Why hybrid events are the way of the future and how to create a successful one?
The numerous variants of Covid-19 have forced us all to change our opinions, expectations and plans in more ways than we could ever imagine. Changes, especially at workplaces, are here to stay. Pandemic-induced restrictions forced organisations to transform live events to virtual events and now, the consensus is that the hybrid model is the best way forward. Many brands agree that this is the perfect way to widen the reach of an event globally. Organisations do not have to scale back on the size of the event when it is a mix of both in-person and virtual. Hybrid event attendees also agree that this is the ideal model for the future.
Hybrid events usually mean conferences, seminars, trade shows, recruitment drives or any other event that can be hosted in both an in-person version and a virtual version. For example, a corporate recruitment drive could include a virtual seminar by industry experts while the career-building section could be organised as an in-person session. Such an event ensures that all the candidates have a similar experience, and the experts, being part of the virtual event, do not have to travel.
Cost efficiency and easier access are two significant benefits of the virtual model but fatigue from an overdose of virtual meetings over the last two years is an undeniable reality. Further, the energy that a face-to-face meeting carries cannot be replicated virtually. However, the virtual model allows a greater reach and people who cannot travel can still attend an event and gain from it. A whole section of people who can gain from the event does not have to be discounted by organising a virtual event.
At the end of the day, after considering all the pros and cons, the hybrid model appears to be the most feasible model, pandemic or not. Given the wider audience, there are more chances of engagement and sponsorship opportunities too. Also, the reduced travel ensures that the carbon footprint is less. Further, the virtual section requires less resources and that reduces the impact on the environment to some degree.
How to create a successful hybrid event
- Plan the in-person and virtual components as separate events
- Step into the shoes of the audience
- Design first, pick the virtual platform later
- Be aware of audience attention span
- Avoid overcrowding the event with unnecessary sessions
Each component will have its own goal and mission and must be designed accordingly. Just as a virtual event does not mean only live-streaming the in-person content, the latter is more than just the right decor and food. The purpose of the event must be clear so that each component can be planned and marketed efficiently.
Once the goal of the event is defined, the event planners must create a plan to achieve that goal. Outline how the event can solve the problems related to the event theme and what will make the intended audience book a seat to attend the event. The audience’s point of view must be considered for success.
Since all virtual platforms are not exactly alike, it is important to first design the program and only then, pick a suitable platform for the event. The most appropriate virtual platform is sure to offer a great experience and allow the organisation to achieve its goals and mission.
Although the in-person and virtual versions of a hybrid event can be delivered simultaneously using livestreaming technology, organisers must take into account the much shorter attention span of the virtual audience. Organisers could choose which sections of the event would be most enjoyed if livestreamed and let the virtual audience access the remaining presentations at their convenience.
Filling a hybrid event with too many sessions is more than likely to defeat the purpose of the event. Whether it is the in-person version or the virtual version, a crowded calendar confuses people. It is best to plan only those sessions that will help the organisation achieve the event’s goals.
When are hybrid events not the best option?
There are some situations where hybrid events may not work very well. For example, statistics show that working virtually for long periods increases the feelings of isolation and that reduces productivity by almost 21 per cent. Socialising among employees boosts communication patterns by almost 50 per cent. Given these numbers, team building events must be organised as in-person sessions for best results. Employee morale is improved, relations are strengthened, and communication and collaborations receive a huge boost. Further, such events are a great way to break the monotony of corporate life and energise everyone involved.
Limitations of hybrid events
Technology, the backbone of a hybrid event fullfillment, can also be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. If the software selected does not work smoothly on the event day or limits the number of attendees, it can lead to frustration. Further, a hybrid event is like managing two events, so the complexity increases. Without an able event management team, one version of the event might not be as successful as the other. Tailoring each version to the interests and needs of the audience is quite tricky. It must be interesting enough to engage both the audiences.
Organisations are rising to the occasion and making hybrid events a part of their calendar. The last two years have shown that the virtual medium cannot be neglected for business growth. Further, the success of the remote, and now hybrid, work models make it easier to visualise a future beyond the traditional in-person mode. And given that hybrid events are receiving so much attention, new and upgraded software that can handle all the current limitations are expected to be available soon.
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