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A how-to guide for a successful hybrid event

Hybrid events fuse in-person and virtual components to create a single gathering, delivering the best of both worlds to companies looking to make a lasting impact.

Regardless of external conditions like COVID-19, many organizations have gone hybrid to save on travel expenses, or draw in attendees from larger geographical distances. This is especially attractive for events like graduations.

The possibilities are nearly endless when it comes to going hybrid, but there are a few things to bear in mind. We’ve compiled several tips to help ensure your hybrid event has a smooth path to success.

Tip #1: Settle the “hybrid vs. virtual” debate.

Hybrid and virtual events are not one and the same.

A virtual event involves next to no physical interaction between event participants. A hybrid event creates two physically separate, but simultaneous experiences. In other words, while gathering behind a screen and within a room are distinct settings, an organizer’s goal is to create identical outcomes in terms of the mental, emotional and learning experience of the event.

Before deciding to go hybrid, mark a few things on your checklist. The first is to ensure that the in-person component can be safely hosted, without any health concerns. The second is audience: How much of your audience would be open to joining a live event, and how many would prefer virtual?

The third and sometimes overlooked item is to ensure the type of event that you are putting on is suitable for both virtual and in-person components. If either group of participants would feel uncomfortable or left out of an experience, this is probably a sign hybrid is not the best bet for your idea or proposal.

It’s worth noting that hybrid events can also necessitate bigger budgets than in-person gatherings do, especially when it comes to the added technology layer. But there are always ways to keep costs under control.

Tip #2: Maximize safety for your live component.

Ensuring a safe and healthy environment is the best way to make event participants feel supported and welcome, and this will go a long way to assuage the concerns of people otherwise skeptical of joining in person.

Local conditions, and those where your attendees are traveling from, should inform your approach to policies like masking, social distancing and vaccination protocols. Unless there are overriding state or municipal regulations, the direction is largely yours to set, but make sure whatever policies you put in place are abundantly clear for both attendees and event partners.

For more on this, check out our in-person guide, with helpful details on live event safety.

Tip #3: Make it last beyond the event date.

There is significant evergreen content value to embracing the hybrid option, which starts with enabling access to virtual content like webinars, e-books and games long beyond the event date itself. This makes it a truly educational experience, extends impact and increases the chance non-attendees will become interested in joining your next gathering.

You should also consider keeping contact forms, event-specific emails and other input places open for a few weeks to a few months afterward. The length of time for which you keep this information available depends on the number of attendees: the larger, the longer.

Finally, be sure to encourage virtual feedback. Take surveys, and tie responses to benefits like gift cards or a prize raffle entry. You should begin to assess feedback during the event itself, such as with fun quizzes, and then continue to do so for a period of time afterward.

Tip #4: Maximize your partnerships.

Hybrid events are a balancing act that transcend two different audiences, and for both, their quality level must be of a consistently high standard. Your organization and third-party companies participating in the event need to be on the same page, both on design and technical matters.

The live streaming platform needs to be repeatedly tested before the event to flesh out potential access problems, glitches or blurriness on the audience’s end. Choose a digital partner who is experienced in participating in or running high-level events with large numbers of people, and one that provides streaming services capable of operating across low bandwidth connections.

Ensure lighting and sound quality are optimized for both live and virtual audiences. This will be especially important for outdoor venues, or ones with abundant natural lighting, for the in-person part of the event, where the risk of being too bright to be seen, or overwhelmed by background noise, are more significant.

Tip #5: Keep your options open – and your Plan B ready.

Companies continue to benefit from a significant amount of choice when it comes to putting on events. With widespread vaccines and testing for COVID-19, face-to-face components are once again possible.

Still, your contingency plans should be extensive. You should be prepared to respond quickly and effectively to acute problems that arise during the event, like technical difficulties or other problems reported by the audience. If the live component becomes impractical for health or travel reasons, it will be crucial to be able to quickly pivot to a fully virtual gathering, with questions of what, where and how clearly identified in the event plan and contract.

For strategic help putting these tips and more into action, tap into the creative team at Behind the Scenes. We are just a phone call or email away.


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