While the past year and a half has been extremely difficult for event organizers, the pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards digital transformation. That being said, it is not all about using digital tech to keep business-critical events going in some form. As the pandemic wanes, organizers are shifting their focus from short-term survival to long-term success. Hybrid events play a central role in that long-term strategy, and here’s why:
What are Hybrid Events?
Hybrid events are a convergence of virtual and in-person events that allow audiences to tune in and participate no matter where they are. In other words, those who want to attend in person can do so, while remote attendees can participate digitally through channels like virtual event booths and video conferencing. This degree of flexibility is perhaps the single most important advantage of adopting a hybrid approach.
What makes hybrid events unique is the fact that they are built around engagement powered by the innovative use of technology and delivering a consistent experience to all attendees. This is not the same thing as sharing videos on demand after the event or prioritizing your live audience over your remote audience. Granted, virtual events might not be the same thing, but there are many benefits of incorporating them with otherwise traditional in-person events.
How do Hybrid Events Work?
The primary goal of a hybrid conference or any other event is to provide a consistent attendee experience no matter how people choose to participate. By streaming live in-person events to remote attendees, they can have the opportunity to participate as well. A good hybrid event example is when these attendees can engage presenters and other attendees directly. They might not be in the same venue as the in-person attendees, but with the right technology on your side, it shouldn’t matter.
Hybrid events work because all attendees have access to the same event content and similar opportunities to engage with presenters and each other. For example, in-person and remote attendees can grow their networks by connecting via instant message or live video. The opportunities are practically limitless. Other hybrid event types include those with in-person activity hubs around the world, which are also capable of hosting virtual attendees. In other words, hybrid events work at practically any scale and in any situation. Statistical data collected by Event Manager Blog on the future of events reveals that more than 70% of event organizers will incorporate some form of hybrid events when they resume business in 2021 and beyond.
Image Source: Event Manager Blog
What are the Benefits of Hybrid Events?
Both virtual and in-person events have their fair shares of inherent benefits and drawbacks. Many people are looking forward to the return of in-person events and spending less time in front of the screen. On the other hand, there are plenty of others who, for various reasons, are more disposed to join remotely. By accommodating both parties, hybrid events present the future of event marketing.
1. Increased Reach and Attendance
Perhaps the most common misconception around hybrid events is that audiences must either take part virtually or in person, but not both. In reality, the hybrid approach lets your events reach more attendees. For example, even if an attendee would rather join in-person, they might not be able to due to travel constraints. But if they can instead join remotely, then that’s the next best thing.
Furthermore, there’s practically no upper limit to the number of virtual attendees you can have, whereas in-person venues can only accommodate a set number.
2. Greater Audience Engagement
Thanks to hybrid event technology, virtual attendees can engage with presenters and other attendees in much the same way as they would in person. Virtual attendees can engage over the internet by sharing and commenting on content, submitting live questions to presenters, and participating in video conferences.
There are also opportunities to get in-person and virtual attendees to engage with one another. For example, intelligent event matchmaking features can connect all attendees, regardless of whether they’re there in person or not.
3. Better Sponsorship Opportunities
More and more event sponsors are starting to recognize the benefits of hybrid events, which is why they’re also more likely to sponsor them. For example, a trade fair is only likely to attract sponsors if it’s expected to reach a large audience.
Hybrid events are enormously valuable for sponsors because of their increased reach. Also, sponsors may themselves have the opportunity to participate remotely by setting up virtual event booths and giving presentations via video conference. This is especially important for events wanting to accommodate sponsors and speakers abroad during a period of widespread travel restrictions.
4. Improved Return on Investment
The greater reach and scalability of hybrid events attract more attendees and sponsors to the point they can greatly boost turnover. The increased flexibility also reduces financial risk, since it’s easier to scale down in-person activities and scaling up your digital presence to reach a higher number of remote attendees.
5. Easier Access to Data and Insights
With hybrid event technology, you can collect valuable data and insights from in-person and remote attendees. For example, both remote and in-person attendees can leave feedback via polls and surveys integrated with a mobile event app.
Event goals and analytics solutions can supply event organizers with a steady stream of data-driven insights that they can use to garner a better understanding of their attendees. Armed with this information, they can improve their events every time.
6. Enhanced Event Flexibility
Owing to the unprecedented disruption of recent times, many organizers are still on the fence about making the return to in-person events. If they have to be canceled due to an unforeseen problem, be it another wave of the pandemic, a volcanic eruption, or anything else, then the costs are enormous.
Having a hybrid event platform to fall back on helps ensure you’re ready for such uncertainties, should they arise. By contrast, relying entirely on traditional live events is a perfect example of putting all your eggs in one basket.
6. Supercharge Your Marketing Pipeline
If you’re in the business of event marketing, then it makes sense on all levels to adopt a hybrid approach. Even if most people attend in-person, streaming your events ensures all content is recorded for later use. That means in-person attendees can rewatch presentations and view other content long after the event is over.
The impact of a successful hybrid event can be felt for months or even years afterward. With a complete record of all attendee interactions, you will also have the data you need to improve your overall marketing strategy and boost the effectiveness of future events.
8. Reduce Your Environmental Impact
If there is one good thing to come out of the pandemic, it’s the greatly reduced impact of travel on the environment. This, in turn, has made clear another benefit of things like remote work, virtual events, and teleconferencing.
Face-to-face meetings are still important, and they will always have a place. However, taking your events to the virtual space as well is a great way to accommodate environmentally aware attendees and reduce your impact on the environment. Furthermore, by reducing your in-person headcount, you can reduce the need for things like catering and other disposables.
9. Provide Safety and Peace of Mind
With the pandemic still far from over in many parts of the world, many event organizers must still pay close attention to social distancing rules and other biosecurity measures. Even though this situation is not going to last forever, some attendees may be hesitant to join large-scale in-person events for years to come, especially if they are medically vulnerable.
Providing a virtual alternative lets organizers accommodate those more concerned about their safety and wellbeing. Indeed, there’s nothing stopping participants who are feeling unwell from joining your events remotely either, and they can do so without putting themselves or others at risk.
10. Gain Greater Control Over Costs
The flexibility of hybrid events gives you much greater control over costs. For example, if you can offer a virtual attendee experience that’s comparable to an in-person one, then more will join remotely, which means reduced costs on everything from venue rental to catering to travel.
If you find yourself needing to scale back on the high costs of delivering in-person experiences, hybrid events give you the opportunity to minimize the impact on your target audience. For example, you might decide to take certain presentations and other activities online, while still making it possible for in-person attendees to view them in the main venue.
11. Build Stronger Attendee Communities
True events are, ultimately, social occasions. People don’t join them just to listen to someone giving a presentation or a keynote speech, but also to meet others who share their interests. A great presentation by an informed and entertaining speaker gives attendees plenty to talk about, but you’ll need to provide them with the right channels to engage with one another.
Hybrid events can foster professional matchmaking and networking across both virtual and in-person attendee groups. Regardless of how people choose to attend your event, choosing the right technology solutions encourages long-term community building. And, best of all, these communities can persist and add value to your business long after the event itself is over.
Aventri is an events management platform that helps organizers deliver great events through both digital and traditional channels. Request your live demonstration today to learn how.