Why Choose Hybrid?
Monday, April 19, 2021
SmithBucklin helps our client organizations carefully navigate the audience, budget, and strategic implications of the hybrid event model.
First, let’s define the hybrid event. A hybrid event combines both a live in-person event with digital/virtual components. The key here is that the entire experience is designed with both a live and digital/virtual audience in mind.
One point we always make before talking about the details of the “how” or “what” of hybrid is the “why.”
Some associations are considering hybrid because of the following:
- The need to have timely conversations and get access to industry information that cannot wait another year
- The need to serve their members who may still be limited in their ability to travel
- Adapting to regional restrictions and safety standards for in-person events
Operating a hybrid event means running two separate events at the same time, so consider what your audience really needs. To determine a scalable model, first identify who the audience is for both the live and virtual components and what their needs are. Consider content delivery, networking/engagement, and connectivity; then determine the technology that will deliver your associations’ desired experience.
Next, consider different session types. Some events are content-specific, which means, they primarily deliver educational information that is happening at the event with some ability to engage with presenters. This might be a full livestream with audio and video, but many associations opt for a limited stream where it is just audio and presenter screen sharing. Some other groups are pre-recording or recording in the rooms, then broadcasting that content at a later date and inviting speakers back for an online Q&A session. Presenting in this “simulive” format is a great way to share content while managing costs.
From an exhibits and sponsorship perspective, hybrid events offer partners an opportunity to connect with a virtual audience in addition to the physical audience, potentially increasing their total exposure. The tricky part is trying not to cannibalize your physical event asset sales by making it too easy to participate in the virtual event based on price.
What catches everyone off guard when considering hybrid events is the cost. Hybrid events include more sophisticated branding, engagement tools, and may offer a full exhibits space. They are also much more incorporated into the in-person event, so those attendees are being recognized during in-person sessions, possibly having content repeated for different time zones, and have a much more direct engagement experience with exhibitors and sponsors. You have to account for the platform, additional AV needs onsite, the additional staffing, etc.
Additionally, do not wait until eight weeks before your event to decide you need a virtual/digital element. A hybrid event that will be profitable and represent your brand well requires as much preparation and planning as your live event. Do not use hybrid as a late add to try to make up for lost revenue—plan for it.
Our client organizations’ members have proven that they are incredibly resilient. They have demonstrated that they are willing to participate in ways that we never thought they would. We have opened the door and shown them that we can do this online and still provide value. Hybrid events provide sponsors, presenters, and attendees with the ability to reach more people.
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