After a year filled with postponements, cancellations, and virtual-only events, event attendees and organizers were celebrating the return of in-person events. With attendees growing tired of zoom-only breakout sessions or eating Gala meals out of takeout containers, events across the country were finally offering in-person events and countless others had begun plans to hold events this Fall and Winter. A sense of normalcy was beginning to set in and then sadly, the Delta variant arrived to spoil the party. With the variant now spreading quickly throughout the country, many are contemplating their options to preserve their events while keeping attendees engaged and safe, making the concept of hybrid events, events held in-person and virtually, an intriguing option to consider.
Hybrid events are kind of the “a little bit of everything” option when it comes to events, offering a unique set of benefits while helping to navigate this latest phase of the pandemic. When dealing with current safety restrictions and concerns, hybrid events are a great option for areas where you are still able to meet in person but want to offer virtual access for those not comfortable attending in-person. Through this type of event, organizers have the opportunity to reach a broader audience, reaching potential attendees that might have been deterred due to their location or by traveling. Sponsors also have the opportunity to take advantage of this expanded audience, with the added bonus of exposure opportunities available in-person and virtually. They also reap the benefits of the event being recorded and shared long after the event has ended. These events also offer the opportunity for increased revenue streams and access to data and analytics not available through live events alone.
For those considering the pivot to a hybrid event, here are a few things to consider when looking to make the switch.
- Who will help me?
Embarking on a hybrid event can be overwhelming and it’s important to have the right team in place to guide you through the process. Working with an industry-leading solutions provider, like AV Chicago, allows you to utilize their expertise and contacts to build a seamless event experience for all attendees, helping you manage the run of show, select the right virtual streaming partner, and provide access to industry-leading technology, equipment, and hospitality services.
- Live audience vs. virtual audience
It’s important to consider how each audience will experience the event and put systems in place to manage the differences of each experience. For the live audience, it’s important to set a limit for live attendees based on safety restrictions in your region and encourage or require pre-registration for the event. Make sure to work with your venue to ensure proper safety protocols are in place for crowd control and management, along with utilizing new technology to limit contact points throughout the event without reducing engagement. When looking at the virtual audience, it is important to make sure the audience has the right hardware and software in place for a seamless event experience. When developing your online registration process, it is important to create custom registration links for both live and virtual attendees. This will ensure that each audience has the information that is appropriate for them and the ability to sign-up for appropriate sessions. If there are parts of the program that are in-person or live only, it is important to communicate that clearly to avoid attendee confusion.
When developing the run of show, it is important to consider how to engage with each audience simultaneously during the event. Virtual attendees often feel neglected and it is important to find ways to incorporate them into the live event and vice versa. Incorporating additional screens at the live event featuring feeds of virtual attendees or giving virtual attendees the ability to appear on screen to ask questions during the in-person presentations are easy ways to increase engagement for virtual attendees. It is important that any experience taking place at the live event, including raffles or auctions, are available for the virtual audience to participate in. One fun possibility includes using QR codes, which have seen a resurgence due to the pandemic, that could pop up for virtual attendees to receive a prize or donation during the event. It is also important to think about how your sponsors engage with both audiences, opening up the possibility for new sponsorship programs and increased revenue streams.