What does a hybrid conference actually look like?
We all know that conferences are a great way to network, learn and share knowledge. Conferences are also expensive and time-consuming. This is where hybrid conferences come in useful.
Hybrid conferences combine the traditional conference experience with the convenience of an online event allowing you to save money and time on travel by attending from anywhere in the world! In this post, we will explore what a hybrid conference looks like, how they work, as well as some of their benefits!
I want to at this point make the clear distinction between a hybrid conference and a virtual conference though, as I believe they are very different things and if I’m being totally honest with you, I believe that the virtual event really has not long for this earth or it’s going to fade away to be just very small events that, won’t have a massive long term effect on the event industry.
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What's the difference between a hybrid event and a virtual event?
A hybrid event, as the name suggests is an event that uses a combination of online and in-person activities. It can also be called a blended or flipped conference. In this type of event, participants are able to attend sessions both onsite and remotely; they will typically have more time at the events themselves than other types of conferences because they can attend at their pleasure but also if they attend a session in person they can catch other sessions online.
Also, this type of event will typically have employed an audiovisual team, or solo producer and they will be bringing some equipment and cameras to the event. This may be replicated across a few rooms so the event will have a slightly better quality production.
Whereas a virtual event is just a series of online presentations usually produced from a desktop environment. Now during the peak of lockdown and covid, this made total sense, as there were no other ways that an event could actually be produced, but now, with vaccines rolling out and times changing a little to allow more in-person gatherings the fully virtual event I believe will be on its way out.
What are the machinations of a hybrid event?
As I stated in the last section one of the defining features of a hybrid event is that its produced in addition to the traditional offline event, rather than just replacing it.
Most of the time, this means that a hybrid event is just an extension to the offline conference. Sometimes there are extra presentations or opportunities for breakout discussion sessions.
I think it’s important to remember though, that just because something has some elements in common with another type of gathering doesn’t mean they’re exactly the same thing either.
There are a number of elements that just can’t be replicated offline, that you can online, and that is usually down to analytics and user tracking.
Sure you can employ a massive technology array to track where all the guests are moving around an event and you have some face tracking or fancy targeted RFID chip and then collate that information into a report to give to your exhibitors on who visited their stall, so they can follow up.. or if you have a hybrid event you can just use a single cookie that will do all of that for you.
And at the end of the day, isn’t the happiness of your sponsors and exhibitors the most important thing for you to be thinking about?
The second element to consider is the production of the event. Zoom fatigue is real and the last 12 months have really made people hyper-aware of how dull some productions can be.
A single shot of a person talking to screen for an hour is possibly one of the dullest videos you could ever watch. Even if you have a split-screen and two people are talking or you’re talking over a sideshow. there is no production value to that.
If kids on youtube can understand the basics of what makes an interesting video then you can too.
What are the benefits of a hybrid event?
1. Hybrid events are a great way to get the best of both worlds
Put simply, providing a hybrid experience is better for your guests, it’s a way they can still consume your content, network with other guests and also engage with your exhibitors and sponsors.
But they don’t have to travel long distances, they can still conduct their daily work and they don’t have to pay for all the ancillary costs associated with travel.
Also, if you chose a low-cost platform like Bettercast, you can include the cost for the platform in your marketing budget, and still sell access to the content at a lower cost than in person.
Thus generating some return on your investment, providing a second revenue stream and if you store the content on the portal then you can sell access to the event for as long as you want.
2. They’re less expensive than traditional conferences or seminars
If you have a focus on hybrid then you can reduce the costs that an in-person event would incur. Reduced numbers mean smaller space, less catering and less overall expenses however as your event is globally accessible, you can generate ticket revenue to an infinite level.
However, there are still costs and you should consider these before deciding on a hybrid event. The cost for the platform is one of them, as well as your time to plan everything out. Additionally, if you want to be profitable then you’ll need to invest in marketing which will also require more time and money investment from your end.
4. The networking opportunities are endless
Networking at a hybrid event is far easier on all involved than in person. Guests can review information, connect with a message and if they have the functions, just jump into a video networking room as easy as joining a zoom call.
If the platform provides, then you can also cross language barriers, time barriers, and cost barriers that would usually stop people from being able to come together.
Additionally, you’re not going to have the common experience of trying to network and that is fear. You can reach out to someone and they can just respond with a message, it’s far less confronting than in person.
What you should consider if going hybrid.
Some events are just not suited to hybrid events, and that is fine, not everything is going to work, however, in most cases, you can make a fine case to have some sort of digital delivery of your event.
1. What are the goals of your event?
If you’re trying to educate people with your content or you want to show new products then hybrid is 100% going to work for you and your exhibitors however if you require lots of very small groups of people who need to physically share items to engage with each other, then it’s not really going to work.
In most cases, if your goal is to educate, inform and connect people in an environment you control then yes, hybrid is for you.
2. Who is your target audience?
It’s safe to assume that most people are technically savvy these days, which makes a traditional ticketed event seem dated.
So if you’re targeting the tech-savvy and they, in turn, are already on your email list or follow you on social media then it’s safe to assume that most of them will be willing to go with digital tickets instead.
However, if you are holding a conference for the elderly then you’re more likely to have issues with them using a platform or even having access to technology that will enable them to participate.
3. Where will you hold it?
If you’re planning on holding your conference in a field, in the middle of rural Australia then it’s likely that delivering the technology required to support a hybrid event is going to stop you from broadcasting.
You would need to consider power, hardware, sound, cameras and of course high-speed internet.
4. When should it take place and for how long?
While the date and time aren’t going to be a major factor to your event, unless you are targeting Americans for the only access to live stream, and your hosting in Australia where there is a 12-hour difference, then timing isn’t an issue.
Hybrid will however give you a chance to provide video catchup for the audience that can’t make the event, so it’s actually going to be rather beneficial for you.
But the length of your event will be a factor as you have now go to consider costs associated with the delivery of the content. Livestreaming teams can be expensive if you need them 8 hours a day for 7 straight days!
Hybrid events are a great way to extend the reach of your event, no matter what size or type it is. It doesn’t make sense for you (and most people) not to take advantage of this fantastic opportunity!
There are of course some pro and cons to moving your event hybrid but the pros outweigh the cons by a long shot.
Some people are still resistant to this type of event because they’re not really sure what it means for them and their team but that’s ok!
In the long run, you’re going to generate more revenue, give your event some far wider reach and you can also use the content created to market your business and event far better than ever before.