A year on into the COVID-19 pandemic and things finally seem to be getting better. Cases, hospitalizations and deaths are way down from the winter highs, and many professionals are itching to get back to the in-person life that they enjoyed prior to the pandemic. But that doesn't have to mean ditching all the innovative progress that has taken place over the last year or so.
Most people are getting used to all those Zoom meetings and virtual events that have marked much of 2020 and 2021, and there's still something to be said for a virtual component for any planned in-person gathering. Event planning and conference webinars aren't going anywhere -- in fact, they're much more useful in the landscape after COVID than they were before.
And for those that aren't able to make it out in person for whatever reason, a virtual or hybrid event can be a great way to expand your reach and offer more to a wider audience than ever before.
What Are Hybrid Events?
While most people are familiar with in-person events and COVID has forced a familiarity with virtual events, there's a new type of event that's taking the event planning and webinar world by storm. They're called hybrid events, and they're unique experiences that are defined more by the lack of boundaries than anything else.
Bringing together the two words of in-person and virtual events, hybrid events allow audiences to connect in new ways both in person and virtually, regardless of whether they're present at the event or just checking in online. In the past, hybrid events may have been little more than a streamed version of the live event -- but after COVID, virtual attendees are seeking a richer experience; one more like their live and in-person counterparts.
For event planning, that means online webinars and conferences that provide the same kind of networking and discussion opportunities as the live event. Furthermore, it also means less of a distinction between in-person attendees and virtual attendees, and more ways for them to interact with each other.
Hybrid Event Planning for the Future
Granted, a hybrid event is certainly more complicated to plan than a virtual webinar or an in-person conference. That's because a hybrid event is more like throwing two simultaneous events that are both sides of the same coin. They're not separate events, though you may need to consider aspects of each separately.
For example, in-person events take up space. They occur in physical places and have attendance limits, which may or may not be less than normal in the wake of COVID. On the other hand, virtual events have no such limit. It doesn't cost more to broadcast to more people, and that's why a virtual component is a great thing to accompany that in-person event -- once you fill up, those who missed out can simply join you online, and you'll also be able to broadcast to far more people online than you ever could in person.
But that digital component has to be more than just a rebroadcast of your live event. Virtual attendees need to be able to chat and interact in real time, just like your in-person attendees. That can mean introducing features such as breakout sessions, polls, gamification, video and group chat and more. The best hybrid event planning understands that your conference or webinar is neither primarily in person nor online -- it's both.
Don't Forget To Spread the Word
After you've planned your event, it's important to adequately promote it. You've likely spent a lot of time and effort building out the components of your hybrid event, but if your audience doesn't know it's happening or how they can participate, you've only done part of the job.
For those that prefer to attend in person and that want nothing to do with your virtual offering, ensure that your venue or event location speaks to them. You're asking people to come visit you in person, and the venue and ambience of your in-person event matters. It also sets the stage for your virtual event, so it's not like you can fully disentangle the two. After all, they're two sides of the same event.
But don't sleep on the virtual component. If your event has to be cancelled due to COVID or some other reason, you can still hold your event online and reach many of the people that planned to attend anyway. Additionally, some in-person attendees may utilize your virtual offering to network and interact before, during and after the event.
A virtual component is also great for those that are unable to attend in person, either due to transportation challenges or former commitments. Those in different time zones may also opt to visit with you virtually if your event time doesn't match their existing schedule, which is a great way to expand your audience nationally, if not globally.
To learn more about how Hubb can help you with your hybrid event planning check out our other hybrid event resources!