Whether it’s a trade show, a conference, a convention, or a sales meeting, events are all about bringing together people with a shared interest or purpose. It used to be that this required all participants to be in the same physical location. That’s not true anymore. Now, virtual and hybrid events let people take part from all over the country and even the world.
What Is a Hybrid Event?
Live events happen in the physical world, while virtual events happen online in the digital world. Hybrid events combine these spheres, with event sessions happening both online and offline.
All hybrid events have this principle in common—virtual plus in-person—but they differ in how that’s applied. In the early days of hybrid events, remote attendees were more of an afterthought. They had limited access to sessions or interactive features. Event planners didn’t fully grasp how crucial it is to provide rich and engaging virtual experiences.
Modern hybrid events offer more: more content, more opportunities, and more flexibility. The tech that powers hybrid events has evolved, and attendee expectations have evolved too. Modern platforms allow unlimited concurrent sessions. They’re feature-rich, with tools that enhance attendee immersion and engagement. Hybrid events have become far more sophisticated and are seen as a powerful way to marry the best of in-person and virtual experiences. Event organizers are using these innovative gatherings to reach wider audiences on-site and online.
Core Advantages of Hybrid Events
Hybrid Events Break Down Attendance Barriers
One of the biggest reasons companies and business owners choose hybrid is so people can enjoy event content without traveling to an event venue. For small, hyperlocal events, that’s not an issue. For larger events of national or global significance or for teams whose members are spread out, pivoting from live to hybrid can help more people attend.
For a solely in-person, there are barriers in place that can prevent people from attending:
- A small company may not have the budget to send employees, even if attendance will reap long-term benefits.
- Visas can be difficult to obtain for overseas travel.
- The cost of travel can be prohibitive.
- While most venues try to be inclusive, attending onsite events can still be challenging for people with disabilities.
Hosting more attendees is especially attractive to event stakeholders like hosts, sponsors, and exhibitors. When more people attend, attendees tend to come from a wider cross-section of the industry and more locations around the county and the world. Your formerly statewide event could become a national one with attendees from all over the country. Your national event could become a global concern with a larger and more diverse audience than you’ve ever had before.
Hybrid Events Provide More Options for Attendees
A pivot from live to hybrid helps solve the problems listed above because fewer attendance barriers mean more options for potential attendees. People who want to attend your event have more options for participation. Those who prefer the traditional live experience will head to the venue. If they can’t or don’t want to attend in person, the online event is their solution.
A truly inclusive hybrid event allows people to consume and enjoy both live and online content. That freedom of choice lets people participate more freely and can ultimately result in increased attendee engagement and a much better attendee experience overall.
Hybrid Events Let You Capture More Attendee Data
If there’s one thing virtual events do extremely well, it’s generate data. Lots of it. In general, virtual events can garner more data than traditional events, so combining the two means more still.
Most relate to how attendees interact with your event. When they log into your hybrid event platform, every click and keystroke can be tracked, and every action they take can be reported both individually and in aggregate. You can track your virtual audience seamlessly across every day of the event, even in real time.
Hybrid Event Content Is Available 24/7/365
When you host content on an interactive virtual platform, you can make it available to whoever can benefit from it, for as long as you want. This is great for people in different time zones or with varying demands on their time. It also continues to build return on investment (ROI) even after your event is over. Repackage and repurpose recorded event content for new marketing. Use it to continue driving website traffic to boost attendee retention, helping you prove event ROI to attract new exhibitors and sponsors.
Some ways to do this include:
- Creating an event retrospective of the most popular content to use for post-event publicity
- Offering recorded content on-demand on the event website, free for attendees
- Offering recorded content for a fee for a general audience or as gated content that people can access when they give you their email address
- Creating blog content, infographics, video highlight reels, and other content to use as part of your marketing campaign for next year’s event
Are There Downsides to the Hybrid Event Format?
Complicated and Resource-Intensive
Successful hybrid events offer exciting benefits, but there are some potential cons. Because they provide more opportunities, they’re also more complicated to produce.
Hosting a hybrid event means you’re hosting a physical event and a virtual event at the same time. But it’s more complicated than that because a true hybrid event should be equally valuable to both groups of attendees. You must set up your event venue for onsite attendees while finding ways to bring content online for those who attend virtually. This requires more personnel, more equipment, and more planning.
The tech needed to hold a fully hybrid event can also present a challenge. You need equipment for recording and live streaming, plus the personnel to operate the equipment. And you need an interactive virtual event platform on which to host content, making it available to your online audience.
In short, successful hybrid events are more complex, and they require more resources. That means a larger financial investment and a larger investment of time are needed to plan a successful event.
Potential Issues with the Online Experience
Some other potential issues can arise with online events. But these are only potential issues. They can be problems, but they don’t have to be. With the right hybrid event platform, you can avoid them and create a fantastic event experience for everyone.
Poor engagement: Going to a live venue in person is inherently more engaging than watching the action on a screen. As a result, your online audience may complain of a lack of engagement. This is a problem with a solution: Modern hybrid events platforms and event planners understand how crucial attendee engagement is, especially virtually, and offer engagement tools to keep online visitors alert and responsive.
The attendee experience: Every attendee should be able to have a satisfying and valuable event experience, whether they attend via the live venue or the online platform. But with many hybrids, that’s not the case. Most of the time, it’s because the virtual experience isn’t as valuable as the live one. Usually, this comes down to inexperience or poor planning—so again, this is an avoidable problem.
Hybrid Event vs. Virtual Event: 4 Points to Consider When Choosing Your Format
Virtual events share some of the same benefits hybrid events do. Sometimes it might make sense to hold a virtual event rather than a full hybrid. How do you decide what the right option is for you?
Virtual events are easier to organize: Since you don’t have a live event to plan on top of the virtual one, planning a virtual event is simpler and faster than hybrid event planning.
Virtual events share some hybrid event benefits: This is because people attending online virtual events have the same reduced attendance barriers and greater ease of access as virtual hybrid attendees.
But hybrids have additional benefits: Hybrids incorporate a live event, giving them some important advantages. It’s the in-person interactions, high engagement, and more organic networking experiences that keep people going back to physical events, even when online events present an easier option.
That doesn’t mean a hybrid is always the best option. Sometimes it makes sense to go with a virtual event over a hybrid one. There are four main points to consider.
The Event Type
What kind of event are you planning? Is there a tangible benefit to holding an event with a live component? For instance, if you’re planning a product launch or hosting a trade show, it’s a safe bet that a hybrid is the better choice. Trade show attendees, in particular, like to meet people face-to-face and interact in person with companies, brands, and products. For a meeting or conference, a virtual event might deliver everything you want without the need for a live component. Training seminars, education events, and job fairs work well online too.
Who is your target audience? And where are they? If you’re looking to reach a global audience, then both types of events can meet the brief. But if most of your audience is local, gathering in person might be the best choice.
If you’re planning an event with a limited budget, a virtual-only event can help you stretch it as far as possible. Without the need for a venue, vendors, and other extra expenses, it’s much easier to stay within your means. If you have a big budget, the broad audience reach of a hybrid event can help you maximize its value.
The Event Timeline
The complexity of a hybrid event means you need to start planning early. If you’re event planning with little time to prepare, a virtual event is the best option. It’s easier to plan on the fly and easier for attendees to add to busy schedules.
Types of Hybrid Events
The varied types of hybrid events have varied advantages. Which works for you?
1. Live Streamed Event Content
A simple live stream of event content is effective, affordable, and a good option for people who can’t attend a physical event. But it doesn’t let the virtual audience interact with your content in any way, meaning it’s easy to lose viewers if engagement drops.
2. Concurrent Live and Virtual Events
At the other end of the scale from a live stream is a hybrid event with fully developed agendas for the onsite and virtual components. This is resource-intensive and more costly because both arms of the event need dedicated hosts. Plus, extra people and event technology are needed to capture and broadcast live content to the online audience.
3. Multi-Site Hybrid
Multiple live events happen simultaneously in different locations. With the multi-site approach, all the hubs are connected via virtual technology to a central staging site, from which live content is staged and broadcast.
The multi-site option lets each hub host local in-person networking sessions, social sessions, and other hands-on sessions. Mixed in with this live content are the sessions that are broadcast from the central site to all the hubs.
This approach minimizes travel time and expenses for attendees. It keeps engagement high, but using multiple venues, plus the staging site, can be expensive.
4. Staggered Hybrid Event
The onsite component and the virtual component take place at different times. Usually, the live portion happens first and the virtual sessions a week or more later because the live sessions are recorded and used as the foundation of the virtual content. This can simplify the virtual portion since you don’t need to synchronize two content schedules.
5. Ongoing Hybrid
An ongoing hybrid event extends the experience to a series of mini-events over a longer period. It can be an effective way to build community, but it’s difficult to keep interest high over the long term.
Learn about more hybrid event types here.
How to Event Plan So the Hybrid Experience Valuable
A hybrid event combines live and virtual elements, but it’s still one single event. It’s important to treat it as such. At a hybrid event, you have two groups of attendees, and both groups expect valuable event experiences. What does this mean for the event?
- Both groups should have access to the same content – If you have live content such as presentations or keynotes, live stream them for the online audience, or record them and make them available on-demand.
- Make sure your content is designed to engage both audiences – This could mean shorter sessions or more frequent breaks to help online audiences stay focused and engaged.
- Content should be relevant to both groups of attendees – If your online attendees are a mostly global audience but your live attendees are mostly local, what content will interest them both?
- Provide opportunities for virtual attendees to participate in live sessions – Let them ask questions or vote in polls along with the live audience.
- If you plan any joint activities, make sure both groups can participate – For instance, if you host a joint networking session, don’t include icebreaker activities that require physical participation.
- Branding is key – Make sure your branding is consistent across all channels and the live and virtual arms of the event.
- Provide the necessary tech infrastructure – Every webpage created for the event must work, and the site must have enough bandwidth to handle the hybrid load. Also don’t assume all your virtual attendees will have the tech knowledge to access the site and all its content. Providing clear and thorough instructions is a must, as is having a plan in place for dealing with problems. A glitch in the system means downtime, with virtual attendees unable to access content. Ideally, you’ll have an event tech team to oversee all aspects of the digital experience so any problems are dealt with quickly.
Boosting Event Engagement from Online Audiences
It’s hard to hold the attention of an online audience for a few reasons. Most significantly, online events are less engaging. Your virtual audience is participating via a screen, so they’re removed from the action. Compounding that problem is the fact that most people attend from home or the office—two places that provide plenty of distractions. And finally, the entire internet is also at hand to distract even more. You have a big hill to climb when you’re competing for the attention of an online audience.
Choosing the right hybrid events platform is, by far, the best way to combat engagement issues. The best platforms offer tools that help keep the audience engaged with your content, such as live polls and other interactive features. It’s also important to structure your content to prevent attention levels from sagging. For instance, by sticking to a 30-to-45-minute session format or scheduling breaks for longer sessions, you can help the online audience stay engaged.
XtendLive: A 3D Immersive Platform for Hybrid Events
Hybrid events may be relatively new in the world of events, but they have unique features that have quickly made them a mainstay for events of all sizes. The key to making a hybrid event work? Elevate it to meet attendee expectations with an immersive hybrid platform like XtendLive.
What Makes XtendLive Stand Out?
If you’re used to holding solely live events, adding hybrid functionality into the mix can feel intimidating. Holding a hybrid event means combining two events in one and providing a high-value event experience to two separate audience groups. With a great hybrid events platform, that becomes much easier.
XtendLive offers immersive features that boost event engagement and help you create a valuable attendee experience. Our hybrid platform supports a range of content options, including:
- Text and voice
- Video chat
- Live streaming
- Pre-recorded video
- And more
Participants can interact with content, give real-time feedback, and network in dedicated chatrooms.
Say goodbye to simultaneous session restrictions and limited access. Remote attendees have full control over their hybrid conference experiences.
XtendLive enhances in-person events by bridging the gap between physical and digital spaces. Ditching traditional flat screens for engaging three-dimensional interfaces enhances attendee engagement.
Feature-rich tools for boosting engagement keep your online audience focused. When attendees are engaged, they’re enjoying themselves. High engagement levels boost audience satisfaction and leave them with great memories of your event.
Expect integrated event sponsorship content with plenty of space for brand messaging. Plus, the immersive 3D environment allows for sponsored booths that virtual attendees can actually visit.
Run your event with a content management system that helps you create a seamless event experience for your online audience.
Many influential event pros swear by XtendLive’s efficacy. Now imagine having these tools available for small-scale meetings or large international conferences. It’s clear why so many businesses choose XtendLive to bring their vision alive.
As well as the XtendLive platform, our team can help with hybrid content production in whatever way you need. Services include:
- Media and content creation
- Set design
- Talent acquisition
- Speaker coaching
Looking for something special for your event? Just let us know, and we’ll do what we can to make it happen.
Create the Best Hybrid Experience for Your Event Attendees
Hybrid events are complicated to produce, but they can be highly rewarding for you, your stakeholders and sponsors, and your attendees.
Hybrid is the event solution that lets you host successful events that cater to everyone’s needs. With the rise of online content, hybrid events offer an enhanced attendee experience that can transport attendees anywhere in the world without leaving their couches.
Thanks to platforms like XtendLive, you can dive into a 3D experience and make virtual participation feel like the real deal. Get interactive networking, captivating presentations, and a visually stunning environment at your fingertips.
Contact our team today for hybrid events strategy and design, plus fresh hybrid event ideas to breathe life into your event planning.