The pandemic has changed the events industry landscape and there is no going back now. We have all experienced the potential of virtual events and they are becoming a significant part of every business’ event strategy. Even attendees now expect to have a choice to attend events virtually. This means there is a rising need to design hybrid event experiences that can cater to both your in-person and remote audiences.But you may be thinking, “I have organized physical events. I have even done virtual events. But how do I put up a hybrid show?” Don’t you worry, we’ve got your back. After conducting in-depth research and speaking to various event planners, we have created the ultimate hybrid checklist for you. This blog gives you an overview of how to build your hybrid event strategy, along with a comprehensive hybrid event planning checklist template. Make sure to download your copy so you don't miss out on creating a stellar hybrid event.
Planning a hybrid event involves planning a virtual and an in-person event simultaneously. It’s the most crucial stage since it lays the foundation of your entire event. Here are some of key things you must do:
Define event goals and objectives: Prepare your event’s value offering around the three event pillars- content, networking, and entertainment.
Content - Ensure your content is thought-provoking, inspiring and engaging. Train your speakers and moderators to address the online audience. Plan Q&A, workshops and brainstorming sessions for both sets of your audiences.
Networking - Invest in a hybrid event platform that has features such as 1-1 chat, group chat, business cards exchange, online meeting rooms for 1-1 and group calls, virtual networking lounges, and an event feed for social interaction.
Entertainment - Use gamification to keep your online attendees entertained. Incorporate fun and relaxing sessions in the agenda such as a stand-up comedy or roast session, a motivational gig, and a yoga or meditation flow.
Outline your event budget: Research industry benchmarks and data from your previous virtual and in-person events. Outline all offline and online costs such as speaker fees, costs associated with entertainment and artist management, venue charges, hybrid event platform cost, F&B, AV and production costs, and marketing.
Figure out all online and offline revenue streams: Finalize the ticket pricing by defining different types of tickets (in-person, virtual, all area access, limited access, etc.). Create customized packages based on your exhibitors’ and sponsors’ ROI goals.
Define the event’s key performance indicators (KPIs): Demarcate KPIs as per their applicability to your event’s in-person component, virtual component, or both.
2. Laying out the agenda
When designing your event agenda, think about it from the perspective of both your virtual and in-person audiences:
While in-person attendees may be super excited to participate in activities, your virtual attendees will need more attention and push to engage with the event. They will also seek shorter and more digestible content.
Finalize the event dates and time. Consider the relevant time zone(s) from where your speakers and attendees will be joining. Pick a time that’s convenient for a majority of your stakeholders.
Identify which agenda items will live-streamed and which won't. Similarly, think about any exclusive sessions for online attendees. Also plan for filler virtual sessions to cover any delay in the physical event.
3. Nailing down the location
Hybrid events have two locations - the physical venue and the hybrid event platform. Find a compatible hybrid event platform to host the virtual component and facilitate hybrid activity. Ensure it has the following capabilities and features to support the intersection between your event’s online and offline components:
Online event registration and ticketing support
Optimized event app that in-person attendees can bring on their devices to connect with virtual attendees
Online agenda and live session streaming
Audience engagement via features like polls, Q&A, chat, hand raise, event feed
AI-backed matchmaking and networking
Gamification such as contests and leaderboard
Virtual booths and branding opportunities
Badge scanning to collect data of onsite attendees
Lead retrieval and classification into HOT, WARM, COLD leads
Real-time and advanced analytics
Book a hybrid-oriented physical venue to host the in-person component of the event. It must have the following:
Large space to allow for social distancing
Support for a hybrid setup
Enhanced AV equipment, projector screens, and online streaming capabilities
Reliable wifi and bandwidth for live streaming and for all the attendee activity on mobile apps
Multiple charging stations to accommodate individual attendee devices
Technologically equipped private rooms
Kiosks for hosting hybrid 1-1 and group meetings
4. Marketing the event
You must devise a solid event promotion strategy to market the event to your target audiences. Formalize all aspects of your marketing plan for pre, during, and post event:
Build your event website and launch the event landing and registration pages.
Choose an event hashtag and promote the event on social media, organically and inorganically.
Send swag kits to remote attendees prior to the event, including branded merchandise. Encourage them to promote this on their social media and incentivize with prizes for posts that achieve maximum traction.
Leverage email marketing for promotions, invites, reminders, and follow-ups, throughout the event.
During the event, regularly post the event updates on social media. Encourage your attendees to do the same. Also, use it as a way to connect both audience groups. For example, encourage in-person attendees to share a screenshot of a meeting they had with a virtual attendee and vice versa.
Post the event, email a recap of the entire event to all the attendees. Include key takeaways, snippets, links to any additional resources, and links to the on-demand sessions.
You would want both your offline and online audiences to interact with each other during the hybrid event. To ensure these interactions are smooth, you must have a well-built event engagement strategy. Here’s what you can do:
Have dedicated emcees or moderators onsite who interact with online attendees for regular check-ins, updates, announcements, etc.
Invest in top-notch AV production services to optimize online streaming and give your online attendees an immersive experience.
Use the hybrid event app to bring your attendees together and provide a more engaging experience.
Have speed networking sessions incorporated in the agenda to foster networking between your in-person and virtual audience.
Enable AI-Matchmaking on your hybrid event platform to suggest names of fellow attendees and exhibitors to interact with.
Incorporate live polls and Q&As into your sessions, to ensure both audiences are engaged while learning from each other.
6. Analyzing the success of your event
After the event, dig into the event feedback and metrics to understand how well your event performed. This also helps you in knowing your attendees’ preferences and behavior – data that’s crucial for planning future events. An intelligent hybrid event platform makes this analysis super easy for you because of its capability to track each and every online and hybrid activity. Coupled with the data you collect onsite, you’ll be able to get really valuable insights. Moreover, you can feed this data into your CRM and deliver hyper-targeted marketing communication.Here are some things to look out for in your post-event analysis:
Results of surveys filled during and post the event. What did your attendees like? What did they think could have been better? Who were their favorite speakers and sessions? What were their preferred activities and games?
Lead analytics. What was the count of in-person vs. virtual vs. hybrid leads? Which were the hot leads?
Sponsor and exhibitor analytics. Which booths were popular online and offline? What was the visitor count in each? What was the count of online vs offline vs hybrid lounge meetings?
Networking and engagement analytics. How many 1-1 meetings occurred on the app and kiosks? How many group meetings occurred on the app and in onsite meeting rooms? What was the activity on the event feed like? Who were the most engaged attendees?
Offline and online analytics for speakers and sessions. What was the average rating for each speaker and session? What were the number of session views and replays? How was the session engagement?
Hybrid events offer endless possibilities for you to innovate, meet your ROI goals, and keep your stakeholders satisfied – regardless of where they attend your event from. To help you get started, we've just released an editable hybrid event checklist template that you can use to design your very own experiential hybrid events. Be one of the first ones to get your hands on it!
Falguni is an MBA graduate and a Business Development Professional turned Content Marketer. She has experience working in Tourism and Event industries. She is passionate about writing various types of content, from quotes, epigrams, micropoetry and short stories to long-form content on Branding, Digital Marketing and Event Technology. Having spent her life living in different parts of the world, she is always fascinated by travelling, meeting new people and learning about their cultures.
Connect with her on <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/falguni-jain/"> LinkedIn</a>.