Introduction to Hybrid Events
With the constantly changing landscape of events, only magnified by the coronavirus pandemic and the now-loosened restrictions in the UK, harnessing the power of virtual and live events to create an all-encompassing and all-inclusive experience for your delegates is key for 2021 and beyond.
Combining the social, interactive aspect of physical events with the ease and accessibility of virtual, we give you the new kid on the block: hybrid events.
Throughout this piece, we will provide you with a comprehensive guide to devising, planning and executing your own hybrid events, including everything from tech, venues and even a whole case study series where you’ll get exclusive insight into the real-life planning experience from real-life eventprofs.
We’re here to give you all the hybrid knowledge and skills so that you’ll be fully equipped and raring to get going in the world of hybrid.
We've also written a comprehensive guide to planning virtual events, so make sure you check that out too so you're fully prepared for any event you'll plan going forward.
What is A Hybrid Event?
There are many different ways to make an event hybrid, but put simply, a hybrid event is an event which combines live and virtual elements, allowing delegates or speakers to attend sessions either in person or remotely via the Internet. You could even make your audience completely virtual and broadcast your speakers live from an event space… the possibilities are endless.
As we move further into 2021 and restrictions are eased, it is hoped that we can leverage this opportunity to enhance the impact of in-person events by expanding our audiences through virtual. In this way, we can reap all the benefits of in-person and virtual events and combine them to create one super-event. It’s the ultimate win-win!
Why Hybrid Events?
Hybrid events can help increase your brand’s reach and flexibility, enhance your ROI, increase value for sponsors and even help lower your carbon footprint.
There’s no denying that virtual events have been a true life raft for the events industry throughout the pandemic, but the power and desire for attending live events will never be replaced; according to a study by MPI on Bizbash.com, 70% of respondents felt that hybrid events (not solely virtual) will be important to the future of the events industry. Never has that been the case more than right now! If you’re intrigued by the concept of organising a hybrid event but need a little more convincing, we delve more into the key benefits below:
- You can increase your reach massively. With a physical event you are restricted by location, capacity, budget for things like catering, furniture, collateral and plenty of other uncontrollable elements such as weather, sickness, or even just traffic or travel costs and restrictions. With a hybrid event, sure, you’re still restricted by these things, but you are also able to welcome potentially thousands of virtual attendees who only require an internet connection. You can expand into countries and areas you’ve never reached previously, especially considering that many companies will have reduced their travelling budgets, so tuning in virtually will be the best option for many.
Plus, if your content is recorded and available on-demand, attendees can watch your content from all corners of the globe at any time, making your brand super accessible.
- Flexibility. Some people may live far away, some may be busy on your event day and some may just prefer tuning in virtually. With hybrid events, you get the best of both worlds. It is completely up to your attendees how they experience and digest your content. This flexibility is a really valuable thing to be able to offer, especially in the current climate where individuals may not feel comfortable traveling and attending in person yet. Put the power into your attendees’ hands and you’re bound to reap the rewards.
- Increased sponsor value. At a physical event, sponsors can only target who is in front of them. At a virtual event, they can target the whole world! Having sponsors present at both the physical and virtual parts of an event at the same time means they have a lot more brand exposure and there is a lot more opportunity for valuable conversations. If your sponsors are happier, you can charge more for more valuable packages, and attendees get the chance to have worthwhile conversations. Plus, virtual attendees who actively approach the sponsor to book meetings are likely to be much more engaged than a passer-by at a physical event who got sucked in by the freebies…
- Enhanced ROI. It’s not just the sponsors who’ll get enhanced ROI from your hybrid events; you can charge entry for the virtual element as well as the in-person element of your hybrid event, generating a decent revenue boost. Attendees will feel they’re getting a good deal with all the on-demand content they have access to and you’ll still monetise your event.
- Lower carbon footprint. Last but by no means least, hybrid events bring with them a lower carbon footprint. Attendees from further a-field will likely opt to tune in virtually rather than make the car/train/plane journey to attend in person. This means there’ll be less heating/air conditioning needed at the venue, less food waste, less plastic waste, less transportation costs for attendees, furniture, food, you name it! Not only is this better for the environment, but you’ll get brownie points from your industry and customers too.
The Core Elements Of A Hybrid Event
There are several key areas that need to be considered when planning a hybrid meeting or event. These include:
This is the medium through which your virtual attendees will watch, read or listen to your content. Key things to look out for when choosing your hybrid event platform include: ensuring integration capability with your registration platform, easy access for all attendees, the ability to host/stream all content seamlessly, as well as great audience engagement and networking tools. Read our piece on 10 of the best event platforms for a better idea of what to look out for, as well as checking out our section on event technology.
How will your attendees sign up? Try and find a registration platform that can be integrated with your CRM and event platform. This will give you visibility and easy access to your attendees, including those who signed up but didn’t actually attend on the day. All this data is essential for analysing the success of your event as well as making your life easier when it comes to sending out your email communications (nothing says unorganised more than receiving a ‘thanks for attending’ email to an event you didn’t actually attend…).
If you’re considering charging for tickets, you’ll need to ensure you use a registration platform that integrates with a payment gateway and allows for your ticketing system. For example, you may decide to have different ticket types, different ticket prices for certain audiences, different levels of access etc.
Another key thing to think about is how your attendees will check in to your event. You need to be able to have complete visibility over your entire attendee list, so whether they’re being checked in manually at the venue or logging into the event platform online, you need to be able to see who’s checked in and from where.
This is an obvious one, but critical nonetheless. Why should people attend your event? What’s in it for them? Thinking really hard about the value you’re aiming to provide your audience will help when curating the content. If the session title bores you, you’re unlikely to attract loads of excited delegates! Make the content exciting, valuable, interesting and try to find some high-profile or knowledgeable speakers to lead the sessions too, as this will add gravitas to your content and create a buzz around the event. Everyone loves a celeb!
It's also important to consider how you'll present your content. Having a great speaker is all well and good, but attendees may be disappointed if they travel to an event only to watch the speaker via video link. Consider creative ways to present your content so both audiences benefit and don't feel shortchanged - fun presentations, gamification, you could even try holograms!
Hybrid Event Venue
As you’re organising a hybrid event, you’re going to need a suitable venue or event space for the physical part of the event. Make sure your venue has plenty of light, plenty of space (to account for social distancing if still required) and most importantly, excellent Internet! Check out more considerations in our hybrid event venue section, or you could also check out our guide to choosing a hybrid event venue.
For the in-person element, you’ll need standard event tech such as microphones, lighting, filming equipment and of course, a strong internet connection to tie both elements together. We’ve written a whole piece on the tech you’ll need for your hybrid event, so make sure you check it out for more guidance.
This can take many forms but the most common audience interaction formats are Q&A, live polls and live chat (on the virtual event platform). For a hybrid event, there are many great audience interaction tools that work well across both types of audiences, so be sure to do your research and provide ways for your attendees to get involved in the content and conversation.
Networking is a huge part of events, and can be a really useful way for your delegates to make valuable connections and for your sponsors to generate great leads. The challenge is to provide great networking opportunities across both the virtual and in-person elements of a hybrid event. Read our guide to facilitating hybrid event networking or watch this session from EventLAB 2020 which explores this topic in more detail.
Sponsorship is a great way to monetise your hybrid events whilst simultaneously offering the opportunity for your delegates and sponsors to make valuable connections. We’re all familiar with how sponsorship works at a live event, and increasingly at virtual events, but how do we translate that into a hybrid environment? Read our top tips for more guidance.
Entertainment & Activities
When it comes to hybrid event entertainment, the options are endless! You could opt for an activity in small groups such as a virtual scavenger hunt with a mixture of physical and virtual attendees working together, you could stream live performances from the venue, or you could even separate out activities for the two audience types. Whatever entertainment style you want to go for, ensure you’ve thought through how you’ll include each type of attendee, especially if you opt for one style of entertainment for both virtual and physical attendees.
For some virtual entertainment ideas, be sure to check out the Virtual Experiences Marketplace for our top suppliers.
Collecting feedback from attendees is the best way of garnering valuable insights from your attendees. Send a feedback survey and ask them to be honest; what did they think went well, what didn’t go so well, how can you improve for next time etc. All of these things will be crucial for you in honing your skills and producing excellent hybrid events.
How Much Does A Hybrid Event Cost?
When budgeting for a hybrid event, you’ll have to bear in mind two distinct elements: the virtual side of your event, and the in-person side. The total cost will vary hugely depending on how much focus you give to both of these elements, the capacity of each and the capabilities of the technology you use.
For example, a large hybrid conference could include a 3D virtual event platform for the online audience, a large conference centre for the in-person audience, and catering and entertainment for both. Meanwhile, another hybrid event might involve only the speakers and panellists congregating at an in-person venue, while the entire audience is required to access the event online. These two scenarios alone will have wildly different costs.
When it comes to budgeting for the virtual side of your hybrid event, you’ll need to account for elements such as:
- Virtual event platform, whether that’s an all-in-one event platform or stacked technology. All-in-one platforms tend to be more cost-effective as all the software you need is in one place. A great example of an all-in-one platform is the brand new hybrid events solution, Arena.
- A streaming platform (such as Vimeo or YouTube)
- Filming (so that the in-person speakers can be broadcast to the online audience)
- Broadcast / Live Stream Production. This refers to the AV (audiovisual) services that will enable your virtual event to have sound, content, and video. Using a professional production company will also be useful for troubleshooting technological issues on the day
- You may also want to budget for virtual event entertainment and catering
Meanwhile, on the in-person side of things, you’ll usually need to put aside a similar budget as you would if you were organising a purely in-person event. However, you may be able to reduce your costs by minimising the number of in-person attendees (seeing as some of your audience will be accessing the event online).
You’ll usually also have to invest more in technology, to ensure that the in-person side of the event can be adequately broadcast to the online audience. For example, you could purchase iPads or freestanding screens to allow in-person guests to network with virtual attendees.
Check out the table below for some examples of hybrid event formats and their rough costs. These can vary greatly depending on your brief and event needs but should help to give you an idea of what you can expect.
10 / 10
500 / 100
1000 / 1000
500+ / 1000
How To Plan A Successful Hybrid Event
As we move towards a post-quarantine world, hybrid events are becoming the ultimate solution for overcoming restrictions, and the ability to host a good hybrid event will be an extremely valuable tool for companies all over the world. So how do we go about creating an outstanding hybrid experience?
In this section, we run through the key steps to planning a hybrid event. You could also check out this virtual and hybrid event planning checklist for some insight into best practices.
Step 1: Define Objectives & Audience
Like with any event, you need to decide on your event objectives and who you’re trying to reach before you do anything else.
- What are you trying to achieve with this event?
- What will make someone want to attend?
- Are you producing the right content for your target audience?
These questions are important to consider before organising a hybrid event, so spend some time consolidating your objectives to ensure you nail it from the start. These objectives will inform all of the decisions you make throughout the rest of the process.
Step 2: Pick A Hybrid Event Format
There are lots of different types of hybrid events you could choose from, such as hybrid conferences, hybrid meetings, hybrid award ceremonies, hybrid product launches, hybrid exhibitions, hybrid parties, or hybrid away days. It really depends on your objectives, audience and often, budget!
The format you choose also depends on restrictions: if social distancing restrictions are still in place or there are capacity restrictions, then you may want to think twice about planning a huge exhibition with physical stands, as the majority of your audience will likely be virtual.
Consider who will be attending the event and logistically how the event would work. How can you make sure you are providing a great experience for both in-person and virtual delegates? One consideration could be to have a dedicated virtual MC on the event platform to provide venue tours, event updates, or even just be a friendly face for your virtual attendees to feel included.
If you’re not sure how certain event types will look in the virtual environment, check out this piece on creative event formats to get more insight.
Step 3: Choose A Suitable Venue
Much like choosing a venue for a standard in-person event, choosing a suitable hybrid event venue depends on several factors and also needs to take into consideration enhanced safety precautions such as:
Layout: Will the event flow well? Will in-person delegates easily be able to find their way around from session to session? Do you have enough space to set up what you need for the virtual event platform? Will virtual attendees be able to get a good sense of the venue?
Power: Does the venue have sufficient power sources for everything you need?
Internet: Is the wifi strong enough to support all in-person attendees? Do you have hardwired connection access at all of your content stages to smoothly stream content to virtual attendees? Does the venue have a backup connection should the first fail?
Lighting: Is the lighting good enough for the virtual audience? You may need to bring in lighting technicians to support the filming quality for the event.
Loading: Is there easy access to the venue for all the equipment you’ll need?
Social distancing: Is there enough space to allow for social distancing measures such as one-way systems and more space between seats?
Catering: Could the catering company arrange lunchbox delivery for your virtual delegates too?
This list is by no means exhaustive; for more information be sure to check out our hybrid event venue section. Hire Space 360 is also a great tool for event planners, offering venue and supplier sourcing for in-person and virtual events, as well as access to event tech and much more.
Step 4: Put Safer Measures In Place
A key component of any hybrid event going forward is making sure it is as safe as possible for delegates and staff. To help with this, Hire Space developed a CPD-certified Safer Events Accreditation for both organisers and venues, informed by the Safer Events Whitepaper, a free resource with all the guidelines around organising safe events.
Hire Space also created a Safer Events Shop for eventprofs to purchase PPE and other safety equipment. The accreditation lays out a variety of measures to put in place, which will reassure delegates that they are safe when attending events in person. Measures include PPE, social distancing, catering hygiene and much more.
Step 5: Choose The Right Tools
So, you’ve decided on your hybrid event type and found a suitable venue that will keep your delegates safe. So what about the tech? Technology needed for hybrid events spans two categories - in-person and virtual. The key here is to ensure the tools you use enables you to create a smooth experience for both types of delegates.
For the in-person element, you’ll need physical equipment such as cameras, lighting, microphones and other production equipment. These tools help create a slick, professional experience for your physical delegates and will hugely enhance the virtual experience too.
For the virtual side, you’ll need a dependable arsenal of tools including a virtual event platform on which to host the event, live stream software and any other user-experience-enhancing software such as audience engagement and networking technology. You could also use an event app which both types of delegates can make use of. If you're unsure on the best platform for the job, check out this piece on how you can create stand-out events with Arena.
Step 6: Build Out Your Agenda
As with any event, your content needs to be interesting, valuable and engaging. But more importantly, it needs to be accessible for every delegate attending your hybrid event. Here are our top tips for building out your hybrid event agenda:
- Don’t make sessions too long. Not only will your virtual attendees get fatigued, your physical attendees will also get bored if they’re forced to sit through 2-hour long presentations. Keep them short, snappy and useful. We recommend between 30-45 minutes.
- Be careful of event timings. Just as you shouldn’t make your sessions too long, you also shouldn’t schedule too many of them or start too early. Your virtual attendees will get fatigued, but it’s also important to remember that in-person attendees may still have some anxiety around attending, so building your agenda timings to avoid rush hour is a good idea. Make it easy to attend your event!
- Schedule lots of breaks. Especially important for the virtual attendees, make sure to include breaks in the agenda to ensure people get time away from the screen. Plus, for the in-person attendees whilst social distancing is in place, queues will be longer! The last thing you want is people leaving sessions early to get a good spot in the lunch or bathroom queue.
- Allow time for fun. Networking is key at any event, so make sure to allow time for your delegates to mingle. Read our piece on how to facilitate networking at a hybrid event or check out the networking section below for some ideas.
Step 7: Nail Your Marketing
This is just as important when organising a hybrid event, as you have more overhead costs than a solely virtual event (venue costs, branding, catering, tech etc). One way to make these costs back is to charge for access to your event, but you need to tell people about it first!
That being said, it’s important to remember that your marketing approach will hugely vary depending on your event objectives. Make sure to step back and think about your objectives (and target audience) and consider which channels would be the best way to engage with them and promote your event.
For example, if your event objectives are mainly focused on generating revenue through your delegates, you're going to want to invest in a range of channels to promote your event to your target audience. If your event is focused on engaging your existing clients and prospects with your brand, you may use more targeted marketing channels to access the right audience for your event.
In terms of general event marketing:
- Use social media to your advantage and release agenda and speaker announcements to build a buzz around the event
- Send emails to your target audience to let them know about your event and why they should attend
- Provide potential attendees with an easy registration process: post the link to your social media channels and all email communications. Make it as easy as possible for them to attend!
The beauty of hybrid events is that attendees can choose how they experience and digest your content, so be as visible as possible and draw them in!
Step 8: Measure Success
Collecting feedback from attendees is an essential way of garnering valuable insight from your attendees about their experiences and how you can improve for next time. Hybrid events are fairly new ground for most of us, so there will be a lot of trial and error involved in making them perfect. The best way to do this is just to ask people!
Send out feedback surveys to attendees, sponsors, staff, anyone and everyone. Feedback is truly the best way for you to get unfiltered insight and points to improve on. You should also consider word of mouth, as people that have signed up for your event and enjoyed their experience are the perfect advocates. Get them talking about your event on social media through discussion or dedicated social posts.
Although attendee experience is an extremely useful metric of event success, you might also be measuring other KPIs, such as how much revenue the event generated through sponsorship. In this case, you’d need to consider other ways to measure success, such as feedback from sponsors. Always go back to your objectives and consider the metrics that will help you best understand how successful your event was in achieving those objectives.
Developing A Hybrid Event Programme
You’ve heard of the phrase ‘content is king.’ But let’s face it: some kinds of content work better for virtual audiences, while some work better for in-person audiences. So, how do you go about developing a hybrid event programme that caters for both needs?
In this section, we’ll explore how to keep both audiences engaged, as well as how planning a hybrid event agenda differs from your standard in-person events.
How Does It Differ From In-Person Events?
Although your in-person attendees might not require anything different from a standard in-person event, you’ll have a whole virtual audience to cater for. This means you’ll need to factor in considerations such as:
- Screen fatigue: There’s only so long you can stare at a screen without losing concentration or focus. Your virtual attendees will need regular breaks and will probably benefit from a shorter event duration.
- Lack of commitment: Unlike a physical attendee who will have carved out time in the day to attend your event, it’s all-too-easy for a virtual attendee to register for an event and then either not show up or just have it on in the background. This means you’ll need to work harder to keep them engaged!
- Timings: Someone accessing your event from home will still have to deal with the nitty-gritty of everyday life, such as picking up their kids from school, making lunch or answering the door. It helps if you can avoid scheduling content for key times such as lunchtime hours.
- Drop rates: Virtual attendees tend to have higher drop rates than in-person ones as they can leave without attracting a whole lot of attention or seeming rude. Providing them with real value is essential to prevent them from logging out.
- Retention: Scheduling regular breaks will be essential for your virtual attendees, who’ll have things to sort out at home or may be suffering from screen fatigue. But breaks can also pose a risk, as what if your attendees don’t tune back in? That’s where truly valuable content is important, yet again, to encourage your attendees to come back.
While factoring in the above will usually make your event more appealing to your in-person attendees as well as those attending online, there are some times when you might want to provide each audience type with a different kind of content. For example, while your in-person attendees help themselves to drinks and nibbles, your virtual attendees could watch pre-recorded video content, enjoy some virtual entertainment features or benefit from AI networking. The options are endless!
Key Considerations When Building An Agenda
When you’re putting together a hybrid event agenda, don’t just limit your creativity to your in-person attendees. Instead, think outside the box in terms of how you can get your virtual attendees fully involved in the event (instead of just watching a live stream from home). Here are some ideas of things you could consider when building your hybrid event agenda.
Online breakout rooms provide a great way for your virtual attendees to break out into groups for smaller discussions or collaborative activities. By providing a more intimate space, you’ll be able to stimulate conversation and active learning, as well as enable individuals to really connect with one another.
Breakout rooms can also be used for networking, although in the virtual space it’s useful to have a host present to provide some direction to the conversation, perhaps around a theme or topic. One idea could be to have your speakers host a roundtable with the audience after their session in a breakout room. This way, attendees can drop in and talk directly with the speaker in a space where the audience is much smaller and probably less intimidating.
On top of this, breakout rooms can allow both in-person and virtual attendees to take a break from your content without leaving your event. As your virtual attendees are likely to need a little more structure, you could consider providing some breakout rooms centred around entertainment features, such as a guided meditation session or a yoga class.
Your virtual attendees will feel much more a part of your event if you can help them to take part in some way. The chances are your in-person attendees will find it easy to raise their hands to ask a question, or to pull aside a speaker after their session. Think about how you can give your virtual attendees that same experience.
For instance, you shouldn’t just create polls for the sake of them. Instead, think about the content you’re presenting and gear your polls towards receiving information that would be useful to feedback into the session. Likewise, if you put yourself in your attendees’ shoes, you can think about areas where they might like some insight into what their fellow attendees are thinking.
It’s also important to draw your attendees’ attention to the tools you’d like them to use. For example, try to get your audience actively using live chat early on in the session. This could be as simple as the moderator pointing out the functionality at the beginning of the session, or even asking everyone to type in what they had for breakfast. Getting your audience participating early on will help to stimulate engagement and conversation throughout the session. After all, no speaker wants to get to the Q&A section at the end to find they have no questions to answer!
Bear in mind that it can be hard for in-person speakers to keep an eye on virtual attendees’ contributions during their sessions. So, consider delegating someone to respond and feed questions and comments back in real-time.
One of the biggest advantages of attending an event in person is having the chance to serendipitously meet other delegates and network. It is essential you consider how to enable your virtual attendees to network too.
Most all-in-one virtual event platforms have an AI networking feature that matches virtual attendees for networking sessions. But if you really want to elevate their experience and integrate your in-person and virtual attendees more seamlessly, why not see if you can help these audiences to network with one another?
One way of achieving this is to source technology, such as iPads or freestanding screens, that allow in-person attendees to network with virtual ones. If budget’s an issue, you could simply get your in-person attendees to sign up with your virtual event platform so that they can use their phones to match with and network with their virtual counterparts - using an app built-in to your event platform which allows for networking capabilities is the easiest way to do this.
How To Keep Both In-Person And Virtual Attendees Engaged
With audience members joining both in-person and virtually, you’ll have to consider the needs and preferences of both audiences when it comes to keeping them engaged. A few simple ways of ensuring all your attendees are focused throughout your event include:
- Keeping your sessions short and snappy
- Avoiding key times such as lunchtimes or school runs
- Using audience engagement tools such as Q&A, live polling and live chat
- Providing hosted breakout sessions for your virtual attendees
- Encouraging in-person attendees to download an event app so that they can network with virtual attendees
Ultimately, becoming conscious of both the similarities and differences between your two audiences will help you to understand when they can come together as one, and when they need their own unique considerations.
Hybrid Event Project Management
When done well, hybrid events can be a fantastic experience for attendees and a useful tool for sponsors, clients and stakeholders to generate new leads and enhance brand awareness. But hybrid events also bring with them their fair share of logistical challenges. Not only do you have all the usual considerations of an in-person event such as catering, branding, venue management, content production, speaker sourcing, and sponsorship management, you also now have the virtual logistics to consider and take care of too.
In this section, we’ll explore the key elements and considerations you’ll need to take on board in order to deliver a seamless and valuable hybrid experience for all parties.
Your Hybrid Event Planning Checklist
Hybrid events bring fresh logistical challenges and considerations to tackle. Below, we’ll share with you a basic checklist for you to use when organising your hybrid events so that you’re fully prepared. You can also check out our in-depth virtual events planning checklist for further guidance on the virtual side.
- Define your audience, event objectives and budget
- Choose your hybrid event format, eg a 100pax hybrid conference with a single content stream & networking
- Choose your venue and organise all venue-related logistics eg branding, catering, AV
- Choose your event platform. We recommend Arena for a brandable, scaleable and affordable option.
- Choose whether you’ll use professional production or do it yourself
- Develop your content and schedule
- Secure your speakers
- Bring sponsors onboard
- Pre-event marketing
- Post-event communications; send follow-up emails to attendees and sponsors
- Analyse data in real-time during the event and/or analyse post-event using your platform’s reporting tools
- Collect feedback using a post-event survey to garner attendee and sponsor sentiments
This is a very simple checklist of the process you’ll need to go through when planning your hybrid event, but it is a useful starting point to build on. Every event is different and will require a myriad of factors to plan for, use this checklist as a starting point to really nail the core elements and build from there.
As well as using our checklists to assist you when planning, you may also be interested in Hire Space 360, our full-service offering and all-round saviour to event planners far and wide! As well as unlimited access to world-class event tech, you'll get access to on-demand eventprofs, as well as help with venue and supplier sourcing. There's no task too big or small for us, so get in touch to find out more about how it works!
How Does It Differ From In-Person Events?
A lot of the tasks that you perform on-site at your hybrid event will look very similar to those you’d expect to see at a standard in-person event. However, given the presence of your online audience, there’ll be some extra considerations for you to factor in:
- Security: At a hybrid event, you won’t just need to worry about the security of your venue. You’ll also have to factor in cybersecurity. Make sure you choose a platform that is secure and protects your attendee data.
- Equipment: At a standard in-person event, you’d check equipment such as mics, lighting and AV equipment. At a hybrid event, however, you’ll have all this to deal with plus the tech you need to stream your event, such as cameras, screens, internet speed, online registration and more. If you have remote speakers you’ll need to run them through a whole tech briefing with them and thoroughly test their devices and connection to make sure there are no surprises on the day.
- Venue: The venue you choose will need to have fast internet speed, and preferably a hard-wired ethernet connection, 10Mbp+ upload and download speed and open ports. It will also need sufficient power to support your live stream, enough space for technicians to set up and easy access for the unloading of equipment.
- Catering and entertainment: When it comes to catering and entertainment, you’ll need to factor in your virtual attendees’ experience as well as that of your in-person attendees. This might include arranging dedicated virtual entertainment or having catering sent to your online delegates’ doorsteps.
- Staff: You’ll need to factor in a team to monitor the virtual event platform, field questions and comments and remove anyone who behaves inappropriately. You’ll also need a tech support team to troubleshoot any technical issues and a production team to handle the live stream.
Event Contingency Planning
It can be challenging to plan events in the current landscape, what with the Coronavirus pandemic bringing about restrictions, lockdowns and constantly changing guidance. Contingency planning is therefore more important than ever.
Take note of all the things that could go wrong at your event by preparing an in-depth risk assessment and developing a solid contingency plan you can rely on if things go wrong.
Read our full guide on contingency planning below to learn how you can create a solid back-up plan and ensure your events go without a hitch.
Organising Safer Events
In order for event organisers to safely run events in the post-pandemic era, there are a number of key mitigation factors that we should commit to in order to reduce the risk of transmission at the event. Some of these factors include ensuring all parties are wearing face coverings where possible, providing adequate hand washing or sanitising stations, taking every possible precaution around catering, and setting up one-way systems around the venue to avoid unnecessary close contact. All of these factors and more are laid out in full in the Safer Events White Paper.
In response to the severe impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the events industry, Hire Space created an independent, Covid-secure, CPD-certified Safer Events Organisers Accreditation for event planners, and an equivalent for venues.
This accreditation provides event organisers with the tools to instil confidence in their delegates and clients that events can be run safely.
By completing the accreditation, you’ll learn valuable skills and get applicable guidance on how to make sure the in-person element of your hybrid event is as safe as possible for your attendees, venue staff, employees and you! You’ll also receive a digital certificate, Safer Event design assets, a Safer Event risk assessment template, and a £15 voucher to spend at the Safer Event Shop.
Hybrid Event Technology
The ability to seamlessly integrate live and virtual elements of an event is a true art and one that most of us are still learning how to master. But the glue that holds it all together is, undeniably, technology. In this section, we’ll explore all the key hybrid event technology you’ll need, as well as common hurdles you’ll encounter and the best tools for the job.
Technology For Hosting Hybrid Events
There is a huge range of innovative hybrid event technology available on the market, and there are a few technologies that most hybrid events wouldn’t be able to exist without:
- Virtual or Hybrid Event Platform. Virtual event platforms allow your online attendees to access your whole event in one place.
- Streaming Platform. Most virtual event platforms will need you to use a streaming service like YouTube or Vimeo that can then be embedded within the platform.
- Production Software. You’ll need all the correct software for the video/streaming production, as well as equipment such as cameras and microphones that feed into the software. It’s normally best to get a production company to handle this for you.
- Venue Tech. You’ll need to choose a hybrid event venue that has the right technology to host your hybrid event.
- Interpretation Equipment. Consider investing in interpretation tools so that your event is accessible to people from all over the globe. It's also worthwhile ensuring your event platform is able to provide subtitles too.
- Marketing Technology. Don’t forget to factor in the technology you’ll need to market (and measure) your hybrid events, such as email marketing software and social media scheduling tools.
Common Tech Hurdles When Organising A Hybrid Event
A survey by M&IT showed that 16% of event planners view confusion with technology as the main barrier to hosting hybrid events.
Three common concerns are:
- Attendees struggling to log in or use the platform.
- Event planners won’t know how to use the technology.
- The technology stops working.
However, none of these concerns should really constitute a major barrier to hosting a hybrid event. There are many easy ways to overcome them, including:
- Choosing an all-in-one platform that’s easy to use and has thorough support and resources.
- Arranging a product demo so you’re comfortable with the technology.
- Educating users on how to use the event platform n pre-event comms.
- Hiring a professional production company that can provide technical support.
- Bringing in an experienced Virtual Event Manager who has successfully executed plenty of virtual events and can help troubleshoot any problems that may occur quickly.
The Best All-In-One Event Platforms That Are Perfect For Hybrid
Choosing the right event platform for your hybrid event will make a huge difference to how successful your event is. You’re going to need a platform that has all the functionality you need for your event format, is easy to use (for attendees and event organisers) and fits within your budget.
If you’re not sure where to start, read our recommendations of the best all-in-one event platforms on the market right now. With all the features you need on one handy platform, it’s never been easier to engage your virtual attendees and keep them engaged.
All-in-one event platforms can often come with a hefty price tag, where you pay for features that you may not even need. All the different platforms have different pricing models; some have a flat-rate fee for access to their whole suite of features, some allow you to select the functionality you need and only pay for that. Most tools will also come with an additional cost per delegate. Do your research to fully understand each platform, how they work and what it will realistically cost you, and make sure that cost is worth it. If you’ve only got 20 delegates tuning in remotely, an all-singing, all-dancing platform may push you over budget and not offer a lot in return.
If you’re not sure what is the best platform for your event, get in touch with one of our virtual event experts who can help guide you to the right tool for your event needs, or read up about Hire Space 360 to get more bang for your buck!
Finding The Perfect Hybrid Event Venue
So far, we’ve talked a lot about technology. But what about the bread and butter of an event, the venue? A hybrid event requires a venue or event space for its in-person element, and with that comes fresh challenges. In this section, we’ll cover everything you need to know when choosing a hybrid event venue, as well as guidance for venues themselves on how they can get prepared.
Things To Look Out For When Choosing A Venue For Your Hybrid Event
There are a few things to be aware of when choosing a hybrid event venue. The most important thing is, of course, the internet connection! If the internet is dodgy or just not strong enough to accommodate your live streams and the online part of your hybrid event, you’re going to fail at the first hurdle.
From safety measures to AV, it’s important to make sure everything is in order and that the venue you choose will help you run a smooth and successful event.
This can be easier said than done, so we’ve put together a guide on what to look out for so you can start your venue search and make the right choices from the get-go. If you feel you need some assistance when choosing the perfect hybrid venue, our Hire Space 360 team can help with venue and supplier sourcing to ensure your event is perfect from start to finish.
5 Essential Ways Venues Can Be Prepared For A Post-Pandemic World
Just as event organisers must adapt, hybrid event venues will need to prepare themselves for a new way of holding events too, in order to reassure their delegates and clients that they’ve taken every necessary precaution to keep them safe.
Becoming A Safer Venue
As we mentioned in the 'planning your hybrid event' section above, we have created a version of our Safer Events Accreditation for venues, so that hybrid event venues can be completely aligned with the measures they need to put in place, from floor markings to face masks.
Networking At Your Hybrid Event
Networking at an in-person event and networking at a virtual event often take very different forms. So how do we mix the two together to create a valuable hybrid networking experience for your delegates? In this section, we explore the best ways to facilitate hybrid event networking, as well as give our take on the best tools for the job.
Top Tips For Facilitating Networking At Your Hybrid Event
Successfully facilitating hybrid event networking poses logistical challenges for event organisers:
- How do we bring virtual and physical attendees together?
- How do we make sure no one gets left out?
- Is virtual networking ever really the same?
To help you out a little with some of the questions you may be asking yourself, we've written a guide including all our top tips on how to get your delegates mingling and making the most out of your hybrid event.
The Best Hybrid Networking Tools On The Market
If you’re aiming to get both types of attendees mingling all together, you’re going to need to plan a bit more carefully and maybe even get some help (read our piece on how to facilitate hybrid event networking as a starting point).
However if you’re separating the networking for each attendee type, you’re going to need some tools to help you out. Whilst it’s easy to provide opportunities for networking at a venue for physical attendees, the virtual attendees will need a little more help to start interacting with each other.
We’ve compiled a series of articles outlining guidance advice and best practice for virtual event networking, so first read this piece on how to orchestrate your virtual networking, then read our favourite platforms for the job.
Get Social With An Activity
If you’re really looking to create a unique experience for your delegates, a virtual activity or experience can be a great way to get your attendees interacting and networking.
You could split all attendees into groups (ensuring a mix of virtual and physical attendees) and run a virtual escape room, you could watch a virtual comedy show or even do a virtual cocktail making class where the supplier provides all the necessary equipment to both virtual attendees at home and physical attendees at the venue.
The possibilities are endless and you’ll give your attendees a unique experience and something they’ll remember for a long time. You just need to get creative! And it doesn't need to be super complicated or planned either, you could try something as simple as a virtual photobooth that all attendees can enjoy.
Engaging Your Audience At Your Hybrid Event
At a hybrid event, you’ll need to provide opportunities for both your virtual and in-person audiences to interact with your speakers and content. In this section, we’ll explore ideas and tools that can help you to facilitate audience engagement for all your attendees.
Top Tips For Facilitating Hybrid Event Audience Engagement
Most virtual and hybrid event platforms offer an array of features designed to help you facilitate audience engagement. Here are our top tips on utilising these features to maximise engagement and discussion at your hybrid event.
- Get the audience engaged early on: This could be as simple as the moderator directing the audience on how they can interact and use the tools you have available to them. Or even just asking a nice and simple question to the audience to encourage them to start using the live chat. Get this happening early on and the conversation will flow more naturally throughout the session.
- Facilitate questions with live Q&A: There are plenty of elegant solutions to ensuring both audience segments are able to ask questions, such as the ability to invite your online attendees up onto a ‘virtual stage’ or to submit questions in advance anonymously.
- Encourage engagement with gamification: Not only are games fun, but you can also use them to reward participants for reaching engagement milestones. For instance, participants could win points for every live poll they answer and the most engaged attendees at the end of the day could receive a prize.
- Hear what your attendees have to say with live polling: Live polls can be used to generate talking points and direct the discussion for your content, or even just to get real-time feedback from your attendees on their experience and what they’d like to hear more of. Make sure these polls are relevant to the topic and the results are reported back to the speakers to discuss throughout the session.
- Start conversations with live chat: Encourage healthy debate and discussion amongst your online attendees using your platform’s live chat feature.
- Prioritise teamwork with workshops: Add some interactive workshop sessions to your event agenda to make the interaction between attendees a key part of your event experience.
- Spark connections with networking: Offer an event app so that both your in-person and virtual attendees can utilise your platform’s AI networking functionality.
For more information, read our dedicated blog below about facilitating hybrid event audience engagement below, and also make sure to check out the content from our recent Adapt with Arena virtual event series to see how we stepped up our audience engagement using Arena.
The Best Audience Engagement Tools On The Market
The following audience engagement tools are standalone solutions that can be plugged into your all-in-one event platform (for an additional cost) to give you more functionality than your platform offers on its own. Here are our top choices.
- Glisser: Glisser allows you to engage your virtual audience with features such as live polls, audience Q&As and quizzes. It also allows you to share content such as slides with both your virtual and in-person audiences to keep the whole experience seamless and consistent.
- Worksup: Worksup allows you to distribute individual tasks and group assignments to delegates, even letting virtual attendees work together to draw a group picture! This tool will help your virtual attendees to truly join in with those more interactive sessions at your hybrid event, such as workshops.
- Sli.do: Ideal for Q&As, virtual attendees can ask questions (anonymously if they choose!) and upvote their favourites. You could even use it to get your in-person attendees to submit questions in advance. Best of all, you get to approve questions before they get published, giving you that added element of control.
- Mentimeter: Not only does Mentimeter allow you to build multiple-choice and open-ended quizzes, but it even has its own translation feature – perfect for hybrid events with an online audience joining from all over the globe!
- Loquiz: Loquiz is a gamification platform that allows you to choose free game templates before adding tasks. Consider using it to create a bespoke treasure hunt. Your virtual attendees can do it at home while your in-person attendees can enjoy it at your physical event venue. The perfect way to add some fun and bring everyone together.
For more information about these hybrid event tools and others, check out our blog on the best audience engagement tools on the market.
The Best All-In-One Event Platforms For Facilitating Audience Engagement
The standalone audience engagement tools we’ve listed above are fantastic for ensuring a seamless audience experience across both the virtual and in-person elements of your hybrid event. However, they do come at an extra cost.
If you’re on a budget and you’d rather stick to just one all-in-one event platform, here are a few that offer excellent audience engagement functionality.
- Arena: Designed by event professionals for event professionals, Arena’s interactive features include the ability for delegates to upvote or downvote questions submitted by other attendees during Q&As, so that you can prioritise the most popular. You can also moderate attendees’ live chat contributions and give attendees access to both video and audio-only breakout rooms. Check out these case studies on a recent virtual away day and virtual conference to gain more insight into how you can run amazing events on Arena, too.
- Big Top: Big Top by Hire Space is an online, interactive map that allows your virtual attendees to feel as if they’re exploring a physical event together with your in-person attendees. Put virtual entertainment features and breakout rooms on the map alongside your main stages for that added bit of interactive fun.
- Swapcard: This all-in-one event platform has its own mobile app that can be downloaded by your virtual and in-person attendees alike. Use it to encourage networking between both subsets of your audience while benefiting from interactive tools such as in-session live discussions, group chats and sponsor booths.
- Cadence: Alongside other interactive tools, Cadence features an interactive live feed that links straight to your Twitter feed. In this way, your in-person and virtual attendees can engage with your event by posting comments, GIFs and memes at the same time as interacting with other attendees’ posts.
How To Bring Sponsors Into Your Hybrid Event Strategy
As an organiser, having sponsors at your event can bring a whole host of benefits and help you monetise your event. Likewise, sponsoring an event is a great way to get your name out there and generate potentially lucrative business opportunities.
In this section, we’ll explore how organisers can attract potential sponsors.
How To Attract Sponsors For Your Hybrid Event
If you’re an organiser interested in bringing sponsorship into your hybrid event strategy, there are some considerations that you'll need to factor in when building out your offering.
These include; understanding your sponsor's objectives, creating tailored tiered packages, offering plenty of branding, and providing in-depth post-event statistical data reports (this one is very important!).
Measuring The Impact Of Your Hybrid Event
Using an event app, offering excellent content from knowledgeable speakers and making the most of sponsorship opportunities are all great ways to entice audiences and maximise your chance of success. But what does this success look like? Are you hoping to reach new audiences? Is lead generation your main goal? Or maybe you want to make sales off the back of the event itself?
Whatever your goals are, it’s important to identify KPIs that can help you to understand whether you achieved them. Properly measuring these KPIs post-event will allow you to not only prove ROI to your stakeholders but also get a good idea of how you can continuously improve your event impact and reach your business objectives.
What Data Should You Collect?
One major benefit of hosting a hybrid event as opposed to a purely in-person event is that you’ll have a lot more data at your fingertips.
Any part of your event that takes place online will be fully trackable. And that doesn’t just mean the actions that your attendees take during your event, either via your virtual event platform or an online app. It also means any actions they take afterwards, such as visiting your website, engaging with your content on social media, booking a demo or even going on to make a purchase.
Here are some examples of the data you can collect both during your event and in the months that follow.
- Registrations. How many people registered for your event? How did this compare to the number of people who actually attended? And who exactly were they? By collecting valuable data from people during the registration process, you can discover more about your attendees and use this to cater to their needs – both during your event and afterwards, when you’re trying to turn them from leads into customers.
- Attendance. How many people attended your event? Which sessions did they attend and for how long? Did they stay for the entirety of your event or did they leave partway through? If the latter, can you spot any common drop-off points and are there any factors that indicate why this might be?
- Engagement. Did your attendees actively engage with your content? How many networking sessions did they book? Did they use audience engagement tools such as live chat, Q&A or polling?
- Website visits. How many of your attendees clicked from your event platform or app onto your website? What actions did they take on your website? This will give you an indicator as to how warm they are as leads and where they are in your pipeline.
- Social media activity. In a similar vein, how many attendees engaged with you on social media? Did any attendees share your content with their audiences or create their own posts about your event? Checking how many people your posts and theirs reached will give you a better idea about how your event affected brand awareness.
- Retention. How many repeat attendees attended your event? How many repeat or subscription customers were influenced by it? And how much value do those customers or accounts represent?
- Qualified leads. How many new leads did your event create? How many existing leads progressed further along your pipeline? What indicators did your event give you about what kind of products a lead is interested in, or how qualified they are?
- Pipeline. How many new prospects have entered your pipeline? How much monetary value have they added to it? How much monetary value that’s currently in your pipeline has been influenced by your event? These factors all indicate the possibility of future revenue.
- Yearly revenue. How much of your yearly revenue can be attributed (at least in part) to your events or touchpoints within your events? How has the data you’ve collected during events contributed? Utilising data collected about your audience demographics and behaviours will enable you to personalise your sales and marketing approach, helping you to convert your attendees into customers and therefore bring in revenue.
We’ve written a piece on measuring the success of your virtual event which definitely applies to hybrid events too. Give it a read to learn more about what kind of data you could collect from your event, and what you could do with it.
Determining Your Hybrid Event's Success
It’s all very well to perfectly measure all of the metrics we mentioned above, but without lining them up with your objectives, you still won’t know whether or not your event was successful.
Hopefully, before you hosted your hybrid event, you identified some key objectives that you wanted to achieve. Many people make the mistake of assuming that revenue will be the desired outcome for any event but in reality, there’s a whole range of objectives that hybrid events could help you to achieve – from growing your pipeline to building a community; increasing brand awareness to improving employee retention and satisfaction.
When you come to measure your hybrid event’s success, you’ll need to focus on analysing those metrics that align closest to the objectives you identified. For instance, if your goal is brand awareness, you’ll need to place the most importance on metrics that help to demonstrate that, such as social media impressions, website visits (from your event page) and the number of event registrations.
Similarly, if your objective is to grow your pipeline, your KPIs are likely to be metrics such as the number of prospects added to your pipeline, the value of your pipeline that was influenced or created by your event, and the number of demo requests or sales meetings booked.
Ultimately, there’s no point in worrying about the fact you didn’t create much buzz on social media if your goal was to expand your pipeline and every attendee booked a demo! So, these metrics are only as important as you decide, based on your business’ priorities at any given time.
Remember also that some objectives won’t be easily quantifiable in the immediate aftermath of your event. If your primary goal is to increase your annual revenue, you may have to wait for weeks or even months before you find out whether an attendee converted and went on to contribute to your bottom line.
However, that doesn’t mean your event was any less important in making that happen. Instead, you’ll need to ensure that you put foolproof attribution systems in place so that you can understand the part that your event played in helping to warm up a lead or encourage them across the line.
Collecting Feedback From Attendees And Sponsors
When it comes to measuring your hybrid event’s success, collecting feedback will be a vital part of the process.
It’s important to understand how satisfied your attendees are, and not just because you’re a nice person. Rather, satisfied audience members are better placed to help you achieve your objectives, as they’re more likely to become repeat attendees or to convert. By asking them what you did well and what you could have improved, you’ll be able to host an even better hybrid event that results in even more satisfied attendees next time.
On top of that, collecting feedback will be a really useful way of understanding where your attendees are in your pipeline, as well as what their interests are. This valuable information will help you to personalise the way you market your products to them, helping you to convert them into customers (and therefore drive revenue) in the future.
Follow these simple steps to make sure you’re collecting genuinely useful feedback from both the attendees and sponsors at your hybrid event.
- Determine a metric for success for each of your objectives. Knowing exactly what success looks like from the start (when you first set your event objectives) will help guide you throughout the entire event planning process. If new lead generation is not as important as client engagement and brand awareness, then you may invest less in marketing across new channels and instead invest in creating a truly seamless experience for your existing clients.
- Collect in real-time. Make use of the engagement tools your hybrid event platform offers. You could post quizzes and live polls asking your attendees what they want more of in real-time. If your platform comes with an event app, you could get your in-person attendees to join in as well. You’ll have a lot more engagement in real-time than you will in a post-event survey. Just try to make it easy for your attendees to respond, multiple-choice or ratings tend to be a great way to measure the success of a session for example.
- Collect when they’re leaving. Catching your attendees and sponsors as they’re leaving your event will give you a really raw and unfiltered understanding of how they’re feeling then and there.
This could be a quick form to fill in for your in-person attendees, or an exit pop-up for your virtual attendees, asking why they’re leaving (if it’s early) and a couple of quick questions.
- Send a post-event survey. Send out your post-event survey as soon as possible so that your attendees and sponsors can remember every detail. Make sure to keep it short and snappy (so that it doesn’t look too daunting) and avoid asking leading questions.
- Create specific surveys. Don’t send the same survey to everyone. Instead, send separate, tailored surveys to your in-person attendees, virtual attendees and sponsors. That way, you can make sure you’re asking the most impactful questions for each.
- Measure and adapt. There’s no point in collecting feedback if you don’t use it! Take the time to analyse the responses and understand how your event could be improved for next time. Remember to link back your findings to your objectives and for any that you failed to achieve make a plan for how you will improve upon this in the future.
Check out our blog on collecting feedback at your virtual event to get a clearer understanding of the unique measuring opportunities an online audience presents.