Technology is central to hybrid events. In fact, without it, your event wouldn’t be hybrid at all – you’d simply have no way of broadcasting your content to a virtual audience.
But what hybrid event technology do you actually need? From an all-in-one event platform to venue tech, here are 6 technologies that most hybrid events just can’t do without.
1. Virtual or hybrid event platform
An all-in-one virtual or hybrid event platform will allow you to easily manage the virtual elements of your hybrid event. Most of these platforms include features such as:
- Audience engagement tools (eg live chat, polling or Q&A).
- AI-powered networking.
- Virtual exhibition stands or sponsor booths.
- Multiple stages.
- Breakout rooms.
- Data analytics.
- Event website.
- Event registration and ticketing.
On the day of your event, your online attendees simply have to log into the platform to access all your content, virtual entertainment features and networking in one place.
Some hybrid event platforms even come with an event app that can be downloaded by both your in-person and virtual attendees. This can be a great way to create a really consistent experience at your hybrid event, as both audience types will be able to access your agenda in the same way.
Better still, getting your in-person attendees to download the event app allows them to benefit from your platform’s AI-powered networking. In this way, your in-person and virtual attendees can network with one another as well as with those within the same audience segment as themselves (read our tips for facilitating networking at your hybrid event for more ideas).
Prices tend to vary depending on the platform's quality and capabilities (check out our blog on how much a hybrid event costs for the full lowdown). If you can’t find hybrid event software that does everything you want within your budget, you could consider using stacked technology instead. This is where you integrate a number of different platforms and technologies to host your virtual event, the benefit being that you aren’t paying for features you don’t actually need.
Our blog on the pros and cons of an all-in-one platform versus stacked technology will help you choose between the two.
Hire Space Top Tip: If you’re working on a tight budget, consider using a platform that has a pricing model that allows you to only pay for what you use – whether that means avoiding paying for features you don't need or only paying for attendees that show up. Unlike most platforms, Arena only charges you for the attendees that show up to your event on the day, avoiding inflated charges for services you don’t utilise.
2. Streaming platform
Some all-in-one virtual event platforms allow you to stream directly into the platform using their software. But others will require you to use a third-party streaming service, such as Vimeo or YouTube.
These streaming platforms can be integrated with your all-in-one virtual event platform, allowing you to embed your live stream. This way, your online audience can access all your content in one place. We’d usually recommend Vimeo if you’re hosting a professional event as its embed styling options are more flexible.
Don't forget that you'll still need to film your content. Your streaming platform is simply a tool that will allow your online audience to view it in real-time. A professional production company will usually be able to handle the live stream for you. Which leads us onto...
3. Production equipment
In order to broadcast your sessions to your virtual audience, you’ll need production equipment and, preferably, a professional production company that can ensure your footage is slick and professional. The equipment they use is likely to include:
- Cameras. If you can, consider budgeting for two or three rather than just one. This will give your online audience a few different views to create a far more engaging experience.
- Switcher. This will allow you to move between views if you’re using more than one camera.
- Microphones. Lapel microphones will make your speakers easier to hear. A handheld microphone will also allow in-person audience members to be better heard during Q&As or discussions.
- Mixing board. A mixing board could allow you to switch between different mics and audio during a session.
- Speakers. Not only will speakers allow your in-person attendees to better hear your panellists, but they can also allow your virtual attendees and panellists to be heard if they contribute to a session.
- Lighting. Good lighting is always important but it's even more so for your virtual audience. It will play a major part in giving your live stream that slick and profession look you're after.
- Projector. This will enable you to broadcast virtual attendees and panellists to your in-person audience. It can also allow you to display elements of your virtual event in your physical event venue, such as live poll results or questions submitted during a Q&A.
4. Venue technology
When you’re choosing a hybrid event venue, you’ll need to make sure it has the potential to be used in a hybrid capacity.
Any venues that you consider should have fast wifi. This will enable you to make use of AR and VR tools if you wish. It will also make it possible for your in-person audience to fully commit to using your event app to connect with their virtual counterparts.
Venues should ideally also have a hard-wired ethernet connection, as well as 10Mbp+ upload and download speed and open ports in the location you're broadcasting from (in most cases, the stage). This is important to ensure that you can rely on your connection to effectively broadcast your content to your virtual audience.
These are really the minimum requirements when you’re looking for an event venue. But some venues are better-suited for hybrid events than others. For instance, some will have invested in equipment such as projectors, in-built speakers and live streaming setups themselves, saving you the job of sourcing (and budgeting for) these elements yourself. Browse our selection of the best hybrid event venues for guidance.
5. Interpretation equipment
Hybrid events are a great way to promote inclusivity. They make it easy to encourage attendance from people all over the world, regardless of factors like location and accessibility.
With that in mind, investing in interpretation tools to translate your sessions in real-time will make a real difference to an international, virtual audience. There’s a whole host of options available, ranging from a team of interpreters who can be present in the room in interpreter booths, to a fully remote interpretation team.
The latter, known as Remote Simultaneous Interpreting (RSI) has gained a lot of traction in recent months due to COVID-19. It allows your attendees to enjoy real-time interpreting in their chosen language via a dedicated app, platform, or directly through your own hybrid event platform. The choice is yours!
To promote inclusivity still further, consider adding in live captions too for those that have reduced hearing.
6. Marketing technology
On top of all the tech you need to actually run your hybrid event, remember to factor in everything you’ll need to market (and measure) it.
This is likely to include an email marketing platform, such as Mailchimp or ActiveCampaign, to send out pre- and post-event comms. Alternatively, your all-in-one virtual event platform may enable you to send comms out directly from there.
Similarly, you’ll want to invest in social media tools for scheduling, tracking and reporting on social posts, such as Later.com or Hootsuite. These platforms allow you to build a strategic social media campaign around your event, rather than a reactive one.
Just remember to keep your objectives in mind throughout your event marketing. For instance, if you’re holding your hybrid event to grow your customer base, you won’t want to lose touch with your attendees immediately after! Instead, consider how you can continue to provide value to your attendees long after your event has ended, such as emailing them with recordings or key takeaways of your top sessions. These are just a couple of ways to extend the life of your virtual event.
Of course, every event (and every audience) is different. But by keeping the hybrid event technology we've mentioned in mind while you’re planning, you’ll be giving your event the foundations it needs to really succeed. Although hybrid event tech can seem like an overwhelming topic, it's easy to learn how to overcome common tech hurdles to host a truly successful hybrid event.
For more guidance on organising hybrid events, check out our ultimate guide.