Hybrid event planning: an executive guide and 6-month practical plan

Hybrid event

New to hybrid event planning? Not sure where to begin?

A hybrid event can be a great investment for your company – in fact, 86% of B2B organizations that host one see a positive ROI within 7 months.

But, to get to that ROI, you first have to know how to plan a hybrid event – and that’s where it gets tricky. The same survey found that it takes 38% of event planners longer to host a hybrid event than an in-person or virtual event. 

With hybrid event planning, you’re essentially organizing two events: a live one and a virtual one that blend together to create an interactive experience for every attendee. That means a lot of different technical and digital aspects.

While it’s a lot to organize, the right timeline will help you ensure the successful planning of your hybrid event.

That’s why we’ve created this hybrid event planning guide with a 6-month plan to help you get the best of two event worlds: in-person + virtual = hybrid.

Let’s dig in!

 

What is a hybrid event?

A hybrid event is a mixture of an in-person and virtual event. 

Some participants physically attend the event. Others watch a live stream online from the comfort of their own homes or offices.

Think concerts, football matches, and the Oscars. These are all examples of hybrid events we see in our everyday lives.

But, hybrid event planning isn’t simply planning to live stream your in-person event. It’s all about coming up with one event experience that engages two different audiences in unique and uniform ways while getting them to interact with one another.

To host a successful hybrid event, you have to bring together in-person and virtual event technology, and merge aspects of in-person and virtual event planning.

Hybrid event planning board

Types to consider when hybrid event planning

There are different options to consider when understanding how to plan hybrid events. We’ve listed 3 types of hybrid events for you to choose from.

Live hybrid events

What they are

These are events where all speakers are physically present at the event venue. Some attendees are onsite. Others watch a live stream online. But the whole audience can interact with each other using networking and messaging tools.

What they’re best for

  • Large events where participants are local but may not be able to attend in person
  • Marketing events with various participant tiers
  • Events that need to reach a wider audience

What you need

Hybrid events with on-demand engagement

What they are

These are events where all speakers are physically present at the event venue. Some attendees are onsite. Others watch a recording of the event online. The remote audience could watch on demand or through simulive activities. In this type of hybrid event, cross-audience interactions are limited.

What they’re best for

  • Global events where a lot of attendees can’t attend the event in person or live
  • Educational events where participants prefer to absorb content at their own pace
  • Marketing content that can be reused

What you need

Live hybrid hubs

What they are

These are events where speakers and attendees are physically present at multiple venues (i.e. hubs). Some attendees participate remotely. Audience interaction takes place within hubs. Participants can also interact with speakers.

What they’re best for

  • Expert forums or business events by teams in various locations
  • Creating and fostering local communities or user groups

What you need

Want more hybrid event examples to get inspiration from? See these noteworthy examples.

When to plan a hybrid event instead of an in-person or virtual one

You know that hybrid events are a blend of in-person and virtual ones. That means they unite the advantages of both types.

So, you’ll want to look into hybrid event planning if you want to achieve at least one of the following:

  • Reach a wider audience worldwide (and in turn give greater value to sponsors)
  • Have international speakers that can participate physically or virtually
  • Gain real-time data on audience engagement
  • Lower your carbon footprint
  • Involve those who can’t attend physically (due to travel, cost, or venue capacity)
  • Boost engagement with diverse types of content
  • Create unmatched, customized interactions between attendees (both in-person and remote)
  • Produce compelling evergreen on-demand content

This strong mix of benefits means that when you think your event could be a success both in person and virtually, hybrid event planning is worth a shot.

The challenges of hybrid event planning 

Of course, hybrid event planning comes with its difficulties. For starters, you have to ensure you don’t prioritize one audience type over the other. (Even if you don’t mean to!) Both your in-person and virtual attendees are as important as each other. And they expect equally fulfilling experiences. 

Here are the main challenges of hybrid events and how to tackle them.

Challenge 1: Setting up and using event technology

Hybrid event planning seems like a complex task if you use many different event management tools. But there’s no need for this.

There are hybrid event platforms you can use to plan and handle everything from start to finish. Some hybrid event software companies have project managers that help you every step of the way. And they provide live customer support in less than 30 seconds.

If you find event technology that allows you to oversee everything, it’ll be a piece of cake.

Challenge 2: Keeping content engaging for all

Hybrid event content needs to engage both in-person and virtual attendees. No easy job.

But hybrid event platforms have a range of features you can use to boost engagement:

And some have a mobile app, so both in-person and remote attendees can interact with each other.

Unfamiliar with some of these terms? Dive into our event planning terms glossary to learn what they mean and get to know 150+ other useful event tech words.

Challenge 3: Managing time zones

With hybrid event planning, you have the chance to reach audiences worldwide. But, there are 24 time zones in the world. There’s no way people from every country can tune in at the same time.

Think about where most of your remote audience is. And use that to decide on the perfect time for your event.

On-demand content is another great way to reach global audiences after a hybrid event. Especially if they weren’t able to attend.

Challenge 4: Dealing with connection issues

We’ve all been there. “Call dropped”. “Connection failed”.

To ensure this won’t happen on the day of your hybrid event, test, test, and test again. Test the connection speed. Test the equipment. And have a connection backup in case something goes wrong.

Challenge 5: Selecting a venue

Not all venues are equipped for virtual or hybrid events. Some don’t have the space or the technology.

Make sure that during your hybrid event planning you ask about internet connection and technical possibilities when looking at venues. There needs to be enough space for equipment and to be able to live stream speakers, in-person attendees, and any other presentations. 

Challenge 6: Making the event accessible

Making hybrid events inclusive for all is not easy. Again, you need to consider the in-person as well as the remote audience and their needs. Making events inclusive is a legal requirement in many countries. So, this is a critical aspect.

You can make your event as accessible as possible by providing:

  • Accessible parking
  • Wheelchair access
  • Priority seating
  • Sign language interpreters
  • Live captioning in different languages
  • Dark modes
  • Flexible font sizes

Hybrid event planning calendar

Hybrid event planning: a 6-month plan

We’ve broken down everything you need to make hybrid event planning a success. And we’ve organized it into a logical timeline you can follow.

We suggest starting 6 months before so that you can achieve all your aims with flying colors. If it’s a larger event with 1,000+ attendees, you may need more time.

Before you start hybrid event planning

Create an outline

A solid starting point will guide you as you work to meet your goals and objectives. And meet your audience’s needs. Make sure your outline is as thorough as possible because you’ll be using it as your reference point throughout the entire planning process. It should address things such as:

  • Why and who you’re hosting the event for
  • How many in-person attendees and virtual attendees you plan to have
  • The date and time of the event 
  • Possible physical event locations
  • What your total budget is
  • Who will form the hybrid event team
  • How you will market your event 
  • The pricing
  • What your onsite technology needs will be
  • What virtual event platform options may best serve your needs
  • How you will recruit your speakers, sponsorships, and partnerships

As you plan, remember: you’re organizing an onsite event and an online event. “Think about two different experiences and two different audiences,” says Agathe Sammut, founder of Comeeti.com. “Focus on each audience and try to know what you want to propose to each of them.”

Hybrid event planning: month 1

Define your objective and understand your audience

This is a vital stage of any event planning process. Since hybrid event planning is more challenging, your aim and your target audience have to be crystal clear from the start.

Ask yourself the following:

  • What’s your desired outcome?
  • What value can you give your sponsors?
  • What value can you give your audience?

To understand your audience better, you need to study how your audience behaves, what they need, and what they expect.

What better way than to create a buyer persona? Note down the following about your expected attendees:

  • Location
  • Demographics
  • Industry
  • Job
  • Online presence
  • Pain points

Setting these out will help you later when you have to think about time zones, content, and marketing strategies, for example.

Plus, this process will help you get a better idea of how many participants you’re expecting. 

Decide on the date, time, and venue

When planning a hybrid event, remember to pick a date and time that will suit most of your attendees. Be they in person or online.

You also need to think about how many participants will attend in person and how many remotely. And what will happen at your event.

Will there be breakout sessions? If so, you may need a venue with smaller rooms.

Will your sponsors want to interact individually with attendees? If so, you need space for them.

Will people be presenting? If so, you need a location with good acoustics.

Your choice of venue will depend on this. And don’t forget about the space you need for audio and video equipment. As well as what technology options the venue offers.

Lay down your budget

Your budget will depend on the type and size of your hybrid event. Ensure you fix your budget early on in your hybrid event planning. That way you’ll have more options, more time to negotiate, and a clear guideline to make sure your event is cost-efficient.

You may want to allocate different budgets to the in-person and virtual parts.

On top of your in-person costs that include venue hire, staff, catering, and furniture rental, you’ll have to add:

  • Audiovisual equipment hire
  • Event tech
  • Hybrid event platform
  • Signage, branding, design
  • Digital marketing

Make up your hybrid event team

Events are a success when they have a coordinated team behind them. Hybrid events are no exception.

You’ll need a bigger team with clear tasks and responsibilities for hybrid event planning because it’s more complex.

In fact, we suggest having two teams. One that’s dedicated to the in-person part. One that’s focused on the virtual part.

You’ll need the same team members you have for any event, as well as:

  • A project manager for the in-person elements
  • A project manager for the virtual aspects
  • A project manager who ensures both parts of the event come together to make it a successful hybrid experience
  • An MC who’ll speak to both audiences
  • A virtual host for your online audience
  • An audiovisual manager
  • A hybrid event platform provider
  • Technicians

You may need to outsource people for the more technical roles.

Hybrid event planning: months 12

Build your event marketing strategy

The most successful hybrid events are those that are defined as such from the start. Ensure your marketing makes it clear that your event is hybrid. That way participants will know what to expect.

Start creating ads that your target audience will see, whether they’re on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or Google. 

Make sure you build a landing page to link your ads to so attendees can sign up for more information or register for the event. It should be clear how people can sign up to be an in-person attendee or a virtual one.

The sooner you start advertising, the sooner your audience can start planning for the hybrid event and get their supervisors to sign off on them going. 

Lacking imagination on how to promote your hybrid event? Check out 36 Creative Ideas For Your Next Online or Hybrid Event.

Choose your hybrid event platform

To give your audience the best experience, a crucial part of your hybrid event planning is finding the right hybrid event platform.

There are lots to choose from. You should base your decision on your event goal, audience’s needs, budget, and the type of content you’ll present. 

List all the features you’d like your hybrid event platform to have. For example:

Then, book a free demo and start comparing different platforms.

Check out our post on the 15 best hybrid event platforms in 2022 to help you decide.

Find your sponsors and event partners

Your sponsors and partners will help offset the cost of the event, so this is an important step in your hybrid event planning.

Present them with reasons why the event could bring value to their companies. An event about content marketing, for example, might be a good draw for sponsors who work with marketing companies to help streamline their efforts. They’ll have the chance to network with people from their target audience.

Recruit speakers for your sessions

This is also the time to recruit speakers for the event. If your hybrid event is healthcare-focused, covering advances in the pharmaceutical industry, then reach out to subject matter experts who work at pharmaceutical companies, especially executives who can give valuable perspectives to your attendees. 

Ways to recruit speakers include reaching out directly on social media and talking to local universities to see if any faculty members would be interested.

When you talk to potential speakers, ensure they know they’ll have to engage two audiences at once. They’ll need to acknowledge both the in-person and virtual attendees. Reassure them that you’ll give them the tools they need. And suggest they work off the in-person participants’ reactions but speak directly to the camera.

Select other event tech

Figuring out what technology you need early on in your hybrid event planning is key. Especially because this is one of the most important parts of your hybrid event.

Here are some tools you may want to think about: 

  • Mobile event app
  • Registration/ticketing platform
  • Audiovisual equipment
  • Strong internet connection
  • Presentation software
  • QR codes
  • Gamification

Ensure you research technology that helps you meet your event goals. It’s no use adding frills to your hybrid event if they’ll make it overly complex or costly.

Create a detailed plan

Once you’ve decided on all of the above, your hybrid event planning should be more concrete. You can draw up a precise event schedule. Down to every last detail.

Make sure you include:

  • Timings
  • Speakers’ info
  • Tech info

Hybrid event planning: months 34

During this stage of your hybrid event planning, you’ll want to start coordinating with your hybrid event platform provider. By this time, you should have a working schedule down and know how many sessions and speakers you’ll have. Identifying that first is key to planning “because you’ll need to know how many multiple streams are going at once,” says Andrew Tosh, senior project manager at SpotMe. 

“Having a good idea of how many concurrent sessions there might be helps us determine how much support we need to give,” Tosh explains. “So, [we need to] determine with them how they will capture their onsite event and bring that onto our platform.” 

Your provider will also need to work directly with your audiovisual staff and others to help coordinate the event, so make sure to establish those relationships early on in your hybrid event planning. 

Keep marketing and recruiting

Once you get people to sign up, target them with an email campaign where they’ll get updates about the event. If they signed up for more information but didn’t register, send them emails with registration information or even a discount. 

Continue recruiting sponsors as well, and speak to companies about having a booth. Show them how they can interact with your virtual audience through the event platform software. That way, they’ll know they’re able to interact with both audiences and get more value out of the event.

Coordinate with your venue and area hotels

Talk with the staff at your venue about what you’ll need on hand once you’re there. Make sure they have enough plugs and that the internet connection they provide is stable enough for your live streaming. 

If you are offering catering, then ensure the event space and caterer know what’s going on and when. They will need to coordinate with each other on meal delivery and setup. Finally, reach out to area hotels to try and get discount packages for your attendees. 

Create your content

Your hybrid event content needs to work well for both your audiences. 

For example, sitting in front of a screen for a long time is more tiring than sitting in front of a live stage. That’s why you need to think about session timings during your hybrid event planning.

It’s tricky to meet everyone’s needs, so try to find a happy medium. You could have some sessions that are the same for both audiences. They could be talk shows or Q&As. Other sessions could be divided into live sessions for the in-person audience and on-demand for the remote one.

The key thing to remember is to ensure that all your participants, whether attending in person or virtually, have similar experiences. And to ensure you meet their expectations and your event goal. 

Hybrid event planning: months 56

This is the time to ensure everything is ready to go and that you and your event team are fully prepared. There may still be snags on the event day, but your detailed preparation should help you handle those disruptions with ease.

Create your mobile event app

Start building your mobile event app (usually provided by the virtual event platform). This will serve as a key piece in keeping both audiences engaged. It provides networking opportunities and gives you a way to spread vital information via push notifications. 

Send out emails that encourage your attendees to download the app and sign up, usually about a week before the event, Tosh advises. 

Hybrid event mobile app

Rehearse and test technology

As the time draws closer and your hybrid event planning is nearly done, run through the agenda with your staff and the hybrid event platform support team. Rehearsing lights and audiovisual cues helps ensure that everything is working smoothly before the event starts. Try a test run on the platform as well so you can see how everything is streaming for your virtual audience.

Establish a plan for in-person entry. Make the ticketing process as simple as possible and have event staff ready to either check pre-purchased tickets or sell them on the day of the event.

During the event

It’s finally time for your hybrid event planning to pay off your attendees have arrived, whether they’re onsite or virtual. During the event, you’ll need to make sure that:

  • Live support is running for virtual attendees in case any issues arise
  • The onsite staff knows their cues and where they need to be during each session
  • Sponsors in the exhibition hall have everything they need for their booths
  • You’re sending push notifications through the mobile event app to keep everyone updated on any schedule changes
  • You have extra supplies on hand in case they are needed, such as USB cords, chargers, highlighters, extension cords, backup laptops, and camera batteries

Communicating with your audience is vital, especially the remote one. “It is important to keep that focus on the online [audience] going at the same time and keeping that communication alive,” Tosh says. “Otherwise, online audiences might feel like they don’t understand what’s happening, or they’re confused because things aren’t appearing for the stream because there are delays.”

Also, check to see how your audience’s event experience is going. Are they participating in the live polls that your team is sending out? Are they networking with each other in the mobile event app? If not, try different interactive strategies to engage them

If you’re a life science company looking for the latest HCP engagement trends, check out HCP engagement: emerging trends, success metrics, and omnichannel strategies.

Post-event follow-up 

Even after the last bit is cleaned up and you’re ready to leave the venue, your hybrid event planning job isn’t done. Following up after the event helps you meet the goals you set during the pre-planning stage. 

About one to two days after the event, send out a thank-you email to all attendees, sponsors, speakers, and partners. In that email, include a post-event survey to get feedback from all participants. You can take the metrics from that feedback and apply them to the next hybrid event you plan. 

Share content after the event, as well. Engage with followers on social media with snippets from the sessions and keynotes. If you put attendees into a post-event drip campaign, you can share content with them there in a newsletter. Use that newsletter to update them on other events, company business, and more.

Plan your hybrid events with time to spare

Successful hybrid event planning takes time, but with the right amount, you’ll pull it all together. 

If you need some extra help, there are hybrid event management companies that you can turn to. SpotMe offers a hybrid event platform that you can use for the virtual component of your hybrid event.

SpotMe also has a range of engagement features available on web and mobile apps to keep your hybrid audience captivated until the end of your event (and after). Its robust live captioning tool also means you can reach a wider global audience in their own language.

Contact us today for a demonstration and let our hybrid event experts help you plan and host your hybrid events.

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