Hybrid events aim to bring the benefits of traditional live “in-person” style events and virtual events together as one, allowing audience members to join no matter where they are sat. The challenge for event organisers is how to deliver a successful event that engages with people sitting in the room and those sitting behind their computer screens.
Successful hybrid events are designed with the wants and needs of the entire audience in mind. It is worth noting that not all live experiences transfer to the virtual world and vice versa, so depending on the event content, there may need to be a planned divergence where each audience type are separated with an alternative agenda.
So how do you run a successful hybrid event?
Choosing the right hybrid event location
This is a very traditional place to start when looking to host an event – where will it be?! The location, size and scale will be dependent on the production and live in-person audience requirements for the event.
For small live audience numbers or where only presenters will need to be together for the event, a virtual studio provides the ideal professional solution to deliver a slick and well-executed event. On Event Production Co’s virtual event studio in the midlands has all of the tech and support services to provide you with outstanding virtual and hybrid events.
As your live audience size increases, you’ll need to think about an event venue. This could be your own offices or premises, or purpose-built event space. It is possible to run hybrid events from most locations, providing a high speed and reliable internet connection can be established.
How long should a hybrid event last?
When attending an in-person physical event, the attendee will be engaged and stimulated with multiple touchpoints, even down to the travel to and from the event location. This helps to engage over a long period which is why events can run successfully for hours or even days depending on their type. Keeping a virtual audience engaged is more complex as individuals are often locked to one location and the technology they have at their disposal, usually a laptop and/or mobile device.
There is no single duration that will work for all hybrid events and audiences. Still, On Event Production Co. advise you to keep sessions short and use a broad mix of interactive technology to ensure your virtual attendees remain switched on and feeling part of the action.
Depending on your audience’s base, you may need to factor in time zones in the planning and timing of your hybrid event. There is no point starting your event at 9 am in London if your US audience is still tucked up in bed. If you can’t find common ground, you might need to consider running multiple events for different audiences or split the virtual and in-person experience. Hence, they run independently but come together where there is a cross over.
Finding the right hybrid event platform
When looking for the right virtual or hybrid event platform for your event, there are several factors to consider. For example:
- Virtual Audience Size – Are you talking 50 or 50,000?
- IT restrictions – Do you need to use a specific platform that is whitelisted for use within a group or organisation?
- Two Way Video/Audio – Are you looking for a virtual audience solution with the ability to see and hear from individuals as part of the event? Check out AllTogether.Live for On Event Production Co’s Virtual Audience solution.
- Single or multi-session – How many sessions will be run as part of the event?
- Customised Agenda – Will each audience member need a customised agenda or the ability to choose between different sessions throughout the event?
- Branding – Do you need a fully branded look and feel for the virtual event platform?
- Budget – Are you looking for something cheap and cheerful or with all the bells and whistles?
If you are starting out and unsure where to look for the best platform, On Event Production Co. is here to help and provide guidance.
Building content that works for a hybrid audience
This is where you’ll probably need to think about your in-person audience separately from your virtual audience. Some content will work for both, but there is likely to be sections of your event that needs specific content designed to meet the exact needs of the different audiences. A great example is a networking lunch at a corporate event where individuals can grab a bite, mingle, chat and interact. Your virtual audience won’t be able to participate in this specific activity. Still, there are plenty of online tools to allow for online chats and video calls as part of a virtual networking experience.
Designing content for a virtual audience requires understanding the type of devices your virtual audience will be using. Mobile devices typically have small screens, so they won’t easily show detailed graphics, and laptop/computer screens typically are in a 16:9/16:10 ratio, so content should be designed to maximise this space.
It is essential that your virtual audience can hear and see the event in the best possible quality. Using just a web camera and computer microphone is unlikely to yield great results. Using a professional production team can ensure you get the best viewing experience for your virtual audience.
For corporate events and presentations, remember to keep PowerPoint to a minimum and try to use a range of different media. Video content works great for both the live in-person audience and virtual audience members.
Use interactive technology where ever possible to keep your audience engaging with the content. Depending on the platform you have chosen for the virtual audience, there may be tools built-in you can use or alternatively, there are lots of cost-effective dedicated apps that can be used on the same or secondary device such as Slido or Mentimeter.com
Running the actual event
As with any live event, it is vital to have a skilled and experienced team to assist with delivery on the day. You are likely to need a few more people in the team for a hybrid event vs a traditional “in-person” event as your virtual audience will need support as well as everyone in the room. This includes production with specific roles to look after the in-room experience and others to ensure a seamless virtual experience.
Timing is incredibly important with a hybrid event. Whereas on a typical live in-person event you might get away with being a bit late starting or lunch over running for 15 minutes, a hybrid event needs to be far more structured as your virtual audience will be joining sessions based on specific times provided and you don’t want to leave them hanging around. The event will need to be produced appropriately with a good logistics support team to ensure the live audience are in their seats exactly when required. Presenters will need clear communication on when they are starting and how long they have left before the next section of the event.
Experienced event professionals will all know that this is easier said than done, and live in-person audiences have a habit of misbehaving or ignoring instructions. There are also logistical factors such as arrival by train/car/bus, which can impact timings and are entirely out of the event organisers’ control. Hence, it is important to plan for delays and interruptions as part of the hybrid event. A dedicated virtual event host can be of huge assistance here and fill in the gaps as needed, keeping the virtual audience switched on. We recommend having backup content lined up, so the virtual audience is not left starting at a holding graphic while the live in-person event is catching up.
Support options for hybrid events
Great teams deliver great events. Whether your event is a conference for 100 people or an outdoor festival for 100,000, you’ll need an experienced hybrid event support team to plan the event through to execution.
It is very easy on hybrid events for individuals to become overwhelmed with too much responsibility on their shoulders. Take the example of a show about to go live and the event organiser’s inbox filling up with users unable to access the virtual event. You will want a dedicated team to look after the virtual platform technical support so others can make sure the live in-person audience get the best experience.
On Event Production Co. is an experienced hybrid event production management company. We’re here to make sure all audiences, presenters and the individuals, suppliers and teams we are working with, get a great experience.
How can On Event Production Co. help?
Hybrid events are hugely exciting and unlock potential and reach far beyond the four walls of a venue. When executed well, audience members can receive an inspiring and memorable experience no matter where they are.
On Event Production Co. is a professional production company with experience in delivering fully virtual, hybrid and live in-person events. We know what makes great events, and we’re here to create awesome experiences.