Why should I run a hybrid virtual event?
Hybrid events are said to be an ideal bridge between virtual and online. From improved ROI to better sponsorship packages, they are bound to get you tons of business. But despite being easier to host and the obvious benefits, many businesses shy away from them.
Contrary to popular belief, hybrid events don’t require many high-end tech tools like augmented reality and virtual reality do. If anything, you can host a hybrid event with simple and accessible technology. Even better, the tech tools don’t need a lot of experience to hack.
In this blog piece, we’ve taken time to explain what hybrid events are and why you should host them more often.
Let’s dive into it.
Hybrid Events – Definition
As we start this guide, we want to ensure we are on the same page. A hybrid event is a mix of virtual and live events. Think of your regular live event with pre-prepared content, a ready audience, and more but with a virtual aspect where your audience can engage and participate regardless of their location.
The key component of a hybrid event is engagement. This is what will set your event apart from an enviable TedX talk on YouTube. Though inspiring and educational, it’s not engaging.
Engagement is also what sets your hybrid event apart from live events. The audience you attract will not watch the event on TV, but they’ll participate through their PCs and mobile devices. Through these devices and social platforms, they can offer real-time feedback.
Simply put, a hybrid event isn’t:
- Streaming interview sessions from your smartphone
- Sharing a video after an event
- Prioritizing live audience over an online audience
On the contrary, it is:
- Using technology to facilitate audience participation between your virtual and live audience
- An experience that has the interest of all types of audiences
- Putting your live and virtual audience on the same level
Now, though hybrid events look different depending on your creative execution, one thing is true for all: the audience journey is prioritized (both live and virtual audiences).
Benefits of Hybrid Events
Now let’s get to the burning question – why should you host a hybrid event? Is it worth the additional hassle, resources, and setup required?
And before you think this is a new trend, hybrid events have been happening since 2012 when the CDC hosted a major virtual event but didn’t have the finances to gather attendees due to budget cuts. Rather than cancelling the event, they hosted a hybrid event and ensured attendees got value from it while they worked within their means.
Below are some benefits they reaped from the event, and that await you on the other side.
Increased Attendance and Reach
It’s a fallacy that target audiences can either be part of a live show or a virtual event – that middle ground doesn’t exist. You might think or feel that a hybrid event will split the attendance. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. A hybrid event will help increase your reach and help you get even more attendees, not lesser.
In most cases, you’ll find that a lot of people you are trying to target haven’t warmed up to you yet. As such, they are unsure of the value you will offer them and might be hesitant to dive in with both feet. Consequently, only a handful are willing to invest and travel for the in-person event.
A hybrid event meets such people halfway. They lower the barriers of attendance and offer the same value as a live or person-event would. This way, they get to experience you first hand.
All factors considered, hosting a hybrid event will see more people attend your event. The live attendance might not change, but in the end, your reach will have increased.
A Higher Audience Engagement
Including a virtual element in an event opens up a lot of engagement avenues that would otherwise have been limited during and post live events. This is because the virtual audience can now participate through their PCs and smartphones.
For instance, you can run polls during the sessions for both the online and live audience. Alternatively, you can throw in a Q&A session with the speaker during the live session and later invite them for the same with the online audience. This is relatively common at studios that broadcast their live events online.
To offer more value, you can go the extra mile and set up space where virtual attendees can network. You can have a space for in-person meetings and another for virtual meetings through matchmaking software.
From face value, hosting a hybrid event sounds complicated. However, it’s easier when you think about the audience journey both offline and online. Plan for the audience and then integrate different engagement opportunities that make the most sense to the audience.
Power-packed Sponsorship Opportunities
Many corporate sponsors wouldn’t mind being part of hybrid events, provided they can reach both audiences. Sponsors are all about the bottom line. So when they see an opportunity to increase their reach, they jump on it. After all, that’s their number one interest for sponsoring the event.
Sponsors will communicate one-on-one with any interested party as they interact with the online attendees. Specific demographics like millennials love virtual communication, so they’ll experience a spike in traffic in their virtual booths.
Another reason why hybrid events offer increased chances for getting sponsorships is that there are opportunities to sponsor event apps, live streams, and other happenings. This also means you can have virtual sponsors, live sponsors, or even both.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, sponsors are shifting their marketing budgets, not reducing them. This means that they are in search of new marketing opportunities. As they shift to digital, they need data to justify their moves. A hybrid event presents them with an increase in reportable metrics, which works great for them. This way, they can judge if their money was well-spent or not.
Reduced Travel Expenditure
Holding a hybrid event can significantly reduce the travel costs for everyone involved in the event. Attendees will save money, as will the sponsors for the event and the crew.
As we strive to stick the landing during the COVID pandemic, working from home is slowly becoming the new norm. For instance, Google and Facebook allowed workers to work from home while Twitter made work-from-home a permanent option they can explore.
As live events become normal, there is still a need for virtual management. For instance, many AV crews have virtual broadcasting skills. This means that the crew and the event planners save money. Also, sponsors save cash on travel because they’ll send fewer representatives to the event. And if you offer a hybrid event option, they can go all-in online while still deriving value from the event.
When different stakeholders are running on tight budgets, having a hybrid event can perfectly bridge the gap between results and costs.
Feeding the Marketing Pipeline for the Whole Year
Instead of having your event exclusive, you can repurpose and then re-share your digital content to always have a steady stream of the audience to your site.
For instance, you can share pieces or all of your livestreams to promote a later event. Sharing the livestream will ensure constant visibility for the sponsors who believed in you enough to be part of the event.
Streaming an event also ensures that you don’t forget to record. With a high focus on broadcasting (for the hybrid event), you can relax knowing that the event is recorded for later.
Moreover, you can pick out your future marketing campaigns from the previous content. If there is a session that caught many attendees’ attention, you can expound on it later. Also, if you used a networking tool for the event, you can look at the data after the event and find new content ideas based on your audience’s interest.
One big benefit that you can derive from virtual events is the data and the insights they deliver. At a live event, you can perform a headcount to know how many people attended each session. However, with hybrid events, you know how many people participated plus how engaged they were. You also get to know how many dropped out of a session.
As mentioned earlier, if you used matchmaking tools, you get to know what interests the audience and then improve on your content later. For event sponsors, they get to gain essential information on audience engagement and traffic. This helps them make good returns on investment.
Since you hold the events online and use multiple tools, you get a myriad of metrics that you can track. This way, you amass a lot of data to see how well the event went and what should be improved.
If you have never hosted a hybrid event before, don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you on your tracks. NOW is the perfect time. Technology is more accessible than ever, and more and more people are going online for information. We encourage you to read and watch hybrid success stories online to see the potential in this space.
With the above information, do you see yourself hosting a hybrid event? Does it all make sense now?