With the world heading back to some sense of normalcy, many companies are anxious to include in-person components to their virtual events again, and vice versa, to create a hybrid event experience.
Most events have had to pivot toward a virtual-only model since last March, and despite the unexpected change of plans, many experienced great success.
As companies begin to return to in-person events, they’ll want to blend the best qualities of traditional events with virtual event platforms to create larger, more successful hybrid events moving forward.
Thus, hybrid experiences will become vastly more common and popular, as event organizers and attendees have first-hand experience with the benefits of attending a virtual and traditional event.
Read on to learn more about hybrid events, examples to get you inspired, and tips to help you transition from virtual to hybrid.
|What Are Hybrid Events?||Tips to Transition Your Events from Virtual to Hybrid|
|What Does a Hybrid Event Look Like?||Hybrid Event Examples That Knock It Out of the Park|
|Why Hybrid Events Matter||Best Practices for Promoting Your Hybrid Event|
A hybrid event is a blend of the traditional in-person event with the online virtual event. Attendees can go to an actual venue for the event, but can also opt to participate online if they are unable to be there in person.
The tricky part about hybrid conferences and 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. It takes some extra planning and the right event technology to do the same in the virtual space. With the right hybrid event platform, you can ensure the experience for both live and virtual attendees are valuable.
There are a few ways an even can be structured in order for it to be deemed, “hybrid.” There may be a physical event with bonus online access, a primarily online event with limited in-person aspects, or an even blend of both.
Consider these hybrid event examples, both with different focuses, but still blended experiences:
- A large trade show that’s principally an in-person event with exclusive online content and an event app
- A live-streamed product reveal presented in front of a limited physical audience broadcasted to millions of people, also with an event app.
As we mentioned, 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. What’s the point?
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.
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.
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 (on-demand), 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.
Marketers can stretch their budgets and reach to invite thousands of people to their hybrid conferences to participate virtually. This improves the event’s ROI and means there’s less money spent on accommodations, dining, etc.
Higher Engagement and Better Data Collection
A hybrid event’s most significant contribution to physical events is arguably its data collection. With the right tools, you can create a dynamic space for guests to learn, interact, and ask questions.
By integrating virtual event software or an event app for live and online attendees, virtually every user interaction can be tracked, stored, and analyzed to glean insights that benefit the event’s main objectives and goals — whether it’s generating leads, improving a product, making an impression, or refining the marketing approach.
Looking for more ways to track the effectiveness of your hybrid and virtual events? Check out 12 Event Metrics to Measure your Success.
For companies that have pivoted toward hosting virtual-only events, they will want to start considering ways to incorporate both in-person and online components into their events moving forward.
Tip #1) Pick the Right Hybrid Event Platform
Finding a way to connect your two different audiences — those attending remotely and in-person — will require some digging to find the right platform. It’s important to find a vendor who can incorporate a mobile app with their desktop app to bridge the gap between these groups.
Also, find a platform that can create personalized agendas for all attendees. This will help people on-site plan their trips, and people at home choose which speakers to watch.
Ready to explore what the best hybrid event platforms have to offer? Check out the 7 Best Hybrid Event Platforms for 2021.
Tip #2) Select a Hybrid Event Production Partner
If your in-person component needs a bit more pizazz or organization, consider working with an outside event production partner.
Trying to to determine the right partner for your event? Check out our list of the Top 10 Hybrid Event Production Companies.
Tip #3) Offer On-Demand Content for Increased Activation of all Audiences
One of the downsides of attending a physical event, particularly conventions, concerts, or trade shows, is that you can’t watch every presentation you want to see if they overlap.
Luckily, a hybrid seminar or event can record and upload all sessions and speakers online as on-demand content, allowing audiences to view missed content later.
Both audiences now have the option to pick and choose which videos to watch, or content to download, which creates a deeper level of engagement and enrichment out of your event.
Have you considered how to engage your attendees after the event? Content can play a major role! Find out everything you need to do to maximize success with post-event engagement.
Tip #4) Create Audience Tiers
You should consider creating a “freemium” event, one where the basic content is available for free, but also offer a paid, premium tier that allows for more access to exclusive content, such as private breakout sessions, chats, features, and interactivity options.
By offering multiple audience tiers — free and premium— you can increase your event’s attendance by more than double.
When you increase your attendance, you can leverage that to command bigger sponsor packages moving forward.
Tip #5) Provide Networking Opportunities to Connect Remote and In-Person Audiences
Use a mobile event app and gamification to your advantage to encourage those visiting in-person to engage with those who are remote, and vice versa. Offer fun prizes and make a challenge out of encouraging both audiences to reach out to each other.
You can also poll both audiences simultaneously so their responses are combined, creating more unity within the entire group, or create breakout sessions on-site and virtually that can combine both groups together.
Looking for inspiration to help you turn your virtual event into a hybrid event? Take a look at our list of seven hybrid event examples that excelled at combining interesting and interactive virtual and in-person components.
#1) Empower 21
With many states restricting in-person events due to COVID-19, large-scale in-person events have been less common in 2021. Empower 21, a Christian conference that took place in Texas in February, is one of the first major hybrid conferences that took place this year.
Attendees could attend in-person or online with the same access to the event platform and agendas, speaker information, and interact with each other.
For those visiting, safety protocols such as wearing a mask and social distancing were practiced, proving how companies can begin putting on safe in-person events again.
#2) Apple Special Events
Apple, unsurprisingly, has been at the forefront of hybrid events by broadcasting its live in-person product demos to millions of people online with expansive reach.
With a recent shift to Apple’s latest special events being entirely virtual or pre-recorded, it has kept the audience’s attention from any location by presenting dynamic speaker’s with short speeches from their own unique destinations.
Apple will return to hybrid events as soon as California eases venue restrictions, as presenting in front of an in-person audience adds unique buzz and excitement.
It would make sense for Twitch, the online live streaming community, to put on only virtual events. But even they see the value in putting on a good show for people in-person and online.
Every year, TwitchCon is hosted in San Diego and features live musical acts on stage. Unlike other events that use an outside platform to live stream their content, Twitch streamed its content through its native platform. This allowed its online users to share a social experience with those in physical attendance.
Unfortunately, last year’s TwitchCon was canceled, but many fans anxiously await an announcement for this year’s event, expected to be in September, which many think will be hybrid once again.
#4) INBOUND by Hubspot
INBOUND is a three-day conference put on by HubSpot that occurs in August every year.
Business professionals, as well as comedians and entertainers, are invited to present to a large crowd of professionals interested in learning marketing and best practices to improve their business.
The best part is that all the sessions are recorded and shared online for attendees to watch on-demand. This is particularly helpful for business owners who want to share important information with their teams after attending the event.
INBOUND 2021 will be a fully virtual event, but it’s highly likely that their 2022 event will resume its hybrid status.
#5) Social Media Marketing World
Social Media Marketing World is a conference filled with leading influencers who offer practical, fun, and high-quality sessions to inspire social media managers on the year’s leading platforms.
While it’s primarily an in-person event that happens in San Diego, it also offers a virtual component to allow people at-home access to the same high-quality sessions and networking abilities, making it an effective hybrid event.
Social Media Marketing World follows a four-leveled audience tier to attract more visitors. At the base level, they have virtual, with just access to recordings, all the way to all-access, with access to all keynotes, sessions, recordings, and more.
Social Media Marketing World’s 2021 conference was postponed but has been rescheduled to March 14-16, 2022 at the San Diego Convention Center.
LiveWorx, put on by technology company PTC, is one of the leading conferences for digital innovators and enterprises put on every year.
Leading keynote speakers discuss the internet of things, augmented reality, CAD, and implementing business practices to help enterprises shape the future.
LiveWorx archives its past sessions so past members can log in to watch a highlights video and access the archived keynotes library.
While their event is usually held in Boston in June, last year’s event pivoted at the last minute to be a virtual event.
LiveWorx 2021 will continue its virtual format, sharing on-demand content after it has aired, and keeping sessions more concise to combat Zoom fatigue.
MozCon, the world’s leading SEO conference, has typically been a hybrid conference, allowing people at home a discounted ticket rate to watch the recorded version of the event after it has wrapped up.
MozCon takes advantage of its pre-recorded content to attract visitors to their website through SEO content marketing, allowing visitors to watch their content for free, while advertising their next event.
Moz understands the SEO advantage of repurposing old event footage into promotional material to market their next event. This is a useful tactic for recycling old footage into new keyword-rich content.
While last year’s MozCon was entirely virtual, MozCon 2022 has been planned to take place at the Washington State Convention Center July 11-13th, and offer both virtual and in-person elements for its audience.
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.
If you’re looking more ideas and insight straight from the pros, check out episodes of The Event Marketing Show, and register below to be the first to hear about new episodes!
#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
#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)
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
Transform Your Event Into an Unforgettable Hybrid Experience
SpotMe is the ultimate digital experience platform, capable of hosting dynamic and engaging virtual and hybrid events for your company.
Whether your audience is in person, or online, both have access to an interactivity-rich platform to network with each other, attend breakout sessions, watch on-demand content, or view HD live streams.
Give SpotMe a test drive! Request a free demo to get started today.
Check out the Top 10 Event Trends You Need to Know for 2021 to make sure your events (hybrid or otherwise) are effective moving forward.
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