Pairing the word “hybrid” with “events” is still a nebulous concept for many in the industry today, despite it being quite the buzzword. Following our recent global, hybrid event, Mastering Immersive Experiences (MIX) 2022, we figured what better way to help demystify the idea than to pull back the curtain and find out what it looks like behind the scenes when pulling off a hybrid event.
We sat down with one of Hubilo’s premier event professionals, Jessica Connolly, director of events, who spearheaded the planning, management, and execution of MIX on March 30. Jessica gave us the inside scoop on what it took to make MIX 2022 possible (which also happens to be the event’s theme), sharing 10 lessons that she learned from wow-ing audiences across the globe with Hubilo’s first-ever, hybrid event.
“Building excitement with your online community before the event is a time investment well-spent. We ran a social media contest before the conference that drove a lot of awareness about MIX. It allowed attendees to get excited before MIX started. And to find out if they’d won, they had to tune in to the event. So our pre-event social contest ended up being a great way to convince those who signed up to attend and discover what else was in store.”
Takeaway: Use pre-event social media contests as teasers to entice those who signed up to actually attend.
According to Jessica, your hybrid event should definitely have asynchronous elements. Why?
“Because asynchronously simplifying will make things easier on you. We ultimately ended up scheduling six individual events over the course of 24 hours, which is a lot to coordinate. And while I’m proud of what we accomplished, looking back, if we’d created more asynchronous content, we would have made the planning and execution much easier on ourselves. More importantly, based on the high number of on-demand views since the event ended, we realized that people are going to participate when it’s convenient for them.
While the day-of experience and reaching your audience in various formats is important, so is balancing all the demands of a multi-location hybrid event.”
Takeaway: Go easy on yourself; less is more, and asynchronous content is the key.
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but the focus should be on the words “collaborative” and “trust.” When your team can work closely with an A/V partner every step of the way, you can ensure that the end result will be exactly what you envisioned from the start.
“Having a partner that you work with hand-in-hand, from the pre-event planning phase to the event’s end, is important to ensuring the desired end result is achieved. And what I mean by that is, there needs to be a spirit of collaboration and active communication from the outset. We were fortunate to partner with an A/V company that did an amazing job and was great at communicating with us, making sure we were on the same page about how the event would come together. This did a lot to reassure us that they would be able to get it all done and do an amazing job.”
Takeaway: Look for an A/V partner who will value transparency, clear communication, and active collaboration.
It might be tempting to try to replicate the experience that in-person attendees have for those who are engaging virtually or vice-versa, but ultimately, this can be more of a hindrance.
“There truly are two separate audiences that you’re trying to engage during a hybrid event. You have to create different experiences for both of them because they’re in different settings.
And while we kinda knew this going into the event, we really learned the ways that this manifested. For example, with contests that we set up online, our virtual audience loved them and leaned heavily on the chat feature; however, our in-person attendees really embraced face-to-face networking. Everything isn’t going to translate, and that’s ok.
Takeaway: Don’t feel obligated to replicate what you do in one space, in the other. Make the variety part of the excitement of the event.
“We kicked off this event wanting to do something that was large in-person and even bigger virtually. And then Omicron hit and we had to think safety first, so we scaled down. And as someone who comes from a background of managing and executing large events, I think, in this time and place, smaller, regional events are better.
We used to pack people into ballrooms with those little ballroom chairs, but for this event, we had big, comfy chairs and curated the space to have more of a loungy, relaxed feel instead of a conference feel, and that made a noticeable difference. We got great feedback from everyone there. Quality over quantity was a winning strategy.
And as a result, it felt less risky because it was smaller and you could connect with people a little bit more intimately with less people in person.”
Takeaway: Focus on the experience rather than the attendance number. Create a unique vibe for the in-person that feels thoughtful, intimate, and most importantly, safe.
In 2022, for event professionals, being prepared to make changes has to automatically be part of how you plan your events. What exactly does this mean?
“With MIX 2022, as I stated earlier, Omicron hit and we had to shift gears because of that. Then, there were the global conflicts happening that impacted us having to shift again. It became clear that being ready for shifts was just the name of the game. No way could we have anticipated what has happened in the last month on a global scale, on top of the pandemic. We still don’t fully know what’s going to happen. And so we have to recognize that everything that’s happening in the world means that you really have to stay on top of having your Plan B. This includes a backup plan, but also, as the event organizer, mentally preparing to go with the flow of whatever comes your way.”
Takeaway: Be mindful of outside factors that may influence an event. It’s imperative that you put plans and resources in place to be ready if a last-minute shift is necessary.
Moore that is. Emcees can truly make or break the mood and engagement of your attendees, whether virtual or in-person.
“If you go back and watch something on demand, maybe you’re just watching that particular session. But for a live experience, when we wanted people to be engaged, she really tied it all together. Rachel connected with the audiences both virtual and in-person. Sometimes she’d talk while a session was happening, or when the virtual audience went to break she’d be giving directives to the in-person audience. She was just so personable and that was huge.
On top of that, Rachel had a co-moderator, Sabrina Meyers, who made the experience even better because there was that banter that broke up the session content and ensured that both physical locations got on-screen time.”
Takeaway: Choose an emcee who can get the audiences hyped, while seamlessly managing the demands of tech, fielding questions virtually, and keeping the in-person audience dialed in.
“One of our venues did not have the best Wi-Fi and we didn’t plan for that because we just assumed based on their location that the Wi-Fi would be fine. In the end, everything worked out, but we ended up having to bring in extra bandwidth for our attendees so they wouldn’t be on the same network as the live stream.
Picking a venue from the outset that understands the technology needed for hosting hybrid experiences (meaning they’re equipped with more than the most basic Wi-Fi), is really important. The mathematics of a hybrid event – attendees interacting, downloading, engagement, and live streaming – takes serious bandwidth. So make sure your event’s internet capability needs are addressed and that you have more than one channel to cover what your live stream and your attendees’ engagement will require.”
Takeaway: Pick a venue prepped for your hybrid experience and be sure to communicate clearly to them your vision for your event. HINT: Two internet streams are better than one.
The amount of personal data that Hubilo was able to glean from this event was tremendous.
“Be able to use your event data to produce personalized post-event follow-ups. Your event data is going to tell you who attended in-person and who attended virtually. It allows for targeted messaging that has a more conversational tone and makes for better sales engagement after the event has ended.”
Takeaway: Partner with an event planning source who will help you analyze your event data and compile reports that you can use to nurture attendees and close deals. Follow-up is everything!
“Ultimately, we aimed high and we executed. We didn’t know it at first, but we dreamt that it was possible, and we succeeded in our goals.
As a team that collaborates and works well together, dedicated to giving our audience an entertaining, insightful, and engaging experience, we went for it. From the start, we were ambitious with our global target registrations. And in the end, not only did we hit that number, we surpassed it by 25%!”
Takeaway: You’ve heard the inside scoop from Jessica, now it’s your turn! Dream the possible for your hybrid event.
Be sure to check out the on demand recording of MIX 2022 and get even more actionable insights, from the event experience itself to the panel discussions and topics covered.