That's really interesting to know. I didn't realise that it went that way. But if you look at the show... How do I call it? It's a show. At the show itself, how do you do that? 


You nowadays have the apps like Periscope, Meerkat, Facebook Live and all the others. 


Do you just walk around with your tablet or phone and do it like this? 


Well, that's one of the possibilities. There are two big things happening at the moment. One we already mentioned: that people tend to watch on-demand, so immediately afterwards. The other one is that there are so many possibilities to do live-streaming yourself at the moment, through Facebook Live or Periscope or Blab, that it's easy to be somewhere to attend online somewhere. 


But does anyone really look at the Periscope live feed? Because if I'm watching one, it doesn't last very long. 


No, unless something big is happening and it's the only source. Something in the world. Then you don't mind whatever quality. But if we're talking about business events, an app like Periscope is fun, but the quality is not high enough to keep your attention very long, so a few minutes.


People are used to watch television shows and they kind of expect the same. 


They expect television quality. Yes, we see in our hybrid events that people connect their laptops to their televisions at home. 


Oh, it's actually watching television.  


And they are watching television, so they expect television quality. 


And that's something you don't do with Periscope. 


No, you cannot do it with Periscope. But the fun part is attracting a new target group through Periscope because it's attached with Twitter. So what we sometimes do is like a backstage Periscope broadcast just before we start. And then it's just going around very close-up at the make-up, the speakers, the host. "Are you nervous?" And then we start the real thing, yes.  


But as a hybrid event expert... I can say that?  




Do you have some advice for our viewers? If they want to start doing live-events: what should they do? 


They should find a reliable partner. 


That's you then? 


Ehhh... Well, they're free to choose anyone else. For the technical aspects it's very vulnerable. Not only live-streaming, but all technics at an event. Audio is an issue. 


Yeah, you have a lot of background noises and... 


Yes, so you have to find a partner with experience, that's important. And don't trust on words. Try to find some examples of hybrid events they did earlier. That's one thing, so a reliable partner. The second thing: involve your marketing department. Because first of all, you create marketing content through this hybrid event. 


How is that? 


Because afterwards you can edit all the video content and it can be used 365 days a year for your community. And then it's bigger than the event. 


You have all the short videos then on specific topics. 


On specific topics, which has the advantage to ask marketing for a little budget as well. 


Hmmm, that's interesting. Get their budget. 


Yes, yeah their budget, but also for them it's an investment. And it's making use of the fact that all important speakers and people in your industry are present at the congress. A third thing is creating a program for the online participants because they are distracted by... Their email is asking for attention, the telephone is ringing, colleagues are getting in, so you need to create a program which is really, really engaging, to keep them. 


Lately I heard you mentioning that you were dreaming of a platform where you can watch all videos of all congresses. 




How would that work? 


That would work in a way that it would be able to find relevant and new content or the newest research online. Because conferences are very important. That's where a breakthrough research is being presented. But it's only at the venue. Only between these four walls. How fantastic would it be if all congresses about the same topics, like disruptive technologies, self-driving cars... If we could connect them all, and make sure that you'll find the content in one specific place. So you don't have to start all over again. But you can continue building on what's already shared at congresses.  


But if you all start looking at content on such a platform, do we then still need congresses? Because it would be easier to make television shows and just air them there. 


Yeah, that's what people thought when the telephone was invented. But we still want to see and meet each other.  


That's true. That's true. 


I think it's the same and although I'm an expert in hybrid events I love physical attendance. And to meet people and that's something different from meeting each other online. 


So there's still a future for our business?  


Absolutely, no worries. 


Gerdie, thank you very much for coming over.  


You're welcome. 


And you at home: thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next week!