Virtual events are increasingly becoming as popular as in-person events, and many event organizers are discovering the inclusivity, increased revenue, and improved digital engagement that are possible with fully-virtual experiences. Talk to a long-time event-goer, however, and they'll tell you there's just no beating the in-person experience. How do you get the best of both worlds? That's where hybrid events come in!
What is a hybrid event?
Hybrid events let in-person and virtual attendees participate in most or all of the event's activities and content, often at the same time. For example, in-person attendees can attend a live session that's streaming simultaneously to a virtual audience. It's also possible to present sessions to virtual attendees as video on demand or simulive content.
Why should my event go hybrid?
Here at Webex Events, we truly believe that hybrid is the future of events because they combine the benefits of a virtual event with the magic of an in-person event.
Nurture inclusivity — Going hybrid opens your event to the entire world! 🌍 People who otherwise wouldn't be able to attend because of health, financial, or time constraints now have a way to be a part of your event from wherever they are. Live streaming not only opens up your in-person sessions to remote viewers; it lets hearing-impaired in-person attendees view captions from their mobile devices!
Build a larger community — Create a Community to complement your event and keep both in-person and virtual attendees engaged before, during, and after. The Community lets you capture insights, interact with attendees, and surface sponsors all year long.
Expand sponsorship ROI — That's right, you can absolutely have effective event sponsorship with a hybrid event, and you're likely to attract even more sponsors through purely-digital sponsorship opportunities! We'll show you how in our Showcase Sponsors article.
Expand your speaker list — Like attendees, some speakers may be unwilling or unable to travel onsite. Allowing remote presentations can usher in talent that would otherwise not be able to participate.
What should I consider when planning a hybrid event?
To create a unified and inclusive event experience, you need to account for the needs of both audiences. Adapting your content and experiences to the virtual space can be easier and more seamless than you think. There are some points to carefully consider, however:
Map your attendee journey — Map out all of the touchpoints, from the time your attendee registers until they receive your post-event survey. Pay special attention to what makes your event special! Do people come for the awesome networking opportunities? What about the curated exhibitors, the stellar training, or the sneak peek product demos of what's to come? Make sure both audiences get the full benefit.
Blend virtual & in-person sponsorship offerings — Build sponsorship packages with both your virtual and in-person audiences in mind. For example, sponsors at higher tiers can receive Lead Retrieval (for in-person), and also attendee call-to-action buttons in their sponsor profile (for virtual and in-person). You can also offer sponsored sessions, banner ads, splash screens, giveaways, notifications, game challenges, and more.
Plan staffing and resources — Making your event available in-person and virtually often requires additional planning, investment, and staff. You may need more moderators to facilitate sessions, safety compliance solutions and personnel, tech resources, and an A/V team.
Pricing — Some hybrid event organizers choose to discount their virtual tickets, particularly when they're first launching the virtual side of their event — and some don't! You know your audience and the value of your offerings best. Consider keeping virtual ticket costs lower to remain inclusive, and try to incentivize in-person attendance, too.
Gamify your event inclusively — The Event Game is a great way to engage both your virtual and in-person audience. You can create one game with challenges that either audience can complete, or create a different game for each audience! If you only have one, make sure that both in-person and virtual attendees can complete all the challenges you create.
Rehearse — Have your presenters do a test run the day before the event, making sure they test with the same technology and in the same space they'll use for the real deal. This helps minimize tech hiccups, ensures they know how to engage, and gets everyone on the same page. Have staff access the event via the Mobile App or Web App ahead of time to check things out and make sure everything is working the way you want it to.
Build in breaks for the virtual attendees — Keep in mind, virtual audiences have more distractions around them, and their attention span may be shorter. We recommend that you keep content short and targeted, and provide extra breaks for virtual participants.
Hire an all-star A/V team — If you have live streams, be very picky about your A/V team. This can make or break your event! You may find a team who's associated with your in-person venue or through references from other organizers. Make sure that you gather references from previous customers, and we highly recommend that your selected team has experience with hybrid events. See our article about preparing your hybrid event AV team for lots more tips!
Personalize the experience — Use the Groups feature to show attendees the content that's relevant to them based on whether they're an in-person or virtual attendee. Groups let you send personalized announcements, show or hide features and sessions, and more.
Use Video Rooms — Bring your virtual and in-person attendees closer together with virtual icebreaker, breakout, and networking rooms that any attendee can join. Planning an in-person cocktail hour or networking session? Set up a few iPad stands at the venue where in-person attendees can simply step up and start talking to virtual attendees in a Video Room! 👋
Enhance with Live Display — Live Display isn't just for in-person events! You can also use this as a "commercial" between sessions, or as a lobby feature in the Web App. Live Display lets you easily highlight a connection leader board, hold a drawing, showcase the event Game scoreboard and Wall posts, grant sponsors amazing visibility and branding opportunities, and more. See our Live Display introduction article to learn more.
There's a lot to consider with a hybrid event, so here are some more resources we've collected to get you started:
Hybrid Event Case Study - How The National Speakers Association Partnered with Webex Events to Go Hybrid
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