While companies had to make a fast and unexpected shift to virtual meetings in 2020, the focus in 2021 will be on a dynamic mixture of virtual and in-person: the hybrid event. If done correctly, this event type mixes the best of both worlds and can give your attendance numbers a big boost.
A 2020 survey of event professionals found that 73% of event planners are going to prepare a hybrid event by the end of the year. Many are eager to get back to in-person events, but also know the importance of meeting attendees where they are — literally and figuratively. This includes allowing those who are unable to attend in-person meetups to enjoy and experience virtual events that are just as full, lively, and interactive.
Read on to learn how hybrid events can become essential to you and your audiences, including the keys to a successful event, the dos and don’ts, and how to promote your event.
What are Hybrid Events?
Hybrid events are a combination of virtual and in-person events. Attendees can go to an actual venue for the event, but also can opt to participate online if they are unable to be there in person.
The tricky part about hybrid events is making them equally as engaging and fulfilling for people who are attending remotely as it is to those who are physically present. Those attending in person can go to workshops, engage with each other, interact with speakers, and ask questions. How can you bring these aspects to the virtual space? With the right virtual event platform, of course!
While about 51.7% of people in a December 2020 survey said they prefer or strongly prefer in-person meetings, the remaining respondents either had no preference or preferred hybrid meetings. There’s a growing opportunity for hybrid events to fulfill the needs of all attendees.
What Does a Hybrid Event Look Like?
With hybrid events, participants have the option to attend and enjoy in-person sessions and presentations at a specified event location. But for those who are unable to attend or prefer not to attend in-person events, your organization can use a sophisticated virtual event platform to create an experience that will seamlessly complement the in-person aspect.
To be successful, hybrid events need to go beyond simply streaming the in-person speakers and sessions — although that certainly can be a part of it. But if you are only streaming the content, the remote viewers can easily feel bored or left out of the conversation. Imagine watching a live Q&A session, but being unable to comment or ask any questions yourself.
Fortunately, event planners have many innovative options today when choosing virtual event software that packs a punch.
Features can include:
- Live or on-demand content
- Pages personalized with your brand
- Virtual Q&As
- Activity feeds
- Breakout rooms
Content can be accessed on a computer or smartphone, and virtual attendees can remain constantly connected to and updated on the event.
Common Types of Hybrid Events
Hybrid events can work for many types of meetings and programs, including internal and external company events.
Consider how hybrid aspects can work for these types of events for your organization:
- Trade shows
- Training seminars
- Marketing and sales events
- Product launches and demonstrations
- Team meetings
Hybrid events can make more of a lasting impression than other meeting types because virtual content can live longer and continually be accessed and viewed. Additionally, with polls, instant feedback, and digital tracking, you can gain valuable insight and statistics on what works and what doesn’t.
When Should You Use a Hybrid Event?
Before virtual meetings actually became a true necessity, companies were choosing to host hybrid events because they could extend a farther reach than in-person. Customers, clients, stakeholders, remote employees, or leaders who would not be able to attend events at the company headquarters could tune in and receive the same content.
Once virtual meetings became more popular and, in 2020, became the only option for companies at certain points, the benefits of these meeting types were undeniable. Virtual meeting software with chat functions allowed more opportunities for conversation and feedback as well.
Today, many companies still may not be aware of all the technology available to them that can make their hybrid meetings more successful and rewarding. Hybrid events may be valuable to your company if your goals include:
- A farther and more diverse reach
- Engaging digital content
- Convenience and cost-effectiveness for those unable to attend in person
- Longer content life
- An interest in digital data collection
- A higher event ROI
The software tools available can make sophisticated goals simpler and more user-friendly, so don’t be intimidated by the idea of hosting a wide-reaching hybrid event. On the other hand, hybrid events can work for smaller training sessions and meetings as well.
Benefits of Hosting a Hybrid Event
Hybrid events provide ample opportunity for greater attendance, higher engagement, and longer-lasting exposure and impact. Research shows 73.6% of event planners have become more proficient in technology as a result of the pandemic. Planners understand that incorporating technology is essential to success today, as meetings continue to be held either exclusively online or slowly they begin to transition to hybrid meetings.
In March 2020, 90% of event professionals lost some or most of their business. This led to the quick, necessary swap to virtual events where possible. Even baby showers, wedding showers, and birthday parties were being held virtually.
As the year progressed, some meetings and events returned to in-person with hefty safety measures, but this excludes many people who still aren’t comfortable physically attending events or who are unable to travel. Hybrid meetings are a solution to meeting the various needs of our employees, clients, guests, and more.
With hybrid events, you have the opportunity to reach an entirely new audience. People who may never have had the time or resources to attend your event can tune in at any time and access your content. This can include recorded sessions, live streams, polls, discussions, and more.
You can leave the content up as long as you like, so busy attendees can access it at any point — and can even come back to it in the future for reference or for other marketing purposes. This can leave a much longer impact than simply attending a one-time event in person.
If your efforts with virtual meetings didn’t go as well as you’d hoped in 2020, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to grow in 2021. With the right tools, you can create a dynamic space for guests to learn, interact, and ask questions. All of the data you collect during in-person events can be extended to online attendees, and it can be done effortlessly.
You also can provide virtual access to those who are attending in person as well, so they can review sessions they loved after the hybrid event and share content with others.
Lasting exposure and impact
Create unique ways to encourage interaction and present takeaways from your event, including infographics and gamification options where you can set tasks, encourage networking, and allow people to earn points for completion. Points then can be traded in for prizes.
Continue conversations or polls from the event with social media engagement to keep your brand and content on people’s minds. By increasing a networking aspect and interactive elements, your hybrid events can spark relationships and ideas in attendees that will live far beyond the event.
How to Create a Hybrid Event That Wows Your Audience
The best hybrid events are crafted with thoughtful planning for each type of attendee. The needs are different, so the content should also be different. While you certainly can live stream all of your events of the day and allow people to virtually attend, this doesn’t create the most engaging and effective environment.
People attending the event in person may initially seem to have a greater benefit, as they will be able to interact with speakers and other guests and participate in more sessions and workshops. You need to decide what types of content will be suitable for virtual guests, and which should be left to in-person.
In 2020, we often had no choice but to plan virtual events. In 2021, we are taking everything we learned and realizing the full potential of virtual and hybrid events to reach a greater audience than we may have ever thought possible.
Key Components of a Successful Hybrid Event
To create a successful hybrid event, you must consider how each type of audience will receive the content and whether you need to craft exclusive sessions or speakers for your virtual or in-person audience. For example, in-person guests may enjoy a one-hour presentation with a speaker at a podium, but this type of setup is not as engaging for virtual guests.
Ask yourself these questions to prompt hybrid event ideas and solutions:
- Will you offer all sessions to both types of participants?
- Can your in-person sessions contain elements that also work for virtual events?
- Can your speakers address the virtual audience and prompt them to ask questions in the chat or respond to live polls? Can your in-person guests participate too?
- Do you need to have speakers record a different version of their presentation for the virtual audience that is shorter, more engaging, and directed right to them?
- Can you offer pre-recorded content on-demand for guests in different time zones, or have speakers present live a couple of times a day?
- Can you offer smaller virtual breakout rooms during the day to engage participants?
These types of questions are important to address when planning a hybrid event. You need to have content that satisfies all participants and allows similar engagement opportunities.
Networking and asking questions especially can be difficult for virtual participants, so you should create plenty of opportunities for event leaders to directly address virtual participants. You also could schedule exclusive interviews or panel discussions in breakout rooms for virtual guests.
The Dos and Don’ts of Hybrid Events
Hybrid Event Tip #1) Do Create Surveys and Polls to Gauge Interest Before, During, and After Your Event
Prior to your event, create a survey or poll to ask who would attend an in-person event vs. a virtual event. Gauge your guests’ interest in a variety of topics, including session types and length, preferred forms of engagement, on-demand content, and other suggestions.
Promote the survey on your social media pages, email blasts, and website, and further engage with your audience with follow-up questions and information.
During an event, engage attendees with quick, interactive polls. Ask single or multiple-choice questions with photos, brainstorm ideas, capture the mood of the room, or ask users to rate ideas with a star rating.
You also should create a post-event survey to hear what worked and what didn’t for each type of attendee.
Hybrid Event Tip #2) Don’t Offer Activities that Exclude Participation
Don’t invite virtual guests to a session where they are able to witness but not participate in the activity. This includes workshops and networking sessions where virtual groups can see what’s happening but aren’t able to contribute.
On the other hand, don’t stream an exclusive virtual session to an in-person event where guests can’t participate in the discussion. You want your audience to feel like you thoughtfully planned each type of content — because, well, you did!
Hybrid Event Tip #3) Do Offer Exclusive Content for Both In-Person and Virtual Guests
You want to make a lasting impression on both types of guests. Since their needs vary, creating content for each type of attendee is essential to success.
This includes engaging workshops, sessions, speakers, and Q&As for in-person guests; and dedicated virtual speakers with live polls, instant feedback, chats, Q&As, breakout rooms, and on-demand content for those accessing your virtual platform.
Hybrid Event Tip #4) Don’t Forget About Your Goals and Agenda
When planning a hybrid event, don’t get so caught up in creating rich, explosive content or managing various tools that you forget about the purpose and goals of your event in the first place. With every decision you thoughtfully make, consider how it aligns with your goals and overall agenda.
Creating content for multiple purposes can get confusing and overwhelming if you’re not keeping in mind what you want guests to take away from it. Sharing your agenda via your channels will also keep your goals and agenda in plain view, and serve to pique your audience’s interest in your content.
With the right platform, you can even use tools to create themes, tags, and suggested agenda items to guide your virtual audience to the right sessions.
Hybrid Event Tip #5) Do Use a Robust Event Platform
This might be the most important tip for hosting hybrid events: You should carefully choose your event platform because they are not all equal.
A platform like SpotMe can help you create the perfect blended event, with robust tools that drive demand, build connections, and grow revenue.
SpotMe is packed with engagement tools and personalizations to make it fully yours. You can create a branded registration page and digital experience, create ample networking opportunities with discussion boards, breakout rooms, and conversations.
Speakers using different tools, such as Zoom or Webex, can embed their streams into your event. Your speakers and audience will be impressed with your user-friendly, diverse options. And you can track it all through SpotMe’s analytics.
Check out the the 7 Best Hybrid Event Platforms for 2021 to learn more about the options available to you.
Best Practices for Promoting Your Hybrid Event
If you’re new to the hybrid world, you might be stumped on the best ways to promote them — especially if you’re used to promoting in-person events. But you’re a savvy sales and marketing professional, so leverage all that know-how into crafting engaging content that highlights your goals and gets people excited about what you have to offer.
If you’re not a marketing hero, we can help get you started. Chances are, it won’t take long for you to catch on to all the tools available today.
Promotion Best Practice #1) Unite Your Marketing and Sales Teams
If this is already the case in your company, then you can head to #2. If not, read on. Marketers need to know what the customer wants, and who knows better than the team that speaks with customers all day?
Each team has something valuable to offer the other, so prior to creating a marketing plan for your hybrid event, sales and marketing should meet frequently to share insights related to attendees, resources, logistics, and sponsorship. This will be the best way to determine who the target demographic is and how to attract them to the event.
There may be some initial language differences since the terms each team uses are not always interchangeable. Keep this in mind when you first unite and work to simplify these together so that you can be as aligned as possible.
Want to learn more? Check out Sales and Marketing Alignment: How To Bring Them Together In Your Virtual Event Strategy
Promotion Best Practice #2) Create a Solid Marketing Plan
Once you’ve established the event plan, it’s time to craft a marketing plan for your event. How are you going to get the word out and get people talking about your event? Your goal should be to create a marketing plan so effective, you can repeat it over and over again.
Along with planning, to promote you will want to consider similar factors:
- What channels are you using to connect with your audience (email, social media, blog, etc.)?
- What is the timeline?
- Will you record the sessions for on-demand use?
- What are you hoping to achieve?
- Why should people want to attend? What is the value?
These questions should help spark your creative promotion ideas and marketing content around the hybrid event. Consider also how sponsorships can be incorporated into your channels. Your sponsors will get double the value out of hybrid events because their brand will reach both your in-person and virtual audiences.
Need help with a marketing plan? Look no further, read this: One Event Marketing Plan To Rule Them All (Plus a Template To Get You Started)
Promotion Best Practice #3) Use Event Marketing to Interact with Customers
You develop trust with customers when you interact with them on social media, or create informational blog posts and engaging YouTube videos. Use these channels to get people excited about your event and to involve them in the process. Post frequent updates and behind-the-scenes content leading up to the event, and create polls to generate interest. Partner with trusted influencers or other organizations to help spread the word.
All these tactics, used both before and after an event, contribute to longevity with your brand. It will keep you in your customers’ minds far after your hybrid event is over.
Promotion Best Practice #4) Know Your Audience and Tailor Content to Them
This is also where your sales team will be an invaluable resource: They know your audience. If you’re new to event marketing, you’ll quickly discover the importance of developing a strong voice that speaks directly to your audience and resonates with them.
If you post a photo of your team setting up the event and the caption simply reads, “Setting up for the big event,” or share a blog that does not lean towards a pain point that will be addressed at your upcoming hybrid vent, what will this do for your audience? Give them information, give them personality, and give them a place to share their thoughts and questions.
Promotion Best Practice #5) Use Early-Bird Deals and Targeted Ads to Incentivize
Can you offer guests early sign-up deals, exclusive content, or discounts for referrals? Can you run promotions with prizes like brand merch? Can you track those who browsed your event — or have shown interest in your brand — and target ads to them?
These methods can be powerful, effective tools to generate interest and build awareness. You also can incentivize your sales team with prizes and rewards for whomever sells the most tickets for the event.
Promotion Best Practice #6) Be Creative and Innovative
Social media and blog content gives us unique opportunities to be creative and really think outside of traditional marketing methods. From Facebook and Twitter posts to Youtube videos, TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, and more, you have many fun ways to deliver your message.
When your event includes both virtual and in-person aspects, you can challenge yourself to deliver content that engages both types of audiences. Go live to answer questions ahead of the event, or create a downloadable template that teases out a broader session to take place at the event.
There’s also no shame in getting inspiration from other brands. Chances are it will spark something totally new and exciting that works exclusively for you.
Take a look at these 13 Examples of Event Marketing Done Right for inspiration.
SpotMe Can Help You Expertly Execute Your Hybrid Event Plans
If you’re seeking a customized, engaging, dynamic hybrid event experience, SpotMe can help.
With powerful tools for customization, networking, and real-time data collection, your customers will experience an event like no other, whether they’re in-person or online.
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