Hybrid events: worth the effort?

Event marketing is going through a revolution. Restrictions, social distancing and remote working means the classic ‘fill a conference hall’ style model is dead. Azadeh Williams writes about the new hybrid event revolution.  

The hybrid event is a space where in person and virtual events meet. But are they more trouble than they’re worth? And can you really maximise engagement in the same way as traditional, organic events?

What exactly is a ‘hybrid event?’

Hybrid events are simply, an event that occurs ‘live’ for in person attendees, and is also captured ‘virtually’ for audiences online or remote in real-time.

A hybrid event is not:

  • Streaming event sessions from your mobile device
  • A sharable video sent to attendees to watch on-demand after the event
  • Putting your live audience before your online audience 

A hybrid event is:

  • An event that helps facilitate participation between a live and virtual audience
  • An experience that caters to all audiences in a secure environment
  • A platform that enables online and live audiences to engage on the same level

Benefits of hybrid events

There are a number of key benefits to hosting hybrid events that can make it exceptionally appealing to businesses wanting to engage with their customers in a ‘post-pandemic’ environment:

  1. Increased reach and attendance: Hybrid events allow your content to reach new audiences in exciting ways. In fact, a recent study found that nearly 98 percent of attendees at a hybrid event were not planning to attend live. Meanwhile, 23 percent of event organisers who hosted a hybrid event said more attendees participated in future events, and 65 percent said they saw no change in live attendance.
  2. Higher engagement: Hybrid events allow all attendees, whether they are in person or remote to actively talk, share, like, comment and participate in polls, live Q&As or even quizzes in real-time.
  3. Fresh networking opportunities: In a hybrid model, you can help live and virtual attendees network with each other. You could dedicate ‘speed networking sessions’ where attendees either meet in person or via online chat rooms.
  4. Reduced travel costs: With global travel restrictions and corporate travel budget cuts, hybrid events can be a particularly powerful opportunity. They gain attendee registrations, simultaneously saving them the time and cost or COVID restriction issues of travel.

Dangers of hybrid events:

While hybrid events sound fantastic in theory, without the right systems, strategy or platform, the reality could be a logistical nightmare. Here are some of the risks that should be flagged from the outset:

 

  • Security risk: Ensure the platforms and systems you use are airtight from a security perspective. Ensure all attendees, whether live or in person log into the virtual systems securely, and all their contact data is managed in a highly secure manner.
  • Operational inefficiencies: If your marketer or conference organiser doesn’t understand the end-to-end production logistics of a hybrid event, then the whole process can soon become an absolute ‘sham circus that leads nowhere’. Ensure you hire an experienced, seasoned team or agency who you can trust will create a seamless production end to end.
  • Technical glitches: Like all digital activities, unforeseen internet, data or platform outages can ruin the event. Ensure you leverage the most robust, reliable hybrid event platforms, train all relevant staff and have backup internet options to minimise any glitches. A few good solid dry runs and rehearsals can also help stamp out any technical ‘gremlins.’
  • Dull content: With the onset of zoom fatigue, there’s no room for dull content in a hybrid model. Ensure your speakers are engaged, the topics and presentations translate well in an online environment as well as offline (no boring PowerPoints), and there’s enough engaging activities to keep both virtual and in person attendees interested.

The opportunities are exciting

The past two years have been an interesting ‘experimental ground’ for various hybrid events. These events range from small-scale workshops to larger, global conferences. Given the vast learnings, the opportunities to evolve the hybrid model are limitless. Particularly with the evolution of augmented reality, virtual reality and holographic experiences. The key is to ensure the experience always puts the audience front and centre. Your messages will resonate with them at a deeper and more impactful level.

Azadeh Williams is the founder and managing partner of global B2B media and marketing agency, AZK Media.

Azadeh Williams
BY Azadeh Williams ON 12 October 2021
Azadeh Williams is the Founder and Managing Partner of Global B2B Media and Marketing Agency, AZK Media.

A former publisher, editor and journalist (The Times UK, Sunday Times UK, Reuters, IDG) Azadeh has over 20 years' international experience in media, custom content, marketing and public relations.

An award-winning media and marketing leader, Azadeh has delivered integrated marketing and PR strategies for privately held and publicly listed B2B enterprises across the UK, US and the APAC region.

A qualified solicitor and former lecturer in media law and business journalism at Macleay College, Azadeh is also on the Judging Panel of the IT Journalism Awards, Mumbrella Publish Awards and B&T Women in Media Awards.