What is a hybrid event in the post-pandemic world: Complete guide

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27 min

Coworkers having a hybrid meeting

Event organizers have shown great resilience and agility since the pandemic hit. During the first wave of quarantine, 90% of event professionals experienced the loss of some or most of their businesses

However, this negative trend didn’t last for too long: the release of new health policies and the boom of virtual events helped us better adjust to the regulations and bounce back to connecting people in meetings. 

While 2020 was the year of virtual events, 2021 introduced a new trend – hybrid events. And an in-person event became not the only "good" option. According to our fellow experts on BizBash, hybrid events will be “the next normal,” so it’s only a matter of time until you decide to organize your first successful hybrid event in the post-pandemic world. 

What is a hybrid event?

Hybrid events are, simply speaking, a middle group between in-person and virtual events. They combine live event elements, such as in-person attendees, speakers, venues, and remote components like online participation for everyone, no matter the location.

For years, we focused on creating an ideal in-person event and an abrupt switch to a virtual event format. The meetings industry still hasn’t come to one universal definition of hybrid events, so we broke it down into two explanations: one from the participant's perspective and another from the event organizer’s side. 

Hybrid events from the participant’s perspective

Generally, the term ”hybrid” became popular when countries, states, or separate businesses started reopening after the first wave of the pandemic. While people from some locations could attend in-person events, others stayed in lockdown, hoping to join the events remotely. To unite the two audiences, event coordinators implemented a new setting where a part of the audience could participate in the meeting in person, and others could be virtual attendees. 

To cut a long story short, hybrid events are meetings where two different audiences can interact remotely and in person, enjoying equally high event experiences on par with fully virtual and in-person events.

But what does the second definition say?

Hybrid events from event the organizer’s perspective

From an organizer’s perspective, the word hybrid might have a different meaning. That is especially true when discussing global, multilingual events, such as conferences or international institution meetings, where interpretation services are a must.

There’s one example – interpreters used to work on-site. They can now work remotely through a virtual event platform, but the whole audience might still be participating in person. Would you call that a hybrid event? 

It might sound confusing at first, but yes, that is also a hybrid event! We have previously written about how remote simultaneous interpretation (RSI) has reshaped the definition of hybrid events, so you can read more about it here.

In other words, from an organizer's perspective, hybrid events are events with hardware integrations where interpreters can deliver interpretation both remotely and on-site. Interpreters who choose to stay at the venue use hardware interpretation consoles, while remote interpreters can provide interpretation from their favorite location via a virtual event platform.

Now that we have grasped an idea of what a hybrid event might be, we can dive deeper into the different types of hybrid events.

Types of hybrid events

green leaf plant with a video-conference in the background

Let’s think of some of the most common regular and hybrid event types: conferences, business meetings, panel discussions, seminars, workshops, festivals, or press conferences. The good news is that both, internal events that happen inside your organization and external events that attract attendees outside of your company, can be hybrid. Successful hybrid events are just a matter of preparation! 

Internal hybrid events

Most internal in-person events and virtual meetings happen in businesses and big organizations. Markletic research also shows that bigger companies are more likely to organize hybrid events. 63% of companies with 2000-5000 employees and 71% of companies with 5000+ employees already went hybrid in the past! 

What are the most popular internal hybrid events? 

  1. Governmental sessions. Governmental meetings play an important role in the democratic process. Such hybrid events are common in parliamentary and presidential systems where representatives participate in lawmaking, intense discussions, and voting procedures.
  2. Onboarding meetings. After the pandemic, more companies enabled a hybrid work mode, allowing their new employees to choose between working from home or the office. During the first weeks, newbie employees go through the process of hybrid onboarding, where they learn about the history of the company, meet different teams virtually and in person, and understand their position and general company requirements better.
  3. Brainstorming sessions. With distributed work mode, brainstorming sessions no longer look like they used to in the past. Hybrid brainstorming sessions allow both virtual and in-person attendees from different locations to connect, discuss ideas, and develop new solutions.  
  4. Team meetings. Hybrid team meetings unite employees in the office and at home in well-structured, recurring virtual events where each team member presents their tasks and results. This is also a great time for important internal announcements and changes to the team procedures.
  5. Training sessions. Hybrid training sessions allow you to invite external professionals to join remotely and interact with your in-person attendees. While your team can be on-site in the office, an invited speaker can present a keynote over a hybrid event platform without the need to travel for a physical event or meeting. Gaining knowledge and accelerating employees' professional growth is no longer limited to one place!

External hybrid events

While event organizers can hold some of the events mentioned below internally, they are usually open or targeted toward the public. 

What are the most popular external hybrid events? 

1. Conferences. Conferences usually take a few days and involve a wide range of lectures on a shared topic. Participants go to conferences to increase their knowledge and meet like-minded people. Hybrid conferences allow attendees to join the event remotely and in person, enjoying the conference in a format that works best for them. 

2. Speaker sessions. You could think of speaker sessions as small conferences. There are only a few keynote speakers during speaker sessions, but the intention is the same – to share knowledge on a similar topic.

3. Press conferences. During press conferences, companies provide official statements to the media representatives. Businesses organize press releases to announce new products or other important updates and generate publicity.

4. Product presentations and demonstrations. Huge corporations tend to organize annual events to showcase all of their new products in a single event. Product presentations are much bigger than press conferences and often include a general audience from the public. Imagine how many more people you can reach if you make your product demonstration hybrid?

5. Seminars and workshops. Seminars and workshops usually refer to small events for professional development on a particular topic. Both seminars and workshops tend to have no more than a few speakers and up to 20 participants. 

Just like internal events, external events are now shifting towards the hybrid setting. This way, event organizers can create successful hybrid events to reach a wider audience and increase the number of attendees

Advantages and disadvantages of hybrid events

Audience sitting at an event

Knowing both the drawbacks and benefits of hybrid events is essential before you set on a journey to prepare for your first hybrid meeting.

What are the benefits of hybrid events?

1. Increasing your reach and attendance 

It would be hard to accommodate thousands of people while organizing in-person events, but in a partially virtual event, the possibilities are endless. Even with a simple event setup, you can stream your event on social media channels to tens of thousands of attendees in any part of the world.

2. Engaging your participants 

Imagine this situation – during an on-site event, a Q&A session comes up, and people are simply scared to ask questions. You can solve this problem by allowing attendees to ask questions remotely. Remote meeting platforms, like Interactio, are implementing live polling and Q&A tools, and these are just a few ways that can increase engagement during hybrid meetings. 

3. Expanding your speakers network 

Make your hybrid meetings multilingual and invite talented speakers from the furthest corners of the world. With remote simultaneous interpretation services, they can speak in any language, and your audience will have no problem understanding them. 

4. Remaining flexible 

Planning an event takes months, so it’s hard to predict the weather conditions (or the quarantine regulations!) for the event day. Introducing a virtual component to your on-site event and allowing your in-person attendees to tune in online is a great backup plan to make your event happen despite all odds. 

5. Preserving the environment 

While virtual events have a long way to go before we can call them eco-friendly, in-person events leave an alarmingly high carbon footprint due to the frequent traveling of in-person attendees. One of the biggest benefits of hybrid events is giving your attendees an option to join the meeting remotely and avoid flying altogether. 

What challenges will I face when organizing a hybrid event?

1. Technological requirements. The most common challenge of hybrid events is to create a setting for your audience to join the event in person and virtually at the same time. Besides choosing a remote meetings platform, you’ll have to set up cameras and streaming equipment on-site. It might seem challenging if you’re doing it for the first time and you are only experienced in hosting in-person events. But don’t worry. Companies like Interactio can assist you in the whole process by providing on-site support, training, and tech monitoring!

2. Hybrid events might get costly. Prepare your budget in advance if you’re planning a hybrid meeting because it might require a higher monetary investment than a fully virtual or on-site event. Want a little secret from our experience? Starting to plan at least 6 months prior to the event can help you cut the costs by at least 20%. 

3. Limited engagement. During your first hybrid event, it’s easy to forget to interact equally with your virtual and in-person audience. The experience and audience engagement are simply different from your traditional live event. Dedicate separate professionals (hosts or moderators) for the setting and virtual elements to take care of your online attendees and raise the satisfaction rate. 

How to get started with a successful event?

Two pens near MacBook Air and a phone

A hybrid event combines a live event engagement in person with a virtual component and an online audience. The attendees in hybrid meetings, whether virtual or in-person, engage with each other and participate in all activities. 

Keep in mind that hosting a hybrid event doesn't necessarily mean having a live stream.

Depending on the event goals, this can be a live or recorded event. Combining live and virtual experience is crucial to creating an interactive experience regardless of the attendees' location.

Hybrid meetings are an inclusive event format and offer more flexibility for all the attending parties. Event organizers can retain the crucial human element of social meetings while still leveraging the unique benefits of pulling in a virtual audience. 

Create exciting content and buzz around it

A hybrid event is like any other virtual meeting where you need to get the audience immersed in the entire event experience. One of the best ways to realize this is by creating a buzz for your future events. This can be done through social media or any other existing network connecting all the prospective attendees.

The more attendees become excited about attending the event, the more they'll spread the word via their private channels. But first, there's a need to leverage user-generated content strategy for a greater chance of succeeding in hybrid event planning.

Drawing the attendees into the event experience requires attractive and engaging content. Planners should establish the type of content that appeals to and stirs the interest of the target audience. This should be followed up by adopting different content delivery formats such as webinars, talks, and panel discussions for effective presentation to the attendees.

Choose a location and technology to use

A hybrid meeting requires both a good physical venue and a tech stack for the virtual experience. The best venue idea may range from the company's headquarters to hotel meeting rooms. Co-working spaces and event halls also provide a great alternative if other explored options are limited.

Choosing a location should also be based on the experience you're looking for. For instance, the virtual aspect of the hybrid event requires a site with good design and settings for an effective virtual experience. This will enhance video and audio capture and transmission to the virtual event platform. 

If possible, a preliminary analysis to establish whether audio-visuals (AV) are necessary at the venue is also key in ensuring seamless interaction for all the event attendees.

Navigate time zones

The biggest advantage of holding a hybrid event is that participants can attend virtually from any global location. Both the in-person and virtual audiences are not limited by distance for seamless interaction. However, one factor that poses a risk to the success of such an event is the variation in time zones.

It may be difficult to accommodate virtual attendees with varying time zones. The best time for virtual audiences joining from Europe may not align with the preferred time for the North American online audience. In such cases, event organizers can resort to offering the recorded sessions for virtual attendees on-demand

Alternatively, offer the same session live numerous times so the audiences can attend at a time that works for them. For better chances of success, hybrid event planners should provide clear communications so attendees can plan accordingly. This will help evade confusion and allow the audiences to plan for the best time to join the live experience.

Accompany on-demand deals alongside live experience

The virtual aspect of a hybrid event allows organizers to offer on-demand content after the event has ended. What's more, both the online audience and in-person attendees can benefit from this type of programming.

This is a crucial step toward capitalizing on the benefits of a hybrid event. The live event recordings should be available in a place where they can be accessed long after your event is over.

Similarly, the content should be as evergreen as possible and align with the event's theme to increase engagement and lead generation. To achieve this, a space that can broadcast new material all year long and keep attendees engaged will suffice. 

It also helps if the content is repurposed into new resources for an active integration into future hybrid events' marketing strategies.

Find partners to work with

Bring in sponsors and partners early enough and benefit from their input to make a hybrid event more successful. This may range from funding promotional banners in the early preparation stages to sponsored presentations and demos.

For instance, partnering with large corporations comes in handy if the hybrid event targets a larger audience and a wider virtual reach. The same applies when there are gifts and giveaways for speakers and attendees. A good partner will surely help offset a few of these expenses and help save on excess expenditures.

Partners are a welcome addition in navigating all the possible unknowns of hybrid event planning. By allowing them on board, event planners can effectively increase the return on investment for the hybrid event and gain a new perspective on approaching the entire process.

How to organize a hybrid event

Five people in the conference room

Here are the 4 main things you should keep in mind while organizing a hybrid event. 

Own your hybrid event organization process

It’s no secret that starting early gives you the benefit of being flexible and adjusting to the new challenges. Events industry professionals usually suggest that people begin planning an event 6 months in advance, but it could take even more time for hybrid meetings. Of course, smaller events won’t require half a year (an internal hybrid meeting with 20 people doesn’t need more than a month to prepare), but leaving some space for negotiations is essential.

Ensure that you have all the milestones ready to test – prepare your equipment, instruct your technical team, make sure to sign all the contracts beforehand, brief your partners and speakers, and instruct your audience on the possibilities of attending the event on-site and remotely.

Before the event begins, be ready to implement a plan B. If your top speaker has an emergency and can’t join the conference, kickoff an activity for your audience – an icebreaker or a speed networking session. Keep monitoring your audience at all times, pay attention to their reactions and emotions and, if needed, just play some music between the sessions – both on-site and virtually.

Develop your event goals

The secret to planning a successful meeting resides in establishing why you want to host a hybrid event in the first place. Don't rush to plan and recreate a hybrid meeting just because you've heard of its benefits from event professionals. It's crucial to know what you're doing before designing the desired experiences.

Set clear goals as well as the required resources and determine how to achieve them. Critical questions to help you get started include: 

  • Who is the event for? 
  • What will the attendees learn? 
  • Where will the event happen?
  • When will it happen?

A successful hybrid event depends on the effort put into carefully planning both physical and virtual events. Knowing how to run them simultaneously is even an added advantage.

Have a detailed event plan

Developing a detailed event plan involves finding meaningful and engaging hybrid event ideas. That is, creating a hybrid meeting that's tailored to the audience's needs and expectations. The plan should have all details for keynote speakers, the timing of the sessions, and a host of other immersive experiences.

Remember: hybrid meetings, like any other event, provide a perfect time for participants to network. That's why there's a need for event organizers to create the best environment for each audience. It's an occasion to plan on bringing the two sets of attendees together rather than socially isolating them.

Accommodate two different hybrid event audiences

According to a Markletic survey on hybrid events, as much as 72% of respondents believe that they “will get more value out of attending a hybrid event in-person.” Don’t let this objection slide, and get ready to highlight the solutions for both audiences during the promotion period. If you want your virtual attendees to be as satisfied as the on-site participants, consider these three tips: 

1. Prepare exclusive content for virtual participants 

Before an event, make sure to prepare instructions on how to log in virtually and listen to the interpretation if it’s available. You can go one step further and provide your online participants with an exclusive experience if you invite special guests to interact with your virtual audience. 

2. Connect both of your audiences 

Don’t forget about the importance of connecting your in-person and virtual attendees to exchange ideas and network. Conduct live polls/surveys, open Q&A sessions, and invite your in-person participants to interact with your online listeners via chat. To further the exclusive experience we mentioned before, you can customize the answers to match the setup of your attendees. Finally, consider presenting separate polling results for remote and on-site audiences to spark dialogue or a discussion. 

3. Personalize the experience 

Remember that your virtual attendees have a lower attention span than your on-site participants. To balance out the engagement, allow more breaks, address the participants online every now and then, introduce engaging activities, and thank them for being inclusive. 

Prepare your hybrid event speakers

People having a conference

Preparing your speakers is one of the most challenging tasks while organizing a hybrid event. We have all grown up in a world full of on-site events, and it seems that you have to be technologically savvy to be a lecturer on a virtual section of a hybrid event. 

However, it is not true!

First of all, reassure your speakers and be extra supportive if they lack confidence. Explain that you can assist them with anything! Companies like Interactio provide comprehensive technical training for all speakers. Being a master speaker online is more than pressing a few buttons – it’s a full immersive experience we’re excited to prepare you for. 

Additionally, instruct your attendees on the importance of using a quality headset and microphone to provide the best audio experience possible. Consider sending your speakers a package of critical equipment and instructions on how to use it. 

Check all the technical things

A person using a black audio equalizer

Equipment, equipment, and once again – equipment. Hiring an external tech team will save up time and trouble if you’re not the most tech-savvy person in the room. RSI providers like Interactio take care of all the technical cues and provide dedicated support throughout the whole event duration.

Remember, we told you that many hybrid events go multilingual with the help of live interpretation services, right? This is where equipment requirements pile up!

To understand what equipment is best for your specific situation, check out our guide on events with simultaneous interpretation. All the hardware and software details are explained! 

How to scale your hybrid event with interpretation?

People writing at a cluttered desk

Setting up a hybrid event moves you one step closer to scaling up the attendance. Adding live interpretation to your future events puts you ten steps ahead of the competition. Why? Remote simultaneous interpreting helps you diversify your audience by bringing together people who speak different languages and come from different backgrounds. 

Remote simultaneous interpretation allows every attendee to receive live video & audio. This solution also enables interpreters, participants, and speakers to connect remotely from any place on Earth and interact in their language. While your on-site participants can enjoy audio interpretation from the phone, your virtual attendees can participate in the meeting via a video-meeting platform on their stationary devices.

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Updated on

Apr 24, 2022

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