With the news of a vaccine for COVID-19, everything seems to be back to normal. However, this process will take some time. In the meantime, you're probably hearing more and more about hybrid events. Moreover, many assume that such a format for holding events is not just a temporary solution, but may even become a permanent element of the industry. In a recent survey of webinar hosts, 48.2% said they plan to continue hosting hybrid events after it is safe to return to offline events. 27.3% said that some events will be held in a traditional format, and some in a virtual format. 15.8% will continue to host fully virtual events and 8.7% plan to return to a full offline format.
But what you may not have heard so often is how tedious organizing such events can be. While hybrid events can provide both face-to-face and virtual benefits, it can be incredibly difficult to serve both sides at the same time. We've looked at some of the disadvantages of hybrid events and recommended a strategy you can use to make them more manageable.
It's like having two events at the same time
Imagine you're hosting an in-person event: you get out of bed at 5:00 a.m. and arrive shortly thereafter to help prepare breakfast and get started. While you are preparing everything and helping to solve all possible problems, you are already pretty tired before the event starts, after which you will constantly work to ensure that everything goes smoothly.
It's not too different from a virtual event; while you can stay at your desk, you still do your best to make sure each session starts on time and that participants get the same opportunities to connect and interact.
Now imagine doing both of these things on the same day.
The fact is that hybrid events are not as simple as the usual live streaming of already existing sessions. They require careful planning, engagement and management, which is different in both formats.
While it can be very rewarding to bring people together in person, first consider whether the benefits of a hybrid event outweigh the costs of hosting it.
What works in person does not always work in the virtual space
In addition to managing the flow of both events, working with a virtual and face-to-face audience can be completely different.
Virtual and face-to-face attendees have different needs when hosting events - for example, longer sessions tend to be more difficult for online attendees. As a hybrid event organizer, you must find an approach that suits both categories of attendees so that everyone can fully participate in the event and not feel like they are being put on the back burner.
Be prepared to go the extra mile to ensure the safety of the event
Of course, the most important concern is the reason we got into this situation in the first place: keeping your event safe. While innovation is helping us get back to normal, as an event organizer, you need to be prepared to ensure attendees are tested negative and/or vaccinated, and to respond at the last minute to changes in travel and security restrictions. Despite its importance, it is also a serious addition to your already significant workload.
So, with these facts in mind, what is the best way to handle the transition to a hybrid event format without taking on too much of a burden?
We believe that the most correct solution is not to hold both parts of the event at the same time.
Hold a limited offline event and use the captured content to host a virtual event
Instead of hosting an event in two formats at the same time, give yourself time to balance the load by hosting a small in-person event and post-processing content. The recorded video can serve as pre-recorded sessions for a wider audience of virtual participants. To ensure satisfactory engagement, speakers can accompany these sessions with live Q&A sessions, and hosts can schedule separate online networking opportunities to meet the needs of both audiences.
Provide accessibility and engagement opportunities for both audiences
While attendees have similar needs, whether they're at an offline or online event, the best way to meet those needs depends on the format. Instead of trying to make one method work for both event formats, try providing separate networking and interaction opportunities for virtual and in-person attendees.
Interaction and networking will be easy for a limited face-to-face event, but be sure to take the time to organize communication opportunities for the virtual audience, from encouraging speakers to take in-session polls and participate in virtual Q&A, to hosting remote video sessions for virtual attendees.
Choose a flexible event technology platform that supports online and offline events
While you can split your event into two, you don't want to have to master two completely different event platforms! Simplify event planning with a platform that can easily support both in-person and virtual formats of your event. Not only will this make it easier for you and your presenters to interact with both audiences, it will also bring the two groups of attendees together, allowing them to connect with each other before the event and allowing offline attendees to engage in virtual communication and interaction later on.
The OnlineExpo platform seamlessly combines virtual and in-person events, supporting virtual sessions and interactions while helping organize offline events. You can publish an event agenda to provide offline event attendees with a complete, personalized schedule, as well as include live streams and pre-recorded sessions for virtual attendees at every point in the agenda.
The OnlineExpo platform also includes communication features, including video calls and online chat, to help attendees connect before, during and after both phases of the event, and facilitates virtual networking.
If you're wondering what else OnlineExpo can do for your hybrid event, just contact us today for more information and a free demo.