What is a Hybrid Event and How Can You Best Blend Virtual and In-Person Aspects of Events?
As the world was shut down for the better part of a year, the Meetings & Events (M&E) Industry continued to push for human connection. In what seemed like an overnight change, all companies quickly moved to some form of a remote model. In turn, the M&E Industry quickly pivoted to follow suit and virtual events came to be out of necessity. Virtual Events successfully filled the gap of the inability for true live In-Person Events. But, now that borders are opening, vaccinations are increasing, and in-person capacity limitations are being lifted – what is next for the M&E industry?
State of the Union for Events
Virtual Events, when done right, can provide a great return on investment (ROI) for companies. They can accommodate large audiences and allow people to participate from anywhere via computer or mobile device. Like In-Person Events, attendees get access to a well-organized program including presentations, breakout sessions, live streams, on-demand videos, exhibitor, and presenter engagement with customers, and more.
However, Virtual Events come with limitations. The biggest limitation has proven to be engagement. After a year, attendee interest is waning in the Virtual Event space – attendees and sponsors are becoming more selective about which events to attend, people are getting burned out from online/virtual meetings, and the stakes are higher for finding virtual content that keeps attendees interested the duration of an event. There is a higher no-show rate for Virtual Events – people sign-up and then do not attend. Lastly, Virtual Events lack the physical aspect of live meetings – with the networking and social interaction being limited to what technology can replicate, seemingly paling in comparison to in-person events.
Virtual Events Cabin Fever – What’s the Next Hype?
Pivoting to Virtual Events, the M&E industry learned a lot! The importance of technology, engagement, production, and content development became paramount. People are ready to move back to live meetings and may need to take gradual steps to get there. Hybrid Events are the answer! 60% of marketers plan to increase spending on Hybrid Events this year (a recent poll by Certain).
Hybrid Events are THE BRIDGE between the virtual and in-person event worlds. A Hybrid Event is simply a “blend of the best aspects of in-person and digital event experiences.” As the evolution of Virtual Events over the last twelve months, the new success model for Hybrid Events will emerge. Hybrid Events allow companies to commit to live in-person events as business travel resumes while ensuring those unable to attend will still be included and engaged. The merging of live and virtual allows companies to continue to attract large remote audiences online while returning to Live Events where engagement and networking are best achieved.
ENGAGEMENT is the top priority of any type of event! Live events, by definition, have the highest engagement levels which is why it’s unlikely they will ever be fully replaced. When planning a Hybrid Event, companies get the best of both worlds. The key objective must be to ensure that both audiences have a high-quality experience. So, from that standpoint, a Hybrid Event is essentially the challenge of planning two events/meetings, which will run concurrently (virtual and in-person), while sharing the same theme, speakers, content, etc. Each group (in-person and virtual) requires its own unique considerations when it comes to how you can best drive and capture engagement. The beauty of Hybrid Events is that they can be 100% customized and fit the needs of all audiences involved.
We have all experienced some form of a Hybrid Event. Whether it be the Election Campaign Rallies of 2020 (i.e. a small group in person with the political candidate, while others watch from home via Facebook LIVE or the news). A technology vendor doing an online Virtual Event, where the viewers watch from home, but live interviews happen on the technology vendor’s end, sprinkled with online chat interaction and downloadable content. Company Town Hall Meetings, where the Company Leadership presents together in person at a venue with a small audience, and the remaining employees are at home watching via their computers or smartphones. A Sales Conference, where in-person attendees have paid a higher price point to be there in person, while the at-home viewers have also bought in at a lower price point to view the event and have access to the content at home. And, a final example could be that of a local attendee engagement hub. Live, but primarily virtual events, where attendees can gather at in-person hosted locations for virtual watch parties of the main event, local sessions, and networking.
Hybrid Next Steps
The trending shift from Virtual Events to Hybrid to In-Person Events demonstrates the resiliency of the M&E industry and the ability to pivot. The activity level and attendee interest in Hybrid is a clear indicator that the M&E industry is back, and attendees are looking forward to their beloved in-person connection, networking, and events of “before.”
Looking towards the future, In-Person events will return in full force. However, Virtual, Hybrid & Live Meetings will likely continue to coexist. Hybrid & Virtual Events will not replace Live Events; however, technology will be used to augment, enhance, and extend the ROI of Live Events. The industry has developed amazing technology & services for Virtual Events. Companies have invested in platforms, technology, and training for Virtual. Each of these events will have its value and usage model. Companies are realizing some types of meetings are best suited for Virtual (i.e. training, education sessions, etc.), while other meetings require human interaction and should always be in-person (i.e. networking). The industry will help define the decision criteria through best-known methods, costs, and capabilities. Companies will eventually establish a model that best suits their program needs. In the short term, Hybrid Events are a hot trend for the industry, providing a great transition from Virtual back to In-Person meetings.
Let FROSCH Serve as Your Guide
FROSCH has the knowledge, expertise, and extended network to assist you in navigating your event planning journey. The FROSCH Global Conferences & Events (“GC&E”) team, provides a full array of meeting planning services. GC&E can guide you in defining your goals for a transition to Hybrid & Live Events. We will assist you with your next Hybrid Event, evaluate options, and architect a program to meet your needs. We understand that there is no cookie cutter solution and one size does not fit all. Call on us to tailor a custom solution specific to your needs.
Our Hybrid Event planning process includes: ensuring ROI; maximizing investment; minimizing costs; developing a comprehensive timeline and strategy; facilitating collaborative planning with key stakeholders; selection of Hybrid venues and event technology; proactively addressing safety standards, PPE requirements, and onsite issues; contingency planning; content creation and delivery; establishment of an audience engagement strategy; and measuring success.
Take Your Event to the Next Level
At FROSCH, we believe you deserve excellent service, advocacy, and support. We pride ourselves on producing the best conferences and events worldwide.
Contact us today to see how we can HYPE up your next Hybrid Event.