Your Guide to Hybrid Events in 2024
What is a hybrid event?
A hybrid event unites elements from both in-person and virtual experiences to ensure attendees in either experience — physical or digital — get the same level of value from the same event.
Any type of event can be formatted as a hybrid event, from conferences and product launches to interactive workshops and seminars. As ever, success with hybrids comes from achieving the best possible engagement from your content — and using the data generated from this engagement to help you understand what worked well and what didn’t.
Let’s go on a guided tour of the hybrid event landscape in 2024 and everything you’ll need to consider when it comes to developing a winning formula for your next hybrid session.
Painting a complete picture of hybrid events
Post-pandemic, audiences generally feel positive about attending virtual events. According to a 2022 survey carried out by VFairs, titled The Future of Virtual Events, more than 93% of respondents were achieving what they deemed to be successful attendance rates for their online sessions, and more than three-quarters of those questioned said they prefer virtual events because they are easier to attend.
But there’s two small asterisks to this bullish perspective on virtual events: many attendees feel they don’t get the same personalized experience as in-person attendees do and miss having the opportunity to network and socialize with their peers.
So, we’ve entered an era where audiences want the best of both worlds: the “buzz” and the community-minded feel offered by in-person events and the accessibility and flexibility of digital experiences in instances where physical travel isn’t an option.
Hybrid events provide audiences with the best of both worlds and provide organizations with a viable event-type path for future events. Let’s take a look at why now.
What are the advantages of running hybrid events?
You’ll get more attendees
If there’s no need to travel to a venue, and they can access your insights from the comfort of their own home, your contacts will be more inclined to sign up.
Your sponsors will reach a wider audience
There’s nothing your sponsors want more than exposure – and by expanding your guestlist, you’ll be bringing them greater opportunities for brand awareness.
You can record your entire event
If one of your registrants can’t attend on the day, you can send them a recording so they can log in later and catch up with your content when ready.
They are the more sustainable option
With all the travel and resources involved in physical events, onsite attendees leave a significant carbon footprint; digital ones don’t.
You get better data and insights on your attendees
One of the great ironies of physical vs. digital events is the idea of interactivity and engagement. While the perception is that physical events are naturally more interactive, in fact, the opposite is true. When you attend a session at a physical event, it is largely a passive experience.
However, in a digital version of your event, each session can feature online chat, Q&A, polls, downloadable content and resources, and links to key calls-to-action. And all of that interactivity is captured, making the leads from your virtual attendees more valuable than their physical counterparts.
When does hosting a hybrid event make sense?
Hybrid events are often the sensible choice in any scenario where the aim is to generate the highest possible number of registrants or where there might be some barriers to physical attendance (for example, you need to engage people in different timezones, or you can’t find a venue to accommodate everyone who wants to attend).
When deciding whether a hybrid format is the right fit for your event, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is it important for you to reach people who might otherwise be unable to get to your event?
- Are you dealing with geographical limitations that might affect your event numbers?
- Are your attendees generally time-poor, and might they struggle to clear space in their calendars for your event?
- Can you deliver the same value without your attendees needing to be in the same room as you?
If you reach more “yes”s than “no”s, it’s time to explore the hybrid concept!
Check out more hybrid event ideas. For more advice to see you through the development phase, here are 5 things to consider in your hybrid event planning.
The challenges facing your event marketing team
So, you’ve settled on a hybrid event. But how do you ensure your session sounds appealing to two different groups of people so you get the most registrations possible?
The key is understanding that each audience will have different needs and expectations — and it’s your marketing job to meet them.
Marketing to physical attendees
Those attending in person will usually be more interested in the networking element of your event. They will have cleared time out of their schedule to attend and, in some cases, may have paid a premium for the experience — and as a result, they want to get the most connections possible. Hook them in with the promise of plenty of social interaction in a new and exciting setting that aligns well with your brand.
Marketing to virtual attendees
More than anything, virtual visitors want a hassle-free encounter. Delivering an approachable and convenient experience that delivers value will be key to driving virtual attendees. Let your audience know about all of the features of your virtual experience, including featured speakers, and any fun elements such as gamification, virtual networking and entertainment.
You’ll need to select a tech platform that will enable you to create the type of event and virtual experience that your audiences will love. Features to look for in a platform include:
- The ability to to stream broadcast-quality video
- Engagement tools and virtual networking lounges
- Dedicated expo halls and virtual sponsor booths
Make sure you don’t isolate either of your audiences
Striking the right balance requires careful thought. There are a few ways to ensure everyone enjoys the same great experience from your session, wherever they are. Here are three tips to keep in mind as you plan your hybrid event:
1. Set a clear agenda
Every audience member, whether in a physical seat or logging in from behind a screen, will want to know exactly what they can expect from your day (or evening).
Send attendees your hybrid event agenda in advance, and reference it strategically throughout your session so everyone knows what’s coming up next. Remember that physical attendees will often immerse themselves in the entire program. In contrast, virtual guests may only want to sit in on the segments that interest them, perhaps choosing to watch some sessions later on-demand (one of the great benefits of hybrid events). Having access to the agenda helps these individuals plan their time accordingly.
2. Offer perks for virtual attendees
You will want to go all out to keep your virtual viewers happy for two reasons. First, it’s hard to keep remote audiences entertained, so you need to give them content to interact with, virtual breakout rooms to network in and, in some cases, exclusive content or rewards.
Second, suppose you think about your virtual guests on a cost-per-acquisition basis. In that case, they are usually loads cheaper to find and process — but they still expect a fantastic experience that caters to their needs. Exclusive offers and incentives are great tools for keeping them onboard and encouraging post-event engagement, too.
3. Fill in the gaps for people who aren’t in the room
You will need to take a break at some point – and physical and virtual attendees will react to these pauses in production differently. In-person guests will usually take the opportunity to grab a coffee and start networking, whereas digital viewers may get easily distracted by something else during this important downtime.
The solution? Try introducing gamification techniques like quizzes and polls to keep virtual guests engaged and excited for their next session. Or, link out to additional content they can browse through while you’re preparing your next piece.
4. Deliver the benefits of digital to physical audiences
Perhaps the biggest change in hybrid events is the ability to bring the interactivity and engagement of a virtual experience to your physical audiences. Choose a hybrid event platform that enables physical attendees to access all of the virtual engagement features and content offers, right from their phones or laptops. This not only delivers a better experience for physical attendees but it also helps you capture more data on their interests and needs.
Quality content always prevails
Unique insights, engaging presentations, world-class speakers – all these elements will combine to create a hybrid event that’s memorable for all the right reasons, regardless of its purpose or its format.
But why should the fun end when the curtain goes down on your session? Keep your guests interacting with your content long after your hybrid event has taken place – and allow virtual attendees to catch up on anything they missed in their own time – by making presentations and other assets available on demand.