Don't be afraid of the word «Hybrid». Why It's a Strategy, Not an Event Type

In the ever-evolving landscape of the events industry, the concept of "hybrid events" has become a hot topic. However, recent research suggests that interest in hybrid events is declining among participants, and many event organizers admit to lacking a clear hybrid event strategy. So, what's the problem, and how can we address it? Let's dive in.

The Misconception of Hybrid Events

The term "hybrid" has been widely misunderstood in the events industry. Many organizers approached it as a simultaneous delivery of virtual and in-person components. However, this approach often falls short of meeting attendees' and exhibitors' diverse objectives.

Hybrid is a Strategy, Not an Event Type

The key takeaway is this: hybrid is not an event type, it's a strategy. The most effective hybrid strategy is omni-channel, where organizers use different channels to engage attendees in various ways throughout their journey.

Understanding the Event Success Funnel

To develop a successful hybrid strategy, we need to understand the event success funnel:

  1. Top of the Funnel: Virtual events excel at supporting top-of-funnel activities such as improving brand awareness and creating engagement. They allow exhibitors, speakers or sponsors to reach a larger audience and enable visitors to participate from anywhere, anytime.
  2. Bottom of the Funnel: In-person events are crucial for bottom-of-funnel objectives like networking, strengthening relationships, and having face-to-face interactions. These activities are challenging to replicate in virtual settings.

Crafting Your Hybrid Strategy

Here's how you can approach your hybrid strategy:

  1. Virtual Events: Use these for top-of-funnel activities. Focus on driving awareness for exhibitors and introducing visitors to trends and innovations. Leverage sponsored content to convert attendees to leads.
  2. In-Person Events: Reserve these for bottom-of-funnel activities, particularly networking. Create unique in-person experiences to convert virtual leads into face-to-face meetings.
  3. Data Management: Invest in technology that can deliver an omni-channel strategy and provide timely data points on all aspects of the attendee and exhibitor journey. This prevents a fragmented customer experience and helps justify ROI to exhibitors and sponsors.
  4. Personalization: Use data gathered at every event to create personalized experiences, make recommendations, and repurpose content effectively.
  5. Quality Over Quantity: For in-person events, focus on facilitating high-quality interactions. Invest in technology that enables pre-scheduled meetings based on interests.

Many event professionals no longer use the word "hybrid" to describe their events, whether they are hosting a conference, organizing an exhibition, or another type of event. A common perception is that hybrid events are too complicated and require double the budget, double the time, and, of course, double the work.

Hybrid events may be questionable because they supposedly require event planners to create exactly the same experience for both audiences. But if you look at how visitor expectations have changed over the past few years, it turns out that people now expect different experiences from each event format. At the same time, people also still need the flexibility to choose how they consume content and communicate when attending events.

Hybrid events have evolved since the early days, when first face-to-face sessions were simply streamed to a virtual audience. Expectations for event attendees are rising every year, and event organizers without the possibility of virtual interaction or networking will find it increasingly difficult to attract and retain virtual attendees.

Furthermore, hybrid events today exist in a wide range with varying levels of engagement and activation and this is real hybrid strategy. Most professionals are already using event technology to connect attendees through networking, engage attendees through gamification, and make sessions available for live streaming or on-demand viewing. Whether you like it or not, these digital elements turn your face-to-face event into a hybrid one.

Instead of being afraid of hybrid events, embrace the idea that virtual elements make in-person events better. You can do whatever you want - there are no rules in the game of hybrid events.

Let's take a look at the benefits of adding digital elements to your in-person events, as well as some simple event strategies you can implement, and talk about how event technology gives you the flexibility to create an immersive attendee experience.

Benefits of adding digital elements to in-person events

Event planners can succeed by adding digital components to their in-person events, from expanding outreach and enhancing the attendee experience to gaining detailed insights that validate sponsors' ROI.

Some of the main benefits of adding digital components to in-person events:

How an in-person event can turn into a hybrid event without much effort

Creating a hybrid experience doesn't have to be a difficult task, especially if you're using the tools you already have. You probably already use the event mobile app for basic things like the event program, how to get to the event, and the list of speakers. You can easily incorporate digital elements into it without investing in new technology or hiring additional staff.

For example, incorporating chat, polls, and Q&A into each session allows attendees to easily participate in the event and collaborate with all attendees. In addition to increasing audience reach, this increases flexibility by allowing attendees to take a survey or leave a comment from their hotel room or while walking around the venue.

If you want to give your events a hybrid feel, recording your sessions is a great way to do that. You don't have to spend a lot of money or hire a production company to do it, especially since budgets are tight right now. Simply set up a session recording camera in the room and upload the recording to the event app. This benefits both face-to-face and virtual participants, allowing them to prioritize live sessions while still being able to watch the rest on demand without missing out on valuable content.

How does an event platform enable professionals to create flexible experiences for their attendees?

The Engagement Hub: An Omni-Channel Solution

Consider implementing an engagement hub - a single platform where people can explore all events within a community. This approach provides a seamless customer journey across various event channels throughout the year, resulting in more data, engagement, and monetization opportunities.

When you think about future events, don't get hung up on the word "hybrid". Instead, think about digital activities that will make your event more flexible, accessible, and meaningful, and carefully consider how to weave them into your event design.

The beauty of using a comprehensive event platform is that you have the flexibility to design events to best serve your in-person and virtual audiences. With OnlineExpo, event planners can:

Event organizers need to have a lot of experience to plan and organize an entire event from start to finish, no matter the format. But sometimes even experienced people need a helper. Request a free demo today to see how OnlineExpo can help you plan and manage your events, whether in-person, virtual or hybrid.

Moving Forward

As we move into the future of events, remember that the goal is not to satisfy all objectives with every touchpoint, but to satisfy one objective at every touchpoint. Start with your core audience's objectives and create various interactions that meet those objectives.

Continuously challenge the status quo by asking:

By focusing on what truly differentiates your events while meeting stakeholder objectives, you'll be well on your way to delivering a successful hybrid strategy in 2022 and beyond.

Remember, the journey to event success in the hybrid era is not about choosing between virtual or in-person - it's about strategically combining both to create a cohesive, valuable experience for all stakeholders.

Also recommend reading:

In-person events: Examples, tips, tricks, and best practices

Learn more about the possibilities of the event platform OnlineExpo