Virtual events have been key during the COVID-19 pandemic. Early adopters and virtual-averse companies alike have incorporated the technology into their strategies to help keep the wheels turning. According to our numbers, there were 2,316,074 ClickMeeting events in 2020—compared to just 627,033 events the year prior. 

And now that some companies are returning to work, and in-person activities are slowly starting to resume in some parts of the world, businesses are looking for ways to combine the virtual and in-person experiences. That’s where hybrid events come in. 

What is a hybrid event?

A hybrid event is a live event which combines in-person and virtual elements so attendees can participate regardless of where they are. Hybrid events could be meetings, training sessions, workshops, conferences, trade shows, seminars, and any other type of event you might hold for your business. 

Each hybrid event is different. In some cases, businesses may add a virtual component to what is typically an in-person event—maybe to enhance the experience for in-person attendees, to make the event accessible to more people (47% of organizers say hybrid events connect international audiences), or as a result of restrictions for in-person events due to the pandemic. In other instances, an online-only event may be expanded to include an in-person component. There are infinite possibilities when it comes to structuring a hybrid event. 

Hybrid events have essentially been around once virtual events hit the scene, but they’ve recently picked up traction as the world balances lockdowns and “returning to normal” in COVID-19 times. One survey found that, currently, 63% of companies with 2000–5000 employees use hybrid events, as well as 71% of organizations with 5000+ employees. And more than a third of event planners and marketers plan to incorporate more hybrid events in the future. 

Hybrid event production: tips for hosting your own

Many businesses are starting to realize the benefits of hybrid events too—as many as 86% of B2B organizations earn a positive return on investment (ROI) seven months post-event, and 45% aim to hit a 3x ROI a year later. So exactly do you host your own hybrid events while optimizing ROI? 

It all starts with making a plan and staying organized. Hybrid events are often more complicated to plan than online-only events and in-person events. You’re not only planning for both logistically, but you’re also tasked with restructuring the event so as to make it engaging and valuable for two very distinct audiences with two very distinct experiences. In fact, 38% of event organizers believe you need more prep time to host hybrid events. 

Below, some tips to help you stay focused and pull off a successful hybrid event of your own. 

Determine how you’ll measure event success

Goal-setting is often the first step in any business initiative, and it’s certainly the case with hybrid events. It starts with knowing your overarching business goals, and then mapping your hybrid event goals to support those larger initiatives. As many as 94% of B2B hybrid event organizers cite “pipeline generated” as their top key performance indicator (KPI)—essentially looking at how many leads the event sends to their sales pipeline. 

You’ll also want to measure general event engagement statistics to gauge success: 

  • Event attendance and attendance rate
  • Attendee satisfaction; 89% of organizers use this to measure hybrid event success
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS), analyzed by nearly a quarter of organizers

You can find out a lot of this information through attendee surveys and polls. Some hybrid and virtual events platforms also offer analytics tools and integrations. ClickMeeting, for example, has a strong Google Analytics integration. With it, you can see user behavior on your registration form, in the waiting room, and on the thank-you page.

Set up your tech

With hybrid events, you need to think about the technology for both your virtual attendees and your in-person attendees. Getting the tech right is concerning for two-thirds of event organizers, and a third have had hybrid events with connectivity issues. Despite this, only 12% have a backup plan for WiFi. Technical problems can negatively impact the attendee experience, and in severe cases, it may put a stop to the event altogether. 

When searching for your hybrid events platform, look for a tool that can host small and large scale virtual events. ClickMeeting, for example, has features that allow you to make your online conference as appealing as the onsite one. You can broadcast various sessions and break your event into smaller groups for both in-person and online participants. 

Choosing the time and place for your hybrid event

There are two “place” considerations for every hybrid event: the physical and the virtual. Physically speaking, you’ll need a space that can accommodate your attendees, presenters, and live streaming. But finding the right spot is easier said than done—in fact, 35% of event organizers find it challenging to choose the right venue. 

When it comes to “time,” you’ll want to prioritize in-person attendees but also balance the needs of your virtual folks. Consider where participants are located. If you’re training a group of new hires who are all in the same state, some at home and some in-office, this is more straightforward. But events that hit attendees across time zones and international borders are a  bit trickier. Nearly half of organizers find it difficult to schedule hybrid events with international attendees in different time zones.

If you’re dealing with complex scheduling, you have a few options: 

  • Host multiple events for different time zones (note this isn’t always feasible)
  • Target a specific geographic area when promoting your hybrid event
  • Survey the location for your registrants and accommodate the time that works best for the majority of the group

Connect virtual and in-person attendees

Perhaps the biggest and most prevailing challenge for hybrid events is balancing the needs and building the bridge between in-person and virtual attendees. If you’re stuck here, you’re not alone. More than 70% of organizers identify this as their biggest challenge. And unfortunately, participants feel the disconnect: 39% of virtual participants don’t feel included. 

The main key is making the virtual component more than just a digital experience on the side. Instead, hybrid events need to incorporate virtual activities into the onsite experience, as well as connect attendees on both ends without taking away from the in-person potential. 57% of respondents say they would rather attend an in-person version of a hybrid event than the virtual version. 

Networking is a major factor for attendee satisfaction, so it’s important to build those opportunities into the experience. Use breakout rooms, create small groups, and encourage in-person attendees to use the digital tools to enhance their experience. Allow virtual attendees to participate in Q&As and polls, and give them the chance to broadcast in with their input. 

It’s also a good idea to create a digital space where event attendees can go at any time and connect with one another. You can also use a tool like ClickMeeting’s lobby to facilitate a flexible space for participants to connect. 

Prep your speakers

Many speakers are used to virtual- or online-only presentations—fewer are experienced with hybrid events. In fact, nearly half of event organizers cite speaker difficulty balancing both audiences. As such, it’s important to adequately prep your presenters so they’re aware of their two audiences. You might also offer ideas on how they can engage both groups equally, such as introducing them to the tools of your virtual events platform. 

Moving forward with your hybrid events

Hybrid events are here to stay, and it’s up to organizers to leverage tools and tactics that make a successful event for both on-site and online attendees. When putting together your own hybrid event, remember the following tips: 

  • Determine how you’ll measure success
  • Set up your tech stack
  • Choose the time and place for your hybrid event
  • Connect virtual and in-person attendees
  • Prep your speakers

Learn more about using ClickMeeting to host your next hybrid event >

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Posted by Alexandra Sheehan

Content Writer @ ClickMeeting

Time to move your events online. Do it with ClickMeeting

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