Even as many parts of the world are opening up and more people feel comfortable about safely coming together again, it seems likely that hybrid marketing events are here to stay. By allowing invitees to choose whether they want to attend in-person or virtually, hybrid events accommodate the needs of a broader audience. In addition, they enable marketing organizations to generate the excitement and energy of a traditional in-person event while reaching more attendees.
When it comes to hosting hybrid events, there are several things you may not have thought about if you’re accustomed to producing only in-person events or only virtual events. These considerations include everything from special technical requirements to your audiences’ varying attention spans. Check out our blog, Hybrid Events: 3 Things You May Not Have About, to explore these considerations.
While there’s no right or wrong way to produce a hybrid event, you’ll be more successful if you know what to expect and follow some essential best practices. Over the years, Crawford Group has managed hundreds of hybrid events for our clients. Here’s a few tips and some guidance to kick off your planning. If you are unclear if you should host a hybrid event, take our Hybrid Event Quiz to help guide you in determining if this format is best for your business and marketing requirements.
What To Expect When Planning A Hybrid Event
Knowing what to expect for your first hybrid event will make planning easier. First off, expect that registration numbers for in-person attendance to start low. Many people are still unsure whether they want to travel, and many companies are still restricting employee travel for all but the most business-critical situations.
Consider keeping registration terms flexible to drive sign-ups. In other words, allow invitees to switch from in-person to virtual or vice versa and offer refunds when applicable. And as much as you may want to have a big group of in-person attendees, don’t be afraid to cap the count. This will promote everyone’s well-being and make invitees feel more comfortable about deciding to attend in-person.
Another thing to expect is that if event attendance requires a fee, consider setting the price of virtual attendance to be less than that of in-person attendance. Even when your virtual programming is incredibly engaging, remote attendees won’t get to experience the atmosphere and energy of the live location, and they’ll miss out on face-to-face interactions and networking opportunities. So it’s best to acknowledge the difference in experiences by lowering the fee for virtual attendance.
Finally, attendees often miss sessions or parts of sessions, or they want to go back to experience the content again. Be prepared to offer on-demand access to all presentations and sessions after the event to all attendees, both in-person and virtual.
Take A Team Approach to Hybrid Event Management
When you host a hybrid event, you’re essentially hosting two events in one — an in-person event and a virtual event. These two events may share most of their content, but because their audiences are experiencing the content in different settings, you need a separate plan for each.
That’s why we recommend that you activate two different teams to plan and manage your hybrid events. For example, you’ll need an event manager, a producer, a content manager and a technical producer for the in-person experience, and a different event manager, producer, content manager, and technical producer for the virtual experience.
Before the event, the in-person experience team will need to prepare COVID-19 safety measures. They should create a plan for communicating these safety measures to the in-person audience both before and during the event. They should also prepare and communicate about check-in protocols and offer sanitizing gift items at check-in. Self-service check-in is more important than ever to help in-person attendees feel comfortable. The virtual experience team will have a different set of pre-event duties. They won’t need to worry about safety protocols, but they’ll need to provide guidelines and login instructions for using the virtual event platform.
To plan the event content, the two teams will need to work both together and separately. Together, they’ll prepare presentations, panel discussions, and sessions that both the in-person and remote audiences can experience simultaneously. Individually, the in-person team will plan small-group breakouts, “meet the speaker” opportunities, and networking sessions to enable onsite attendees to get the most out of being with their industry peers at the event. And the virtual experience team will plan virtual breakout sessions, chats, Q&A sessions, polls, and games to keep remote attendees connected and engaged.
Post-event, the in-person team will need to send communications related to the experience at the event location. For example, they’ll recap the highlights, survey attendees to get their thoughts on the event as a whole, and send other marketing messages based on behavior data collected at the event. Similarly, the virtual team will send a recap, survey, and notifications based on the virtual event experience.
Given that hybrid events are two events in one, your event teams will also need to think about how they’ll collect data for reporting purposes. Does your event platform collect data for all attendees — in-person and hybrid — in one place? If not, it’s important for your teams to have a plan for how they’ll combine data to create a complete picture.
Budgeting is different for hybrid events, too. With production happening in both an event space and a virtual space, you’ll need a larger budget than you’d need for just an in-person event or just a virtual one. Your two event teams should look for synergies across their content and production plans to find ways to share and save. For example, rather than booking your keynote speaker for separate Q&A sessions with your in-person and remote audiences, consider having your moderator field questions from both audiences during the same session.
Crawford Group Is Here To Help You Plan a Successful Hybrid Event
We work with organizations like yours to plan, manage, and execute hybrid events that engage audiences and drive ROI. Our services span pre-event planning, production, and post-event reporting and communication, and we’re happy to collaborate with your team to determine the level of support that suits you best.