Hot on the heels of virtual events there is a new era is being born, the Age of Hybrid Events. There is much excitement surrounding the possibility of having in-person gatherings once again in the not-so-distant future, and the appeal of virtual meetings is less prominent now as we have passed the one-year mark of no events globally. It is not surprising that the introduction of the term “hybrid event” to our vocabulary is being met with some confusion and many questions, even if the idea itself is not exactly new, and there are a host of misconceptions surrounding the true nature of this event type.
The idea of “hybrid events” has been around for a long time, practically since live streaming technology was first introduced. By definition, hybrid events are called a mixture of virtual and live elements, however this would mean that it is enough to live stream your event or record it and make the footage available on demand in order to have a hybrid event. After an exceptionally challenging year when companies had to fight for the attention of their target audiences more than ever before, we have learned that the matter is actually much more complex. Hybrid events are, and will be, a balancing act of entertaining and catering to the needs of live and virtual audiences at the same time, creating a memorable event experience on both sides of the camera.
It is widely claimed that hybrid events are the future, and industry experts have predicted their rise throughout 2020, even though regulations to control the spread of the virus kept returning and became stricter with each new wave of the pandemic. We had to make peace with the fact that the global situation was going be slow to ease, and in fact very few hybrid events were actually allowed to take place over the course of the past six months. With the roll-out of vaccines having started in most countries, many expect a significant increase in hybrid events, as in-person gatherings will once again be permitted for smaller crowds. As expectations are cautiously beginning to grow, so does the number of questions that arise regarding this mysterious new species when clients start planning their future events.
Here we tackle five common misconceptions and five hard truths about the “hybrid phenomenon”, showing you why this old-new event type is going to play a significant part in our future!
Hybrid event by Les Productions Expert’Ease
1. The virtual element will become redundant once live events return. MYTH
Just like rock music and social media have stayed around, so will the digital aspect of events. In the future hybrid events will bridge the universal need for minimizing safety risks and the need to connect people. But more than that, they will be risk minimizers for the event industry. One of the longest lasting effects of the pandemic will arguably be uncertainty: new outbreaks will bring new lockdowns and last-minute changes into our lives. While planning future events, organizers will need to factor in the risk of having to cancel or pivot live events in the matter of hours, and attendees will occasionally be forced to cancel flights and stay at home instead of travelling to a multinational conference or trade show abroad.
Incorporating the virtual element in hybrid events from the get-go will allow participants to tune in from a distance without having to scrap an entire event, should unexpected circumstances arise. Reducing in-person attendee numbers or going fully digital will also be possible with the virtual platform and/or infrastructure already in place and ready to go.
2. Events will never be the same as before. TRUTH
At least they will not happen the way we used to know them. Risk management is becoming more important by the day as both clients, agencies, and event production companies are acutely aware that it has to be the number one priority when organizing any future event. Following relevant and current health and safety regulations, risk assessment, worst case scenario planning, and the ability to make any event hybrid or fully virtual at the drop of a hat will be part of the business for many years to come.
3. Hybrid is just an in-person event with a live stream. MYTH
Any such event calling itself “hybrid” is bound to disappoint its audiences, both live and virtual. The beauty of hybrid events lies in integration: treating your virtual audience equally to your in-person attendees, connecting them with each other, and engaging them in equal measure. A simple Facebook Live or a YouTube stream does not make a virtual event, nor a successful hybrid meeting. For instance, the latter also allows for tailor-made sponsorship opportunities for both the live event and the digital stream, provides exclusive content or access to both types of audiences, makes use of engaging remote speakers or connecting to remote venues, etc.
4. Professional hybrid events are complex and challenging to produce. TRUTH
You may have hoped this to be a misconception, but it is true: great hybrid events are no easy feat to execute. There is always the simple and easy option to record your keynote speakers and then make the footage available on-demand, but that does not make your conference a memorable hybrid one. We all know that producing an in-person event already carries many challenges and it requires careful planning and professional execution. In the past year we discovered that much of the same is required to host a high-quality virtual event with even higher technical risks involved, and often a digital platform to run on top of other responsibilities.
Working with an experienced event production company, however, eliminates this problem, as they already take care of the physical side of your event, and have gained tremendous experience in virtual and hybrid production by carrying out hundreds of digital events in the last year. Engaging a professional event technology provider will ensure that both aspects are carefully prepared and rehearsed, and your hybrid event is taken care of from start to finish.
LMG’s virtual event studio environment
5. Attendee engagement cannot be as efficient as at live events. MYTH
For the past year engaging our audiences has been a challenge, no matter the sector or the industry. With the new era of virtual event production, simple live streams will not do if you want to keep your attendees fully interested and engaged (or in some extreme cases, keep them logged in). Selecting the professional equipment best suited for streaming, and picking out the best virtual event platform are just two important factors of many, it is just as crucial to find efficient ways to combat “Zoom fatigue”, low investment, and the sense of being disconnected from the event experience on the part of those sitting in front of computer screens.
Engaging an online audience in a hybrid event is a challenging task, but experienced event companies can make it happen with a multitude of virtual tools such as polls, Q&A, gamification, live chat, etc. The key is to engage both of your audiences in ways that work best for them, and blend them to create a cohesive event experience!
6. Creative ideas are the key to any great hybrid event. TRUTH
Besides preparation, professional delivery, great content, and using the right technology, the thing that will set your hybrid event apart from any other is implementing creative ideas to build that cohesive, multi-faceted event experience that makes physical and virtual attendees equally involved. In the previous point we mentioned creative virtual tools that can increase your audience engagement during your sessions, which are the perfect opportunity to interact with online audiences.
It is, however, more difficult – but not impossible – to keep them interested during breaks, and using a professional virtual event platform will be able to assist you in reaching this goal. Pre-recorded video content and interactive tools such as live chats, social media contests, competitions, sweepstakes with prices, games, networking opportunities, even scheduled one-on-one meetings between physical and online attendees, etc. are all great ways to bridge down-times and keep the energy high before your next speaker or performer hits the stage. If you wish to hire entertainment for the breaks, you can do that, too, and both types of audiences will thank you for it. The sky, your creativity, and your budget are the only true limits to what you can do to maximize engagement during hybrid events.
7. People will not come to my in-person event if it is available online. MYTH
This would not be true even if you charged your live audience a fee to attend and make attending online free (we do not recommend this), because by now we all know that nothing can truly replace face-to-face connection, and humans by nature prefer to meet and do business in person. Do not forget, however, that in today’s age of uncertainty there are, and will be, times when physical attendance is no longer just the personal matter of taking the time and effort to travel to your event. Offering online access will be welcome by those who are not able to attend in person for various reasons, and it can even draw in a brand new, global audience that would otherwise have never attended your event but, based on the highly engaging and professional hybrid experience you provided, will likely consider joining your next event in person.
8. Any kind of event can become “hybrid”. TRUTH
Thanks to the advanced technology available in the market, any type of event can be made hybrid, regardless the size or the location of the production. Whether you are considering a conference, a public speaking event, an awards show, a training program, a comedy act, a worldwide product launch, or even a film premiere, the possibilities are endless as long as there is a will and a great broadband connection.
A professional event production company will take care of the latter, as well as the technology that is necessary to present your event to an online audience. They will also help you with bringing creative ideas to life, be it interactive tools or traditional and digital event elements – from audio visual technology, staging, lighting, and special effects to virtual production, event platforms, and stunning AR, VR, mixed reality, and xR solutions.
Australia Day 2021 celebrations in hybrid format in Adelaide by Novatech
9. Making the event hybrid is not worth the added cost and effort. MYTH
Even if you feel like you could do just fine without the virtual part and not spend money on added technology, your return on investment will be the revenue generated by the expanded audience on two platforms and the potential future customer base that you can attract on not just a local but a global scale by giving them the option to tune in from afar. In addition, having the virtual element ready by default prepares you for any unexpected event that could shut down your physical event and result in revenue loss and cancellation costs.
Offering different price packages, benefit bundles, tailored pricing, and customized content to physical and virtual attendees will not only make your event financially viable but also further help you in making it equally attractive for both without having to sacrifice the magic of live events and the convenience of virtual connection.
10. If I want a great hybrid event, I will need to hire a production company. TRUTH
We said it before, but it is worth repeating: events, physical or virtual, are a complex, time-consuming business that require meticulous preparation and precision to execute well. Combining the two parts and creating one truly cohesive event experience is an even more complicated task, but thanks to the hurdles of the past year, event production companies are now perfectly equipped to deal with both the traditional and the virtual aspects. From the drawing board to the unplugging of the last equipment, event professionals are there to help you every step of the way.
Event experience providers in our 78-strong global network of the AV Alliance have incomparable individual and joint experience in creating unparalleled and unforgettable live events for hundreds of thousands of clients. In addition, last year they were plunged into the unfamiliar waters of fully virtual event production and came out victorious. Equipped by the expertise and the know-how, as well as the right technology, we are beyond excited and ready as we will ever be to start producing hybrid events and putting every ounce of our knowledge into the task ahead of us.
We are here and we are ready when you are.