The rise of hybrid events and how to do them properly

The future of events demands a hybrid approach from brands and an understanding that audience needs have fundamentally shifted.

Kate Love, The Croc

Co-Founder & Head of Digital Events

Share


For the first time in over a year, there is a sense of optimism in the way the business world is discussing the coming months, and this is also true in the event industry. The symbolism in being able to reunite in person, both personally and professionally, will serve as a true indicator that we have triumphed over the global pandemic, and this is a driving factor in getting back to physical events. It is important however to factor in people's views on whether they want to, or indeed are able to, come back together at these gatherings.

While a large number of people are keen to get back to business travel and meetings, there will be just as many who will be reluctant to enter situations they perceive as risky, particularly those yet to be vaccinated, or shielding vulnerable people. In addition, businesses will also have a responsibility to their employees to protect their wellbeing, alongside a shift in corporate attitudes to be more socially and environmentally responsible. We have to accept that for the foreseeable future audiences will continue to have different views and different time frames at which they feel comfortable re-joining physical events. 

A hybrid future

At Podium, we believe that even though digital is here to stay, when live events return, the future will very much be a hybrid one. Already we are having discussions with clients with an increasing demand for events that combine in-person and virtual to create one seamless experience that is wide-reaching, engaging and more sustainable. Once that demand returns, it will be essential that event producers understand the complexity of designing and developing what is, in effect, two combined event experiences.

Given we have been in a virtual first world for the past 12 months, the idea of simply combining your physical event, complete with audience, content, and more, and adding the virtual component to create a hybrid event can open up a host of opportunities, allowing your audience can participate and engage with your event, no matter where they are.

The crucial element here is ‘engagement’. It's what separates your event from a Ted Talk on YouTube. Inspirational, yes. Informative, definitely. But engaging? No.

Engagement is also what distinguishes a hybrid event from a livestreamed physical event - your virtual audience won't watch your event via a static screen, they'll take part via their mobile devices or their computer, meaning they can talk, share, like, comment and much more. By giving your physical attendees access to this virtual element, they can also engage in many more ways than would be possible at a strictly live event, both during and post-event.

A simple solution to a complex challenge

A hybrid event should aim to be a seamless integration of technology to facilitate participation between a live and virtual audience, with an experience that caters to all audiences in a viewer-friendly way, and allows you to put your online and live audience on the same level.

One key element of this is choosing a virtual event platform. Your attendees don't want to replicate the literal experience of walking through your event, or follow a 3D avatar of a physical attendee. Focus on simplicity and an exceptional user experience to ensure it's a cinch to enjoy your hybrid event and remember, an overly elaborate ‘virtual venue’ can often slow down your audience by adding an unnecessary layer of complexity, or scare off less tech-savvy attendees.

There are several challenges often faced by event planners – reaching those who want to attend, but can’t for one reason or another, and convincing those who are unsure if your event is worth their time or expense. With a hybrid event, you lower the barrier to entry for both demographics, allowing you to increase your reach immensely, broadcasting your event to a larger audience than ever could be possible in person.

While face-to-face meetings are still important, going hybrid is a great way to accommodate attendees who are focused on reducing their personal carbon footprint, alongside businesses looking to both increase their sustainable practices

Kate Love, Co-Founder & Head of Digital Events, Podium, ‎The Croc

Sustainable futures

The latest, and arguably most important challenge that can be overcome with a hybrid event is the shift towards taking an environmentally responsible approach when it comes to travel. While face-to-face meetings are still important, going hybrid is a great way to accommodate attendees who are focused on reducing their personal carbon footprint, alongside businesses looking to both increase their sustainable practices and significantly decrease travel costs across the board for everyone involved.

Finally, it’s important to consider what would happen to your event if travel was disrupted again. It could be a global pandemic, like COVID-19, or it could be any number of the increasing natural disasters we are experiencing. Without a hybrid approach to fall back on, your event would simply not happen, and your attendees would find something else to fill the time.

Hosting a live event with no digital fallback is, quite simply, a dangerous proposition, especially when the technology is so accessible and prevalent. Your audience has shifted their expectations, and your event needs to adapt to continue meeting them.

Guest Author

Kate Love, The Croc

Co-Founder & Head of Digital Events,

About

With over 15 years’ experience in the events world, Kate Love has delivered virtual and hybrid B2B conferences and events all over the world, for a variety of industry-specific audiences.Over the past five years, Kate has championed the value of live digital content alongside a physical counterpart, with her virtual events expertise proving invaluable to clients as they adapted to the changes of 2020.Today, as Director of Digital Events at The Croc, Kate focuses on global impact projects in technology, finance and related fields. Her fierce thinking approach to event delivery helps organisations such as the UN, World Bank, AXA and more to engage audiences in vital, exceptional and ground-breaking discussions.