What is a hybrid event?
Hybrid events – the new normal
Written by: Gianna Kreider, CTUS Project Manager
The past year has meant major changes in the event industry where we have seen a temporary transition to completely virtual events – something that made most of us familiar with Zoom and Teams in a way we could hardly imagine before. As we now approach the summer and autumn conferences and events, we see how many people are planning for a mix between digital events and traditional physical events – that is, hybrid events. This now poses new challenges for organizers: How do I balance attendance and engagement in my conference when some of the participants are attending in person, and others are participating virtually?
Hybrid events have always existed in some form. Traditional physical events have long been streamed online to reach a wider audience. Most of these, however, may not have put too much time or energy into designing the viewer experience, as they probably expected that the majority of participants would attend the physical event. They simply chose to prioritize the audience that was attending in-person. Over the past year, we at Creative Technology have spent a great deal of time to creating solutions that are specially designed to achieve maximum engagement for the virtual audience, and we know how to successfully create an event that has both in-person and virtual attendees in mind.
What is a hybrid event?
A hybrid event is a meeting or event that combines the traditional in-person meeting with digital components such as live streaming, remote speakers and virtual interaction between audience and presenters. Virtual events and hybrid events also continue to evolve as technology becomes more and more optimized.
What makes a hybrid event valuable?
Although many people probably miss the traditional physical events, there are a lot of benefits to virtual and hybrid events.
Increased reach and attendance: Hybrid events allow a much further reach and can invite participants who may never have been able to participate in-person. The hybrid model also consider people’s tight schedules and offer a flexibility on how much time and money you want to spend to take part in the event, such as minimizing long journeys and expenses for hotel nights. The opportunity to engage participants virtually allows you to gather input and feedback from a larger audience. A virtual event can also act to attract participants to physical events in the future.
Valuable data: Streaming an event on a digital platform means that you can collect interesting data about, for example, how many people participate in the meeting, for how long do they participate and whether certain parts of the program have received particularly high viewing numbers and engagement. Data from the interactive components of the program can be saved and analyzed to create value for your business.
Greater flexibility: Offering both a live-streamed show and the ability to access and view the content after the conference ends allow participants to choose weather to watch the program live or save it for a later occasion. Maybe you need to look up information provided during the program long after the live broadcast. It also creates a kind of digital backup that can be useful if events beyond your control, such as canceled flights, traffic delays or such, would prevent a large number of participants from coming to the conference.
Increased revenue: If you charge for your event, a digital broadcast can complement the physical show through ticket sales to the online event. This in turn provides a more interesting basis for sponsors.
How to create a hybrid event
There are many options for integrating the physical event with the virtual elements of a show. When beginning to organize your event, focus on the virtual elements first. Creative Technology’s long experience in both in-person and virtual events has given us valuable knowledge in how to optimize the viewer experience and engagement. Think about how you want your participants to view the event. Is the content being pushed to a website or a social media platform? Should it be made public or do you need password protection for specially invited guests? Should viewers be able to participate by asking questions or commenting during the show? Do you want to engage sponsors?
The live elements can then be added in several different ways depending on the type of experience you want to achieve. For example, you can create several smaller meetings in various places or cities, so-called hubs, where a small number of people watch and participate in the joint program, led by one or more hosts. In addition, there are various of ways to create interaction between the participants, with both audio and video.
A challenge with hybrid events is to ensure that the virtual audience stay engaged throughout the meeting or event. One way to increase interest is to use technologies such as XR (augmented reality) or AR (augmented reality) that make the content more vivid. You can also create dynamic background environments using green screens or LED screens. Interacting with the virtual audience is an important tool to maintaining interest and commitment. Give the audience the opportunity to «raise their hand» or let people send questions to speakers and guests in the show. Often you also need to think about adapting the length of a virtual event and making it shorter than what traditional events normally are.
Budgeting for a hybrid event
The budget for a hybrid event includes costs for both the physical and digital components. Normally, the cost is determined based on the scope and level of ambition. The professional camera production and streaming, as well as the number of connected locations are of course important to calculate the total cost. With hybrid events, you need more than the usual AV technology, such as cameras, broadcasting technology and bandwidth, but at the same time you have the opportunity to reach people all over the world.
Hybrid events have changed the meeting industry and create a more flexible, sustainable and accessible way of producing events. Live events will, of course, continue to be an important part of how we meet and confer, but will no longer necessarily be just physical. We believe that building a strategy for future hybrid events is an important key going forward, and we are here to help our customers with exactly that process. By offering advanced technology and long experience, we can improve the audience experience and make your digital or hybrid event really memorable.