What is a hybrid event?
While adoption of virtual events has grown in popularity especially over the pandemic times, staging in-person events continues to be an important channel for reaching and engaging with audience. But with the world in varying degrees of Covid recovery and restrictions (some countries fully opening up, while others taking the cautious approach) – what’s an event organizer supposed to do?
Enter the hybrid events. These are events that are staged using a combination of face-to-face and online elements. They give organizers the benefits of 1) reaching a wider audience by providing them with dual options for participating, 2) offering unique connection opportunities and 3) extending the life of an event.
But is it really the best of both worlds that we think of it to be? Is it double the effort, double the gain? Or will it bring you dual risks and losses instead? In this blog, we discuss the top 5 hybrid event mistakes organizers and marketers make, plus tips on how to avoid them.
Top 5 Hybrid event mistakes & tips to avoid them
Hybrid events can be further categorized into two types: simultaneous and delayed. Simultaneous is considered to be the “truest” form of hybrid event where both the in-person and the virtual elements are held at the same time. Meanwhile other hybrid events have the face-to-face element held separately and then recorded for sharing at a later time – whether at a specific fixed time, or on-demand over a period of time.
Whatever type of hybrid event you stage, make sure to watch out for these top 5 mistakes:
1. Not planning properly
As with any type of event, it all starts with a clear plan – even more so for hybrid events. Improper planning can lead to the following disastrous results:
- Unclear objectives = unmet targets – What results do you target to get from the face-to-face element versus the online component of your hybrid event? If this question is not clearly defined at the start of the planning process, then it is very unlikely for you to be able to set in place the appropriate measures and processes to achieve the outcomes you want.
- Confusing content (and pricing) – Imagine signing up for a hybrid event and expecting to access the same content whether you attend online or in-person but finding out on the event day itself that this is not the case. Or looking forward to listening to a prominent speaker but getting the schedule mixed up – for example expecting a simultaneous webcast of the in-person conference but finding out that it will instead be shared at a later time or date, or even not at all available to online attendees. This will result to a very disappointing attendee experience – and will likely happen if you do not plan and promote your hybrid event properly.
For paid events, hybrid event organizers and marketers should be extra careful with how much to charge for tickets and be very clear on what the audience can access with their ticket type (whether face-to-face or online only, or access to both in-person and online content).
- Not enough time for rehearsals or testing – This can happen when you plan too late, or when you did not anticipate the complexities of planning a hybrid event. Rehearsals and testing are super important to ensure that the events run smoothly and on schedule, and that any problems – especially technical ones – can be avoided or at least, anticipated with proper support and backup plans put in place.
To avoid this key mistake, make sure you set enough time before the event to properly plan for it. If you can, allocate double the amount of time it takes you to plan for an in-person event – especially if this is your first time to do so. Once the plan is in place, assign two separate teams to look after the face-to-face and online elements of your hybrid event. But make sure these two teams also work together closely so that their actions are cohesive and remain true to the plan, there’s no unnecessary doubling of efforts and that both sides are aware of what the other is doing. Prepare and follow a checklist of things to do and milestones to meet at a given schedule. This checklist will be helpful not just for the upcoming hybrid event you are planning to hold (to make sure you don’t miss any important details) – but also can be used as template for planning your future events.
Lastly, check out our three-part Virtual Event Playbook to learn more about the planning you need to do before, during, and after a virtual event.
2. Not engaging with your venue and virtual platform partners
The event experience you can deliver to your in-person and online attendees can be largely affected by what your venue and virtual event platform providers can offer. Make sure both partners can support your end-goals. Do you need to have your virtual event attendees interact with the in-person event speakers and/or participants? What engagement tools do you need? What actions need to be tracked, measured, and analyzed?
Likewise, your chosen venue should also have the infrastructure required to support your hybrid event needs. Having a venue with a good A/V system is no longer adequate. Can the venue support free (and steady) WiFi connections for your attendees to use a mobile app to check in a conference, participate in an online poll, and/or engage with online participants?
To avoid disappointments and mishaps when staging your hybrid event, you need to engage and collaborate with your venue and virtual platform partners in the early stages of your hybrid event planning. This allows you to understand their capabilities – and maybe even learn about new features and offers that you didn’t know they have. Also, make sure that you and your partners are clear about the technical support and backup plans that are needed and will be provided before, during and after the hybrid event.
Related post: Read our blog on the 8 Most Popular Online Conferencing Tools / Platforms to learn more about the features and functions you should look out for when choosing your virtual event platform.
3. Treating both audiences the same
In an ideal world, one can hold a hybrid event and all the attendees will have the exact same experience no matter they attended in-person or online. However, we are far from being in an ideal world. There are elements of face-to-face events that may not work for online, or vice-versa. Take for example the presentation length. For in-person events, one can get away with in-depth discussions that may take more than an hour – especially if you have high-profile, engaging presenters. It is also possible to run a full-day agenda, with some breaks in between. For virtual events, this will be a big no-no with distractions and screen fatigue just some of the hurdles the online attendees need to contend with.
Attendees of face-to-face events share the collective experience (and enthusiasm) of being in the same event (venue) helping them to focus and “be present” in the event. Meanwhile online participants usually attend on their own and thus feel less excited and engaged.
In order to avoid this trap of treating both audiences the same, having two separate teams to plan the in-person and virtual elements of your hybrid event is crucial (as previously mentioned in item 1). Having an audience-focused mindset is also important. Imagine being in the shoes of a face-to-face event attendee versus an online participant when making hybrid event decisions like schedule and agenda, presentation topic and length, engagement measures and success KPIs, among other things.
4. Disregarding online attendees
While treating the two types of audience the same can lead to mistakes, so too will treating them too differently to the point that one audience type is regarded as less important than the other. Here are some mistakes that hybrid event organizers commit than can make online attendees feel disregarded and less valued:
- Engaging with and getting feedback from in-person attendees only – It’s very easy to make this mistake and forget the online attendees when asking for a quick show of hands (poll) or when time is running out and you want to squeeze in a short Q&A session with the audience.
- No networking opportunities – Attendee motivations are primarily the same whether for in-person or virtual events and networking opportunities are one of the top reasons many cite for attending. So in a hybrid event, why would you make it a part of the face-to-face element only and not for online?
- Giving out event souvenirs and “free gifts” to in-person attendees only – Event giveaways are meant to show appreciation to attendees. You’ll be sending the wrong message when you give out gifts and souvenirs to one group of attendees only, and not the other.
What can you do to avoid the above mistakes? Doing pre-event rehearsals is one way. Speakers and hosts should practice addressing both in-person and virtual attendees in their sessions. Rehearsals also help you manage your time properly, so you don’t run out of time and resort to “shortcuts” on your Q&A session (ie calling on in-person attendees only). Conducting a poll with virtual attendees take a bit more time than asking attendees to raise their hands. The speaker can conduct the poll at the start of his/her presentation to allow for time to collect and tabulate answers, and then share the results at the appropriate time in the presentation.
Also, plan to hire a virtual audience emcee to work alongside your face-to-face event host. Hiring a virtual emcee as a voice for the remote audience can help them feel that they are part of the action. The virtual emcee can also help to moderate the chat, monitor for questions and pro-actively send them to the speakers for their attention.
Working with your hybrid event platform partner to setup breakout groups for networking will also help. As for event giveaways, you can use digital-friendly gifts to your virtual audience like discount coupons, free download of whitepapers and ebooks and/or upgrades of products or services, among some examples. This way everyone can receive something, and no one feels less important or left out.
5. No back-up plan
Lastly, even the best planned event can still suffer from last-minute unfortunate surprises like technical glitches, speaker no-show or in-person event cancellation due to travel restrictions, city lockdowns or bad weather. Make sure you anticipate all these scenarios and prepare a plan B. And then immediately and clearly communicate these alternate plans to the affected audience.
Pro-tip: you can already include these alternate plans in your event FAQs. So if any of the unfortunate scenarios do happen, you have a ready answer and you can simply direct the audience to the relevant FAQ.
We hope this article has helped you learn more about hybrid events, especially the mistakes to avoid and how to deal with them. Check out other GEN Blogs available at https://globalexpo-net.com/blog/ for more articles and tips about virtual events.