Hybrid Events: Introduction, Benefits and Some Inspirational Examples

Hybrid events are, as the name might suggest, a mix between a live event and a virtual one. Essentially, you take your audience, exclusive content, and experiential set pieces, and meld them together to provide an immersive online experience. 

To help you begin planning your hybrid event, we’ve put together the following guide. 

What Are the Benefits of a Hybrid Event?

Hybrid events became an increasingly important and successful method of hosting events way before the covid-19 pandemic took hold. 

They are most commonly used to good effect when large corporations are looking to bring employees or their key audiences together for an event, but it isn’t possible for everyone to meet in person. 

This could be the case for numerous reasons; however, it’s usually because there isn’t a space big enough to accommodate every participant, or the organisation is present in several different locations, often internationally.

Due to our current situation, the spotlight is increasingly turning to hybrid events as a means for organisations to hold an event while still adhering to the social distancing rules around the pandemic.

But, aside from the obvious and important health implications, what other benefits are there to hosting a hybrid event?

Increased Reach & Attendance

Hybrid events allow you to increase your reach and capture more attendees. In fact, a recent study showed that 96% of virtual attendees polled at a recent event, were never intending to attend the live event in person. 

This is usually for two reasons, firstly because they’re unsure what benefits there are to attending the event in person, and secondly, geographical restrictions don’t allow them to travel. 

As the event host, this presents an excellent opportunity to capture new and engaged audiences as it gives you the chance to reach the kinds of people that ordinarily wouldn’t have been interested in the event, simply because they had no intention of attending in person. 

According to statistics from BizBash.com, 23% of respondents who hosted a hybrid event reported that they saw an increase in physical attendance at future events.

Increased Engagement

Engagement is the single most crucial ingredient to the success of a hybrid event. It’s essentially what distinguishes your event from watching a video on YouTube. 

Your audience isn’t there just to simply watch your event from afar; they’ll be taking part on their mobile devices or computer, which means they can react to your content and offer feedback all in real-time.

Combining virtual elements to your live events opens up a great deal of opportunity to increase engagement, both during and after the event itself. This is down to the fact that your audience participating using a mobile device or computer, can consume content, talk, watch, like, share, comment, and so much more all at the literal click of a button. For instance, you might choose to host polls with your live and virtual audiences. Or, you can set up a guest speaker to perform a live talk with your in-person audience, and then organise a more intimate live Q&A session for afterwards with those online. 

You can also encourage engagement between audience members by setting up a specialised meeting area at the in-person event, where delegates can go to network with other attendees or set up online meetings with virtual delegates using event matchmaking software. 

Leverage virtual event engagement tools like Taggbox to help you increase your audience engagement & scale up the reach by integrating social media with virtual events & live streams. This tool allows integration of social media to access to a wider audience, better audience engagement, social promotion, and delightful overall experience.

Significant Reduction in Environmental Impact & Costs

We’ve already seen the beneficial impacts that reduced travel is having on the environment. During lockdowns, streets have been empty, and even some of the busiest cities in the world have been completely deserted, which has meant that emissions have plummeted. 

Some reports have even suggested that overall global emissions dropped by around 6% at the height of the pandemic. This may not seem like a significant figure, but it’s actually the equivalent to the energy usage of India. 

While there will never be a replacement for the face-to-face meeting, going hybrid is a great way to associate the encouragement of green thinking and the reduction of personal carbon footprints with your brand.

Also Read: Top Virtual Event Tools and Technologies for 2020

Reduction of Costs

Continuing along the same theme, hybrid events can significantly reduce costs for every party involved. 

Working from home is now considered ‘the new normal’ for businesses and their employees across the world. And, both Google and Facebook announced that their employees had been given the option to work from home for the rest of the year, and Twitter has made working from home a permanent option for all employees.

Even as we continue to move into the next phase of this pandemic, where live events are becoming more plausible, there are still opportunities to create virtual processes that save cash. 

For example, hiring a plug and play studio that can be taken to any location of your choosing, means that you can broadcast and manage the virtual portion of your event on-site. This means you don’t need a whole team of experts and technological solutions to achieve your goals. 

When budgets are tight, as they are for many businesses at the moment, hybrid events are a great way to bridge the gap between costs and results. 

Data Collection

One of the very most significant benefits of a hybrid event comes from the data and insight you can collect. For instance, at an exclusively in-person event, all you can really do is estimate how many attendees participated in a session, such as a Q&A. On the other hand, hybrid events give event organisers all the data they need to know how many people participated in an event, how engaged they were and who may have dropped out of the session and why.

Because of the online nature of a hybrid event, you have access to a great deal of trackable information and data which you simply couldn’t measure offline, such as matchmaking data and session interaction, all of which serves to help you refine and improve later content creation efforts.

Greater Flexibility

If you’re still unsure about the validity of a hybrid event, consider the possible outcomes if your travel arrangements were disrupted again in the future. Perhaps it could be another global pandemic, like COVID-19. Or, maybe a natural disaster, such as the volcanic eruptions which disrupted the travel plans of nearly 10 million people back in 2010.

Without the inclusion of hybrid elements to fall back on, your event would have to be cancelled, which could mean your audience will look for alternative events, not to mention the burden of wasting your own time and resources.

Examples of Successful Hybrid Events

There are numerous examples of companies that have taken the hybrid event concept and used it to create incredible experiences for both in-person and virtual audiences, for example:

TwitchCon

It’s probably no great shock that the world’s leading live gaming streaming platform is capable of pulling off an incredible hybrid event.

Every year the site hosts a huge event which brings together live streamers and fans from all corners of the globe, in both a virtual and in-person capacity.

Riot Games Esports Operations

Riot games lead the way when it comes to hosting hybrid events, such as their eSport series League of Legends World Championship. And just as you’d expect from the nature of an event like this, it does pose an incredibly complicated set of challenges.

Their biggest challenges are networking, broadcasting and hardware, however as the event has grown, more sophisticated remote and local elements have been implemented to ensure these challenges are met.

Apple Special Events

Apple Special Events are some of the biggest tech events going, with interest from delegates in countries all over the world. 

This is why Apple choose hybrid events, to ensure that new releases, announcements and demonstrations are accessible via a live-stream all over the globe. 

The Future of the Events Industry

Even after our world recovers from the grips of the pandemic, there’s a good chance – given how prevalent and accessible online technology is – that more event organisers will continue to rely on hybrid elements for their events for the long-term.

Hybrid events can offer valuable insurance fall back since there will always be a means to host your event in some form or another if your attendance availability is severely reduced.

Also, the investment and infrastructure that you’ve placed into your hybrid event elements mean that you’re already prepared to take the event to an exclusively virtual plane if necessary.

Essentially this all means that instead of placing all of your eggs into the live event basket, you can diversify your offering to ensure that your event will be successful no matter what. 

Takeaways

It’s impossible to guess how the world will look after the COVID-19 crises is all said and done.

However, there is one thing for sure: this crisis has changed how we have adapted to the technology that is available to us in our daily lives.

This means that the needs of your audiences have changed, and as a result, you need to ensure that you’re adapting to these needs. 

Live events can never be replaced, but by incorporating some hybrid elements, you can ensure that unforeseen circumstances will never derail your events again. 

Tim Cook

Tim Cook is an event and marketing expert and the managing director of UK based events company 'Versatile Venues'.