Many event planners have worked hard to quickly pivot business from organising physical events to virtual ones over the last few months. Meanwhile, the global situation has started to look more hopeful for this industry as different cities slowly open up again. Crowd restrictions on public events are being lifted, albeit with safe social distancing measures in place.
While virtual events are all the rage now, there is no substituting an in-person experience. Event planners need to decide if the event should revert to being a physical one or remain fully virtual. Because global effects of the pandemic still remain volatile, companies are going to start finding ways to incorporate the best of both worlds. As event planners, it’s important to think creatively and be a step ahead of the game.
Introducing the “hybrid event”
Hybrid events combine elements of physicality and the virtual realm into one, giving both live and digital audiences the same real time experience with the ability to interact with each other.
A simple example of a hybrid approach would be having a segment of your participants attend the event in-person while the others attend remotely via a virtual platform. This experience has to be planned with both types of audiences in mind in order to be well executed.
The concept of a hybrid event isn’t something new, but it is something that comes in very handy during uncertain times like this because it provides flexible options. More importantly, we need to understand that hybrid events are not another quick solution to social distancing requirements. As Tara Higgins, President at Hargrove Inc describes,
“Hybrid experiences are here to stay, the balance between audience engagement and emotional reaction remains the center of any experience and the gains hybrid offers only increase the value exchange.”
We see that hybrid events create a next-level experience for your attendees. It opens up your event to a larger kind of audience - removing geographical, social, and physical limitations that many typical events once had.
A hybrid event has the potential to welcome people who are based in all locations, those with physical disabilities and those who may need flexible hours. This adds to the richness of every participants’ experience, the inclusivity of content, the quality of discussions, and the value of the networking potential.
Ideas For Organising Unique Hybrid Events
The purpose of your event remains the same. It is how you deliver that makes it “hybrid”. Here are some unique ideas for organising different kinds of hybrid events.
Team meetings: 10 - 30 participants
Two teams in the same company could have a few representatives from each side physically present in the conference room. The others can participate from their homes through a video conference call.
Have a clear agenda to follow and delegate different segments of the meeting to be led by both physically and virtually present individuals. It also helps to start with a quick ice-breaker that both in-person and virtual attendees can equally participate in. This balances the attention between physical and virtual and highlights the importance of participation on both sides.
Company town halls: 80 - 200 participants
It’s important to hold this kind of event in a physical space that represents the significance of the event. Even looking at this space on-screen as a virtual attendee makes the experience different. Set up your live stream video equipment with multiple cameras to capture different angles of the space and the people who will be physically present. Make sure that your event platform enables your virtual participants to view presentation slides up close, while still having an overall view of the people in that space as the event unfolds.
You can even have a roaming videographer on standby so that virtual attendees can get to “hop” from one group discussion to another as it's happening in real time. Remember that lunch and tea times can be shared. Plan ahead and have the same kind of food delivered to your virtual attendees as catered for your in-person participants.
Product launches and press conferences: 80 - 150 participants
These events could have a small or big number of attendees. In this case, the number of people attending isn’t as important to cater to when compared to the unique activities that need to take place.
For press conferences, you could have your spokespersons attend virtually while members of the media show up in person to have a closer encounter with the brand’s physical space and other activities to try out the new product. Take the church services for example, many preachers in mega-churches now deliver their Sunday sermons virtually, while small groups of members meet in-person to view that live-streamed sermon. Then they carry on the group discussions in-person together, with time to socialise over a good meal after. Likewise, each group of journalists should have a designated facilitator who can provide the in-person interaction that is needed and facilitate Q&A. This is a perfect opportunity for spokespersons who are not locally based as they only need to show up virtually.
Most product launches can be done fully virtual and still feel like a great experience with a skilled team of 3D animators and special effects editors to make the magic happen. But even if you are holding a smaller-scale physical product launch, you can still invite the virtual community to attend via live stream video. Create real time interaction by doing activities where both in-person and virtual audiences can win prizes and have them receive their prizes on the same day (depending on location).
Industry trade fairs and conferences: 500 - 1000 participants
The bigger the event gets, the harder it can feel to create personalised experiences for your participants. You can then arrange different physical rooms for different groups of participants to hear from virtually present spokespersons as they explain a new product or speak about a particular topic. If Q&A has to be done together, participants can use a Q&A or polling software tool to get the most pertinent questions answered. Once the session is over, a designated guide can lead the group to the next room which features a different product display. Design the participation experience as a tour and space out each session comfortably so that people enjoy the movement instead of feeling rushed.
These are just some ideas to get you going. With evolving technology and endless creativity at our fingertips, we’re living in a very exciting time. Every new challenge is a perfect opportunity to innovate and try a new approach to a familiar thing. As long as we remember that the importance of delivering quality content and creating opportunities for people to make meaningful human connections will always be at the heart of a great event.