The COVID-19 pandemic saw a major shift in work practices. More than 100 million employees started working from home, with up to 45 million doing so for the first time. Many found it much more convenient and more suited to the way they wanted to live their lives. Others were desperate to return to the office. As the future of work looks to accommodate both preferences and embrace flexible hybrid work, hybrid event planning is essential.
Additionally, the European Union gives parents of children up to at least eight years old the right to request flexible working. This means that, whether you arrange events for internal or external communication, you have to consider this when planning. And this is where hybrid events provide the best possible solution.
What exactly is a hybrid event?
A hybrid event is one that takes place in a physical environment, with some people attending in person and others joining remotely. Successful hybrid events ensure that both physical and virtual attendees receive the same experience, as well as enjoying the same capabilities to vote and interact with the event.
Merely streaming the proceedings of a physical event, where the presentation is directed towards the physical guests, and online attendees can only observe without being able to engage, does not constitute a true hybrid event.
There must be a level playing field for all attendees, no matter how they join the event.
Why organise hybrid events?
There are many benefits of running a hybrid event. They include:
Hybrid events allow those who cannot or do not wish to attend the physical location to still take part, meaning that you make it possible for more people to attend. There are many reasons why someone might prefer to attend online, including:
● Not having the time to travel to in-person events
● Travel restrictions
● Not wanting to pay for travel and/or accommodation
● Having COVID-19 or another illness
● Concerns over catching an illness such as COVID-19
● Living in a different country
● Working from home as a matter of course.
You can upload the video to your company website and allow those who missed the live event the chance to watch on demand. You can share the link and repurpose some of the content for social media, mailing lists and other marketing uses. This ensures a greater number of people witness your event and its themes.
Fewer people travelling to an event to attend physically means a reduced carbon footprint. There is also less food waste from refreshments with fewer attendees. In addition, you need to print fewer documents to give to physical attendees.
You can hire a smaller venue if you develop a hybrid event. You also spend less on refreshments, printing and travel and accommodation when some of your presentation team and guests attend remotely.
The ease of use of engagement tools means that you can better encourage attendees to interact with the event. From asking questions to answering polls, all engagement helps with the discussion of the themes of the event.
How to plan a hybrid event
It is important to remember that you are planning an event for two different audiences and that both should enjoy the same experience. This provides challenges, but it is worthwhile making sure that you deliver a coherent and clear message relating to the reason behind the event to everyone who takes part.
These steps to planning a hybrid event will help you create something that speaks to both audiences.
Ensure you have a clear vision
Whether you are running an internal or external event, you should be clear on what you want to achieve and make sure that both sets of attendees understand your key themes by the time it finishes.
Make sure you take all factors into account to tailor your event accordingly. Think about:
- Who will attend the event?
- When should it take place?
- Where will you hold the physical event?
- Which webinar platform or virtual event platform will you use for the virtual element?
- What do you want your audience to learn from the event?
- How will you deliver this in an engaging manner?
- Who will present the event and who will the guests be?
This provides your starting point for creating the perfect hybrid event. Everything you do has to keep these elements in mind.
When choosing a webinar solution, consider one that will provide the best experience for your online viewers so that they don’t miss out by not being in the room.
Set event goals
Once you have your vision in place for the event, you can set SMART goals to help you deliver what you want to achieve.
For an event, this could be something like having 40% of your target audience signed up to attend at least a month before. This is a specific number and date, and you can certainly measure your progress towards that goal. It could well be achievable, depending on your industry and the nature of your event. The goal is relevant because these are people who will benefit from attending, whilst the time-bound element of one month before the event gives you additional urgent motivation to work on hitting the target rather than leaving it as a low priority.
Prepare a detailed event plan
This is the point where you need to dig deeply into the event and decide how it will run in order to meet your goals.
Contact your guests and keynote speakers, and find out whether they want to be there in person or remotely. Work out the timings, running order and where you will leave time for questions. Think about guest logistics, maybe alternating between those that are there in person and those that are remote to keep things more varied and interesting.
Consider whether you will hand out physical documents to in-person audiences and think about how you will relay the same information to remote viewers. It might be that you choose to take everything online and put up posters with QR codes in the physical space to send people to the correct place.
Plan your marketing, think about the technical aspects and consider the logistics to create a unique and engaging event.
Set roles and responsibilities
There are many roles involved in a major event, and you should allocate them all so that everyone understands their responsibilities and can play to their strengths. From choosing a presenter to creating the presentation and directing the events on stage, a lot of work goes into making things run smoothly and creating an effective event.
With hybrid events, you also have to consider the technical aspects. Work out how you will film the event to make it easy to follow for remote viewers. Someone else should work on the sound so that it is clear for virtual audience members. There is also a need for someone to direct the camera shots and transitions.
When you use Company Webcast’s onsite webinar solution, we provide professional lighting, sound and crew, HD cameras and a large screen for your background. This means you can ensure your remote attendees receive a high-quality experience from the event.
You need to create content for your presentation that will work for both in-person and online audiences. Whereas physical audiences are likely to be comfortable sitting through longer sessions with fewer breaks, this might not be true of an online audience in front of a screen. Keep things brief, engaging and to the point so that both audiences are most open to receiving your message.
While some may think that webinar fatigue is the reason for low engagement, this is largely a myth. The problem usually lies with presentations that do not take into account online viewing habits.
Create a story to keep both of your audiences involved with the event and use simple slides that illustrate the point. Still, be careful not to include too many distracting details. The presenter can give the main information, and the slides should back them up.
Humour is another engaging feature of the best presentations, and interactivity maintains involvement with the hybrid conferences and other events.
The challenges of hybrid events
Putting on a hybrid event does come with some challenges. However, they are easy to overcome with the right plan. Here is what to consider:
When trying to engage stakeholders in multiple locations, you need to consider what the time of the event will be in both your physical location and your key international regions.
For example, it is not good holding the event in Amsterdam at 20:00 if you also want to target a Japanese audience, for whom the start time will be 03:00.
You have to weigh up the online audience you most want to engage and work out a time that suits both them and the physical attendees as well. It is a fine balancing act, but it is possible with thorough planning.
When you want to invite people to join your event online, you might be concerned about connectivity. This is where a professional webinar solution can be of great help.
Company Webcast creates reliable, stable and secure streams that allow you to engage large numbers of online attendees with high-quality video and audio.
If it’s an internal communications event, for example, too many employees watching the broadcast on your internal server could lead to a traffic surge that affects the quality of the stream. Company Webcast has launched peer-to-peer streaming to counter this. It reduces your required bandwidth by up to 95%, meaning everyone should receive perfect sound and vision from the event.
Virtual attendee interaction
With some hybrid event providers, it is not possible for online attendees to interact with the proceedings. A true hybrid event should ensure both online and in-person attendees gain the same experience and have the same opportunities to get involved.
Company Webcast provides a range of interactive features, including chat functions, the ability to ask questions and answer polls, and more. This keeps the online audience engaged and retains the equality between the audiences.
What are some examples of hybrid events?
Hybrid event examples include construction firm Royal BAM Group produces hybrid AGMs to allow greater opportunities for attendance. In addition, a CSR association used Company Webcast’s platform to create hybrid events for stakeholders and engage a wider audience.
What technology is needed for hybrid events?
To make truly engaging and professional hybrid events, you need professional video and audio equipment as well as lighting. This comes as standard when you partner with Company Webcast’s hybrid event platform.
What is the difference between hybrid and virtual?
A hybrid event combines physical and virtual elements, with both audiences receiving the same experience. A fully virtual event happens only online.
Hybrid event planning is challenging because there are so many considerations to make. You have two different audiences consuming your message in two different ways, but you should provide them with the same opportunities. This is important for the hybrid event experience. Then you have to consider the technical aspects and other logistical issues. Thankfully, Company Webcast takes care of the technical aspects and allows you to concentrate on creating the most engaging event content you can with your hybrid experiences. Request a free demo today to find out how Company Webcast can revolutionise your hybrid events.