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As event organizers, naturally, we’re all thirsty to get back to planning live, in-person events. But with the continued threat of COVID-19 and proposals against large, face-to-face meetings, going back to live still presents a challenge. 

Enter the instant future of the event industry: the hybrid event. 

A hybrid event strategy will enable organizers to build up their audience with online participants while hosting smaller live audiences.

But because they include face-to-face and virtual participants, hybrid events come with their own unique set of planning challenges. 

As a planner, we know the decision to host face-to-face guests might be one of the most important choices you’ll ever make. 

To help you choose if a hybrid event is right for you, we’ve composed some of the top questions you’ll want to consider before you start planning.

16 Top Questions to Ask Before Planning a Hybrid Event

1. What is a hybrid event?

A hybrid event is a conference, meeting, event, or trade show that merges an in-person factor with an online or digital experience. With a hybrid event, the capacity of the digital component can vary widely and encompass everything from Twitter chats or flipped classrooms to live stream sessions and virtual networking experiences. There’s not a set rule for what a hybrid event would be in 2021, so you can get creative with what makes the most sense for your event, audience and goals.

2. What’s the difference between a hybrid event and a virtual event?

Unlike a virtual event, which takes place particularly online with a virtual audience, a hybrid event also has in-person attendees.

3. What are some advantages of hybrid events? 

Benefits of Hybrid Events

A hybrid event is a natural phase for event organizers who want to take a first step toward going back to live events but may face government limits or participants who are hesitant to travel and meet in groups. But that’s not the only benefit. Hybrid events come with some extra different advantages, including unlimited scalability, cost-effectiveness, expanded reach and ROI, valuable data collection and audience insights, and a powerful united message that can reach people anywhere. 

4. What are some threats to hybrid events management?

Virtual and live audiences have different needs. To create a united event experience, you’ll need to account for the needs of both audiences. Some things to consider: How do you adjust content and create a digital experience that keeps your virtual audience as engaged as your in-person participants? Do you need extra moderators to facilitate discussions with the online audience? Are you ready to invest in additional health and safety resources to enable your live public to meet face-to-face? With social distancing still in effect, how do you build an in-person experience that makes your live participants feel special?

5. Is there a strong reason to meet face-to-face?

This is a question that only you and your organization can have the answer to. While COVID-19 remains a threat, you’ll need to measure carefully the pros and cons of meeting in person and decide if the rewards of a face-to-face event outweigh the risks. While virtual will never fully replace in-person, virtual event platforms have come a long way. You may decide it makes more sense to go all virtual until it’s safer to hold large meetings. If you choose that you want to move forward with a hybrid event, here’s a helpful tip on event safety

6. How many guests do I want to have at my event?

This is an important question. As you search for places, be sure to plan for fewer participants in a live event space to account for social distancing and health regulations. If your event takes place in the near future, plan for fewer in-person guests and more online participants. If you want to bring the largest audience possible, you’ll need to add a virtual component as well.

7. Who is my audience?

You never want to make suppositions; however, the age of your audience or their profession may affect your in-person turn-out. If most of your guests are over 50, they may be less willing to risk meeting face-to-face where a younger audience may be more open to it. An audience made up of healthcare professionals may also tend to be more traditional about meeting face-to-face than an audience of software developers.

8. Will a hybrid event demand more internal planning resources?

Making your event available in person and virtually may demand additional planning resources. Our advice is to be critical about your partners and select one who will not only listen to your goals but understands all aspects of planning live and virtual events to help you make the right choices for your event.

9. What room set-up do I require to account for social distancing?

Copy of Benefits of Hybrid Events

Work closely with your place to create room set-ups that account for social distancing. For example, if your room set-up for an event is normally theatre style or round-tables, you may require to space your theatre seating further apart or have fewer attendees at round tables.

10. Do I require different marketing strategies for a hybrid event than I would for a face-to-face event?

To market a hybrid event, apply the same channels you use to market live events such as social media, content marketing, email marketing, paid to advertise, etc. Check out some incoming marketing strategies for event professionals. 

What you require to plan differently is the timing of your marketing efforts. At Future’s Past Events, as we’ve helped our clients switch to virtual events, they’ve seen registration numbers boost dramatically the week before their event and even past their event’s start date. This is a different trend than what planners usually see with in-person events. To maximize your online audience, you’ll want to boost marketing efforts the week before your event takes place. 

11. Do a hybrid event’s in-person and digital sessions have to take place at the same time?

When people imagine a hybrid event scheme, many predictions live in-person sessions being synchronously live-streamed to a virtual audience. This is a common misconception. Live streams may make sense for some events but they’re not the only choice. More and more event organizers are taking advantage of the pre-recorded subject and semi-live sessions. The advantage of the pre-recorded subjects is that presenters can be recorded and their sessions are made available to online audiences at any time. An example of a semi-live session is when a virtual guest watches a pre-recorded session and then the presenter “goes live” to answer questions via audio or video. With a hybrid event using semi-live sessions for the virtual content, the timing and possibilities with online sessions and escapes are much more flexible.

12. How can I adapt my content for online participation?

Remember, live online guests simply do not have the same attention span. We encourage you to provide more breaks for your virtual participants and in-general, provide them with shorter content. If you plan to stream your live in-person sessions, you’ll have to shorten your sessions to adapt to both audiences.

13. How can I bring networking for my hybrid event audience?

If networking is an important reason people attend your event, you’ll need to create strong networking experiences for both your live and online audiences. For example, you may decide to host a networking lunch or reception for your face-to-face audience. Or, with your mobile event app, you can make networking easy and match attendees with other like-minded guests who they want to meet. You can provide similar networking opportunities with your virtual audience through BOF networking rooms and an AI-driven attendee matching algorithm that makes online networking recommendations. Applying the same event app and virtual platform provider will help you create a more cohesive experience for all of your event attendees.

14. How do I keep my virtual audience as engaged as my face-to-face guests?

Here’s the deal. An obligation is more than just answering an audience response poll or participating in Q&A. Those are valuable but they are just part of the picture. To feel included, online attendees, want to interact with each other, the presenters, network, participate in Virtual Attendee Engagement Games, post on a social wall, etc. They need to do the same things they would do if they travelled to your onsite event. As we mentioned above, virtual event software has come a long way in helping you achieve amazing experiences virtually. With a hybrid event, the secret to keeping your entire audience engaged is to make sure that your onsite audience and online attendees have the same engagement features available to them, whether they are face-to-face or virtual. You’ll also want to host shorter sessions and bring even more networking opportunities for your virtual audience.

15. Will my exhibitors need additional delegates for the online experience?

Remember, your virtual participants are just as important to your sponsors and exhibitors as your in-person audience. Encourage your exhibitors to have delegates available to speak with attendees in your live exhibit hall and host live office hours in your virtual exhibit hall. You never know when or where an important connection will be made! 

16. What are some hybrid event ideas?

Here are a few ideas for building a hybrid event that excites both your in-person and virtual audiences:

Virtual tickets – boost event registrations by selling a virtual ticket at a reduced price. 

Hold simultaneous networking receptions on-site and virtually. Live stream a camera feed of the live networking reception to virtual guests. In the live session, have screens that show BOF networking sessions online.

Planning entertainment at your on-site event? Live stream the entertainment to your virtual participants. 

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