The events industry is buzzing with one word: ‘hybrid’. We know and have seen hybrid events take off at rocket speed in the past few months.
We wanted to see for ourselves just how people felt about hybrid events, so we conducted a survey. Not only do 100% of the professionals surveyed by vFairs perfectly understand what the term means, but 76% of survey respondents also think that hybrid solutions will be a key part of their strategy in 2021.
It is obvious then. We cannot ignore them, can we? Let’s get a grip on the ‘theory of hybrid events’, so you can excel in yours.
What are Hybrid Events?
We know you know what hybrid events are. But here is a little recap.
Hybrid events are the best of both worlds, physical and virtual. Some aspects of the event are hosted in a physical location and are broadcast out to a virtual audience. However, the online environment allows you to add extra value to your event by allowing you to:
- host more exhibitors and attendees than the physical space would allow;
- gamify your events through digital scavenger hunts, leaderboards, trivia, and more;
- offer greater flexibility for the audience; and
- invite top-tier speakers to present remotely.
Benefits of Hybrid Events
Hybrid events offer benefits and open opportunities in a way that other event types are unable to offer. They increase reach since you attract both remote and in-person audiences. Plus, you attract high-profile speakers who otherwise would have been unable to attend. They also offer extensive insights into audience behavior. In addition to this, they are cost-friendly, easy on the environment and provide on-demand, easily downloadable content. However, what is really the cherry on top with hybrid events is the flexibility they offer.
With the best of the physical and virtual worlds combined, there are different ways in which an event can be organized to best suit the host, sponsors, exhibitors and attendees. Hosts can tweak aspects of a hybrid event in different ways than a physical event could offer. These various aspects are what we call the “dimensions” of hybrid events.
Dimensions of Hybrid Events
Hybrid events are flexible, we have already established that. Their flexibility ranges across five dimensions:
Let’s understand how each of these dimensions allow the organizer to put together a hybrid event that suits their needs, and hence grants them flexibility.
When hosting a hybrid event, bringing together audiences in a physical space and attracting participants virtually means the event can be flexible in terms of the timings. Catering to the different time zones is where hybrid events shine. They don’t limit or restrict their audience, hence the increased reach.
Both the physical and virtual audiences can be participating and in attendance at the same time. However, it doesn’t always have to be parallel i.e. your physical and virtual events don’t have to run at the same time. They can run at various different times, and even for a different number of days. This particular type of event is called ‘hybrid sequential’. Where physical and virtual events are not necessarily running simultaneously.
The audience for your two events, again, can be different or the same. Your attendees who are present at the physical venue can be given access to the virtual event for additional information, features, virtual webinar sessions and engagement activities such as scavenger hunts etc. Hence, the audience is the same.
On the other hand, you can also have a completely different set of audiences for your two events. This would mean different content, activities and sessions for the two audiences based on their requirements.
An example of having two sets of audiences is at Apple launch events. They usually have a live audience and then their event is live-streamed to millions of viewers across the globe who are in different time zones themselves. The audience gets the same content, they see the entire event.
Just as with your attendees, you can also host a different set of exhibitors at your physical and virtual venues. Your exhibitors might want to have their booths in the physical location itself if they feel that is where their target audience lies. On the other hand, some might only want their booths in the virtual space.
However, some might want their booths in both venues. This will capture a wider set of audiences, and to extend their reach.
Almost all of the exhibitors at the BerniePortal Hybrid Conference were at both the virtual and hybrid events. It is completely up to the host and/or exhibitors whether they want to be present at both events, or just one.
Just as the other dimensions, hybrid events offer absolute flexibility when it comes to networking. When we say networking in a hybrid event, we’re referring to how the two different audiences will be interacting with one another — if at all. As the organizer, you might not want them to interact with each other depending on your goals. However, it is completely possible.
Interacting in real-time, your virtual audience could interact with the virtual audience only. The physical audience can engage with the physical audience. However, the two separate audiences can interact with one another. The physical audience with the virtual and vice versa.
This again is dependent on what the organizer wants to achieve with their hybrid event.
How the organizer and exhibitors play out the content can also be completely different across the medium. They can even be the same across the medium. The physical audience might have access to special webinar sessions. These could be VIP sessions.
Whereas the virtual audience might be able to participate in scavenger hunts, trivia or interactive Q&A sessions to interact with the speakers and fellow attendees. The virtual audience might have content available to them which is not easily available to the physical audience. They might even be able to download the content or email it to themselves via the swag bag, something which the onsite attendees cannot do unless they have access to the virtual event.
The hybrid event allows the organizer ultimate flexibility. This flexibility is varied across different dimensions. From time, audience and exhibitor sets, networking, and content the two audiences can interact with each other along these touchpoints. To sum up:
Play around with these dimensions, and see what works for your event. Understand the resources and capacity your organization has, consult with your hybrid event platform provider, about the possibilities and limitations before locking your hybrid event.
Here is a list of useful, must-have features in a hybrid event.