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10 Incredible Benefits of Hybrid Events

10 Incredible Benefits of Hybrid Events

The global pandemic situation throughout 2020 and 2021 has made it extremely difficult for event organizers, forcing them to be adaptive and creative.

Social distancing and quarantine policies have forced the majority of traditional (in-person) events to be postponed and canceled, forcing organizers to pivot to virtual events. 

While virtual events were originally hosted just as substitutes for in-person events, soon enough, both organizers and event attendees understood the benefits of these online/virtual events.

The ability to transcend geographical limitations without having to worry about travel and accommodation costs, the versatility to attend the event from anywhere, affordability both in terms of hosting the event and ticket prices and so on.

Yet, it’s also no secret that, at the moment, virtual events can’t yet replicate the face-to-face interactions and networking opportunities offered by traditional in-person events.

This is where the hybrid events come in.

What is a Hybrid Event?

The term ‘hybrid’ essentially means one thing that is made by combining two different elements or things, and in the case of a hybrid event, it’s the mixture of an in-person (offline) event and a hybrid (online) event.

Meaning, a hybrid event is hosted for both online and offline attendees simultaneously with the help of technology.

The basic example of a hybrid event is a traditional conference hosted in a traditional conference hall that is also broadcasted live via live streaming technology to online attendees.

However, a true hybrid event must go beyond simply broadcasting an in-person event to an online audience but should aim to deliver the same (at least similar) level of experience to both the online and offline attendees.

Virtual events vs. In-person events: Pros and Cons

A hybrid event is, as discussed, a mixture of in-person and virtual events and is designed to be the best of both worlds: having all the advantages of both event formats while avoiding the drawbacks.

So, to really understand the benefits of a hybrid event, we have to first understand the pros and cons of the two traditional formats: virtual and in-person events. 

Virtual events

A virtual event, or an online event, is an event that is held completely online for 100% online attendees. In some cases, the online event might have a small number of in-person attendees (i.e., sponsors observing the event in person), but it is advertised for only virtual attendees. 

A virtual event relies on a virtual event platform to deliver the online event’s content in various forms, including:

  • Keynote, presentation, webinars, music concert
  • Breakout sessions
  • Virtual networking activities
  • Interactions between attendees and speakers, or attendees and exhibitors
  • Product displays (i.e., virtual exhibitions/trade shows)

Since the online event’s content is delivered digitally, a common practice is to record the event on top of the live broadcast. This allows the event’s content to be available on-demand after the event has finished. This can further improve the virtual event’s value over a traditional in-person event.

Pros of virtual events:

  • Not limited by geographical location: you can invite online attendees and speakers/exhibitors without having to take travel and accommodation costs into account.
  • Lower cost: when hosting an in-person event, we don’t have to worry about venue rental and related costs like catering, decoration, and insurance, among others. This alone makes hosting a virtual event more affordable.
  • Easier to run and manage: there are fewer variables we’ll need to take into account when planning a virtual event, so typically it’s easier to plan, run, and manage a virtual event than a comparable in-person event.
  • Environmentally friendly: since a virtual event uses fewer physical resources and produces fewer carbon emissions, obviously, it’s more sustainable than an in-person event.
  • Analytics and insights: it’s easier to monitor the performance of a virtual event due to the existence of digital analytics tools and solutions.

Cons of virtual events:

  • Lack of in-person interactions: even with all the technologies we have today, we still can’t replicate the face-to-face interaction and networking experience we’ll get in an in-person event.
  • Reliance on technology: what if there’s a sudden power outage during the online event? Or a slowdown in internet speed? An online event is highly reliant on technology, and so at the same time, it’s prone to technological hiccups.
  • Managing distractions and engagement: since virtual attendees tend to ‘attend’ the event from the confines of their homes so naturally, they’ll face more distractions. It’s more difficult to keep your attendees engaged, and abandonment is more common.

In-person events

An in-person event, as we know, is hosted on a physical a

venue for in-person attendees. 

This traditional event format we’re all familiar with allows face-to-face interactions between attendees, as well as more dynamic conversations between speakers/exhibitors and attendees. 

Also, many people attend in-person events not solely for the event’s content but also for good food, as well as the opportunity to interact with other attendees (networking).

Below we will discuss the pros and cons of an in-person event.

Pros of in-person events:

  • Personal connection: face-to-face interactions in an in-person event allow more dynamic conversations, and attendees can have a richer experience in many ways: enjoying food and drink together, warm hugs from old friends attending the event, great music echoing on the venue, and so on.
  • Easier management of attendee engagement: when people attend in-person events, typically, they are already committed to attending the event, so they are less likely to be distracted. It’s typically easier to keep attendees engaged in an in-person event.
  • More ideal for longer events: again, it’s relatively easier to keep people’s attention in a physical setting than in an online setting, so an in-person event is more ideal if your agenda is more than an hour in duration. This also holds true if you are planning to host multi-day events.

Cons of in-person events: 

  • Cost: pretty self-explanatory, hosting an in-person event is typically more expensive than a comparable virtual event due to expenses like venue rental, decoration, and catering costs, among others.
  • Geographical limitations: hosting an in-person event means you’ll need to consider travel and accommodation expenses when inviting talents/speakers located far away from the venue, and attracting attendees from different cities and countries will be much more challenging.
  • More challenging to plan: an in-person event is, in general, more challenging to plan and run due to more variables involved, not only elements directly related to the event but also things like bad weather, protesters and rioters showing up at your event, and so on.

10 Incredible Benefits of Hybrid Events

A hybrid event is delivered simultaneously to both in-person and virtual attendees. The event is hosted in a physical venue with a substantial number of in-person attendees before being broadcast to a virtual audience.

A hybrid event provides the best of both worlds between an in-person event and a virtual event: all the benefits of both formats while also eliminating the cons of each. However, hybrid events also offer unique benefits not available in other formats, as we will learn below:

1. Amplified reach: attracting both types of audience

Hosting a hybrid event is ultimately about giving options to prospective attendees. Those who prefer attending your event in person have the option to, but there may also be prospective attendees who are not yet comfortable attending packed events in an enclosed venue, so you provide the option for them to attend virtually.

Again, hosting a hybrid event also means you can attract attendees from other cities and even countries so they can attend online.

Of course, you can offer the virtual ticket at a discount (up to 50% to 75% cheaper than the in-person tickets), so you can accommodate prospective attendees with budget restrictions.

By hosting a hybrid event instead of an exclusively in-person or virtual event, you can amplify the event’s reach, attract more attendees, and ultimately generate more revenue and profits.

2. Enhancing engagement on both fronts

The hybrid format benefits both in-person and virtual attendees when it comes to engagement.

As mentioned above, one of the key challenges of hosting a virtual event is facilitating networking opportunities due to the lack of face-to-face interaction, which will affect engagement. Making it into a hybrid event can help tackle this issue, for example, by enabling interactions between the in-person and virtual attendees.

Converting the event into a hybrid event can enhance engagement for both types of attendees since you are providing more versatility in networking. For example, you can allow online attendees to join the breakout sessions, allowing live conversations between in-person attendees and virtual attendees. 

You can also run live pools and Q&A sessions that involve both types of attendees, engaging your in-person and online audiences simultaneously.

In a hybrid event, there are many more opportunities you can leverage to improve engagements and attendee experience, only limited by your creativity as an event planner. 

3. Versatility in cost

We’ve mentioned how a virtual event is generally more cost-effective to host than a comparable in-person event. 

So, what about a hybrid event?

In a hybrid event, you can fine-tune your expenses and costs as you see fit, depending on your budget, target audience’s preferences, and other factors. 

For instance, in case you, as the event organizer, or your exhibitors are bearing the cost of audience traveling, you can convert some of the attendees into online attendees so you can effectively reduce travel costs. 

Also, if you have a limited budget for venue rental, you can opt to rent a smaller venue instead while inviting the same number of target attendees, again by converting them into online attendees. 

On the other hand, if you suddenly secured a high-profile sponsor and have more budget, you can easily invest more in the in-person aspect of the event to enhance the overall experience.

In short, in a hybrid event, you gain greater control over expenses in order to maximize your ROI.

4. More exposure and value for sponsors

Every sponsor will love the amplified reach of a hybrid event, which will translate into an improved exposure for their brand on both platforms and both types of audiences.

Not to mention, by converting the in-person event into a hybrid event, the extra exposure is also potentially more long-lasting. You can, for example, record the virtual aspect of the event and make it available as on-demand content, and after some time, you can even publish it on YouTube or other social platforms.

You can also offer cross-media exposure, allowing sponsors to engage both types of attendees to increase the potential value of sponsorships. 

Here are some options unique to hybrid events that you can potentially offer your sponsors:

  • The ability to showcase their brand on both physical and digital signages
  • Exhibiting their products at both the in-person and virtual trade shows
  • Including the sponsor’s branding in virtual swag bags while including the branded item in the in-person event gift bags

Also, remember that it’s easier to collect data from the virtual aspect of a hybrid event and monitor its performance. This means it’s easier to prove a hybrid event’s value to prospective sponsors, which can help in securing sponsorships.

5. Make the event more environmentally friendly

By turning an exclusively in-person event into a hybrid event and reducing the number of in-person attendees (lowering the use of physical resources in any form), you can lower the event’s impact on the environment, especially in the form of reduced impact of travel (fuel emissions, etc.)

In a hybrid event, the reduced travel costs are not only exclusive to attendees and speakers/exhibitors, but you can also allow some of your staff and volunteers to work virtually, not only reducing money on costs but also the environmental impact.

Also, your sponsors can send fewer representatives to your event, or in some cases, they may decide to participate 100% online.

Of course, for attendees who are concerned with reducing their negative impact on the environment, providing the option for them to attend virtually in a hybrid format will effectively remove the obstacle to them joining the event.

6. Better networking opportunities in quality and quantity

In a hybrid event, organizers can facilitate more networking opportunities for both types of attendees while at the same time improving the quality of these networking activities.

Event organizers, for example, can leverage the live chat, audio, and video tools of the virtual event platform to enhance the in-person experience.

Here are some examples of how:

  • Leveraging mobile apps to build chat rooms where in-person attendees can connect with online attendees in real-time
  • Suggesting uses to connect with based on each attendee’s interest while allowing attendees to review these suggested users via the mobile app
  • Providing the feature to search exhibitors and attendees via the virtual event platform or mobile app
  • hare files right from their device
  • Run 1:1 or group audio/video calls 

By leveraging technology, both attendees can enjoy an improved networking experience via cross-network interactions, as well as a more seamless overall experience.

7. Easier monitoring and evaluation of event performance

One of the disadvantages of the traditional, in-person event format is that it can be difficult to measure the event’s performance against its objectives and KPIs. 

Even accurately tracking the actual number of registrants that attend the event can be challenging for a large in-person event, and tracking more ‘abstract’ metrics like engagements, views for sponsors, and so on can be even more challenging.

By converting the in-person event into a hybrid event, on the other hand, we can leverage various digital analytics and reporting tools to collect and analyze data from both the in-person and virtual aspects of the event. 

This allows event organizers to gain access to data that an exclusively in-person event cannot collect, like behavioral patterns, engagement metrics, interests (i.e., via heat maps), and so on.

More accurate and objective monitoring of performance will ultimately provide two additional benefits:

  • Allowing organizers to understand what works and what can be improved, so they can use these insights to create better events in the future.
  • Organizers can use this data to prove the event’s value to prospective sponsors.

8. More flexibility for speakers/talents/exhibitors

Just like you provide more versatility to your event’s target attendees and expand your reach, the same can also be said for speakers, talents, exhibitors, entertainers, presenters, and other parties that are involved in your hybrid event. 

You can, for example, allow speakers to participate in the event online, showing their presentation on a screen for the in-person attendees. Doing so may also reduce the costs of this particular speaker, especially travel expenses.

Similarly, if an exhibitor is unable to participate in your physical exhibition, you can allow them to set up their virtual booth on your virtual event platform

Providing this extra versatility means you are more likely to secure more high-quality speakers, talents, and exhibitors to further improve the value of your hybrid event, ultimately allowing you to attract more attendees and increase the likelihood of success.

9. Building stronger communities

One of the top reasons people attend events is to network. Your attendees may gain value from listening to your event’s keynote, but ultimately they’d like to meet others with similar interests and gain new relationships.

If you fail to facilitate engagements and interactions between attendees (both in-person and virtual), your hybrid event is doomed to fail.

Hosting a hybrid event can allow event organizers to build stronger and more sustainable communities by leveraging various technologies. 

For example, in a hybrid event, organizers can leverage matchmaking tools to facilitate attendees finding people with similar interests, which can result in sustainable, valuable relationships.

10. On-demand, lasting content

In an exclusively in-person event, organizers must print out paper-based resources or provide users with storage mediums (i.e., flash drives) containing the event’s content in order to make the content available after the event has ended.

In a virtual or hybrid event, on the other hand, organizers can simply record the content and make it available online, and this way, attendees can easily view, download, or print the content at any time, weeks, months, or even years after the event has been wrapped.

If need be, organizers can also repurpose the recorded content for a wide variety of future use.

How to Make The Most of Your Hybrid Event

Even with all the benefits we’ve shared above, it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically achieve success when planning and hosting your hybrid event. 

With that being said, here are some key best practices you should follow to ensure success and make the most of your hybrid event:

1. Aim to deliver the same value to both audiences

A very important principle when planning and hosting a hybrid event is to provide the same (at least similar) level of experience to both attendees. In practice, however, this can be easier said than done since the in-person experience and virtual experience are naturally (very) different.

The secret to doing so is to leverage technologies when presenting the content to ensure optimal experiences for both audiences simultaneously while also bridging the two different attendees to facilitate interactions and engagements.

2. Check every technology element carefully

A hybrid event is naturally reliant on technology: power, internet connectivity, A/V equipment, live streaming equipment, virtual event platform and other software solutions, etc. 

Make sure to check all these technology elements carefully and plan for redundancies. Have back-ups for everything to save your event from potential disasters.

3. Don’t underestimate marketing

No matter how well you’ve planned your hybrid event, it’ll mean nothing if you fail to attract enough attendees to your event.

Don’t underestimate the importance of having a comprehensive marketing plan for your hybrid event, and don’t underestimate the time needed to properly promote your event.

Wrapping Up

As we can see, a hybrid event can indeed offer so many benefits for organizers, attendees, partners, and sponsors.

Yet, to make the most of all these benefits, you’ll still need to plan the event carefully and keep the best practices we’ve shared above to ensure success.

Above all, the most important thing to focus on when planning and hosting a hybrid event is to make sure both in-person attendees and virtual attendees can have the same value in their experiences without sacrificing one or the other.

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