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What is a Hybrid Event?
Hybrid Events, the New Normal.
Written by: Gianna Kreider, CTUS Project Manager
This past year has pushed the events industry into uncharted waters: completely virtual events, forcing most of us to become much more intimate with Zoom than we could have ever imagined. As we move into the summer and fall convention seasons, more cities are opening up and allowing in-person events. This poses a challenge for event planners: How do I maintain attendance and engagement when venues are not allowing full capacity?
Hybrid events have always existed in some form. In their infancy, a simple live streaming component was added to an in-person event to reach a wider audience. Most of these events did not invest too much time or energy on the viewer experience because they expected the majority of attendees to join them in-person. COVID changed everything and forced the events industry to learn how to adapt to virtual events. CT has spent the last year creating solutions that are specifically designed to achieve maximum engagement and replicate critical elements of the live event environment in a cost-effective and budget friendly manner.
What is a Hybrid event?
A hybrid event is any event that combines live, in-person elements with digital, online components. Virtual components include: Live streaming keynote sessions, event webcasts with synchronized slides, or integration of social media, just to name a few. Hybrid events continue to evolve as technology becomes more optimized for virtual events.
What makes a hybrid event valuable?
- Increased reach and attendance: Hybrid events allow a much further reach, gaining attendees who may have never been able to attend in-person. The new model is much more respectful of a person’s time and other responsibilities, including the financial commitment. The ability to engage a much larger population provides input and feedback that may have been missing from the in-person audience. There is also the ability to gain new attendees once live events return by offering a “sample” of what to expect in the future.
- Valuable Data: The virtual component of these events can offer valuable metrics such as when participants joined a session and when they dropped out, how many total participants attended, and how many engage with interactive elements.
- Greater flexibility: Offering live stream options and the ability to access the content after the conference has ended creates a digital fallback, allowing a quick and easy solution, if something beyond your control, like winter weather, prevents a large swath of attendees from making the event.
- Improved ROI: More revenue can be created by allowing access to virtual content for a portion of in-person ticket prices. More attendance can translate to more views for sponsorship partners.
Creating a Hybrid Show
There are so many options for integrating live and virtual elements of a show. When beginning to organize an event, focus on the virtual elements first. By taking everything we have learned from this past year, we can truly optimize the user experience. Think about how you want your attendees to view the event. Is content being pushed to a client page or will you need a platform to host? Will you want brand sponsorship or social media integration available? Virtual elements are not bound by restrictions of time and space allowing the ability to create incredible, meaningful experiences.
Live elements can be added several ways depending on the type of experience you are trying to create. For attendee engagement, “watch parties” can be created, inviting small groups of people to multiple locations or cities and have them all watch the streamed content in real time. LED stages can be built for live hosts or presenters, allowing for customized virtual scenes to be imported intelligently. There really are a multitude of ways available to create interaction between virtual and in-person attendees.
One of the biggest hurdles with hybrid shows is online engagement. You need to entice the audience with dynamic images and interaction. Give them the ability to “raise hands” or submit to live Q&A sessions. Create a talk show like environment with presenters, guests, or a moderator that directs online content and keep segments short enough to hold attention.
Budgeting For a Hybrid Event
The budget for a hybrid event can be a tricky task as it will incur both the physical and virtual event expenses. Scope and setting will play major factors in the overall cost. Professional quality streaming and interaction between a live and virtual audience can also add an increase in tech costs. With hybrid events, you will need more than the usual AV equipment, including more cameras and more bandwidth, but that investment will be evident to attendees streaming from around the globe. By creating a seamless event, it can encourage more people to attend in-person once that option becomes available again.
Hybrid shows are transforming the industry, creating a more flexible, sustainable, and accessible way to produce events. Live events will continue to take place but will no longer just be “live.” Having a hybrid event strategy is key and something CT is here to help with. By offering cutting edge technology, we can improve audience experience and make your meeting truly memorable.