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Top 4 Hybrid Events Mistakes and Tips on How to Avoid Them
Fearless forecast: the future of event industry formats will be hybrid. No, we didn’t just get this assumption out of nowhere. As a matter of fact, a study found that 50.7% or over half of marketers and advertisers expect that ALL future live events will have a virtual counterpart to it. And we’re not arguing with them about it.
Hybrid events open exciting new ways for event organizers to innovate, all while bringing endless possibilities to widen audience reach and engagement. You can literally get the benefits of both in-person and virtual events through it. What kind of marketer wouldn’t want that?
Then again, we know many event professionals are still trying to figure out this new format. It can be quite the challenge to set your event up for instant success. So, we’re here to let you in on some best practices.
For first-time and veteran organizers alike, below are the top 4 things you want to avoid when organizing a hybrid event, along with some tips on how you can avoid them.
1. Thinking it will take the usual amount of time and preparation as previous events
NOPE, it won’t. Hybrid events are much more complex than you think, and there will be a lot to consider. Below are just a few of the things—the basics—of what you need to work on:
- Choosing the right hybrid event platform with the proper features to support your event
- Training sponsors, guests and staff on how to use your hybrid platform
- Securing enough network bandwidth for event streaming
- Sourcing an in-person venue that can accommodate your events’ broadcasting needs
- Planning your event venue’s layout and how you will implement health and safety protocols with it
- Coming up with engaging programs and activities for both in-person and virtual attendees
- Figuring out how you can encourage different sets of attendees to interact with each other (more on this later)
- Scheduling dry runs and rehearsals to test equipment and broadcast quality
Just look at the amount of things you have to consider at the very least— do you really think your typical planning time range will be enough? Think again.
Our tips to avoid this:
Having said these, we recommend doubling the usual amount of time you prepare for an event. This is especially crucial for first-time hybrid event organizers who would have to get educated about a whole new arena of things. Since you essentially have to plan for not just one but two types of audiences, you really have to prepare waaaaay ahead of your normal time frame.
Be very specific about the event platform you will be working with. Make sure it has all the features you need to host the hybrid event you have in mind. It should support interaction between live and virtual audiences as well as be able provide detailed analytics.
One thing that may also take up time is finding a strategic in-person venue. Aside from a spacious venue for social distancing, a facility that has good power supply, signal and technical support is also ideal. You should also allot enough time for conducting dry runs or rehearsals where you can test your equipment in advance.
Yikes! Given all the things you need to do, you probably should start working now. No pressure though…
2. Going for a one-size-fits-all programme and agenda
As mentioned, organizing a hybrid event means planning for two audiences. Though the theme for both in-person and virtual attendees is the same, you should keep in mind that not every tactic and kind of content is going to be effective for both audiences.
Case in point: focusing on live talks or presentations may be easier for in-person attendees, while those attending virtually may need more curation. Networking is also proven to be more difficult for remote audiences compared to those who can easily chat with someone in a venue. Whereas, running polls may not be as feasible onsite as it was online.
Don’t think that your programme could be one-size-fits-all and that it would look good to everyone. When it comes to hybrid, live streaming your venue’s program to virtual attendees just won’t cut it.
Our tips to avoid this:
Pro tip: separate your team into two. Have one team focus on planning and handling the virtual experience and another team managing onsite operations. This allows you to come up with a strategy tailor-fit for the needs of each audience. No one should feel left behind or unattended to.
Provide customized content for each audience. Participants in the venue are more likely to sit through a one hour talk; but virtual attendees will need short, punchy and visually appealing content along with constant breaks to keep zoom fatigue at bay.
Also consider hiring two hosts for each counterpart- an onstage emcee to build hype within your physical event and a virtual host to moderate and keep chatting up remote attendees.
In short, don’t fall into the thinking that your physical and virtual counterpart should always be in sync. Change things up; diversify schedules and segments to accommodate each audience. Let them know that you have everyone’s best interests in mind.
3. Lacking cross-attendee networking opportunities
Bridging the gap between two types of attendees is at the core of every hybrid event. While we did advise you to treat live and virtual counterparts as separate audiences, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make opportunities for them to connect with each other.
Cultivating a friendly networking environment onsite is pretty easy. Chat boxes and breakout rooms for virtual attendees also aren’t bad for networking. But these can only do so much for encouraging interactivity between attendees in the venue and those behind their screens. You won't be staying true to the innovative quality of hybrid events if you’re lacking dynamic cross-attendee networking opportunities.
Nevertheless, we don’t blame you for forgetting or even wanting to do without this part of hybrid events. It can be quite tricky and we only have enough time and resources, right? But then some of you may already be aware of this need, but just don’t know how to execute it. Well then, our tips and ideas below may be of help.
Our tips to avoid this:
The solution is evidently to provide interactive activities between the two audiences. With the help of your event platform, you can provide in-person and virtual attendees access to the same networking platforms and tools. This will encourage crossover moments between the two as if they were passing by each other in event halls.
Arrange chat rooms and meeting rooms where a combination of onsite and remote attendees can interact. Have hosts and moderators facilitate interactions between two sets of attendees. They can be dedicated buffers that help find common ground between them based on their backgrounds and keep the conversation going. You can even host games that encourage teamwork between virtual and in-person participants.
For large hybrid events, consider putting a wide screen onstage so that online attendees can participate in presentations or ask questions to speakers. Keep your virtual audience engaged by hosting backstage tours in between sessions that get them in on the live festivities. Similarly, you can also provide access to an always-on livestream of your physical event to keep their FOMOs at bay.
If your budget permits (or if you have a generous tech sponsor), consider providing tablets to in-person attendees where they interact with online participants. Advanced features like this elevate overall event experience and set you apart from other hybrid events. It’ll be a win-win for everybody!
4. Not having a backup plan
With ever-changing travel and health restrictions, backup plans are more crucial than ever. In fact, it can even be said that hybrid events were borne out of the event industry’s need for a flexible backup format. But hybrid events need additional support, too!
There are a lot of things that can still go wrong *knock on wood.* Lockdowns can be imposed at the last minute if sudden surges occur. Some attendees, or maybe even your staff might not be able to make it. Signals and network bandwidth at your venue may also fluctuate due to unforeseen weather changes. And a whole lot more!
After doing all the work, you should, of course, hope for the best. Still, being prepared for the worst ensures that all the time and resources you’ve put into your event won’t go to waste in the blink of an eye.
Our tips to avoid this:
To avoid sudden cancellations and no-shows, we recommend having flexible ticket options. There may be onsite ticket holders who suddenly can’t make it or online participants who want to show up last minute. Therefore, you should provide easy ways for attendees to switch from in-person to virtual and vice versa.
Make upgrading or downgrading tickets seamless for participants. Consider allowing attendees to handpick which programs and activities to participate in since certain attendees may not be able to sit through the entire event.
In the venue, make sure you have a technical crew on standby to quickly attend to any error or difficulty that may disrupt your event. Also, have backup equipment and alternative internet routers with you so you can continue to stream your event. When worse comes to worst, be prepared to completely move your event online and make up for additional ticket charges to those who expected to be attending onsite. After all, the show must go on!