3 Hybrid Event Formats to Steal

February 22, 2022

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There’s an elephant in the room. Between virtual and onsite, there’s an event format lurking in the corner that everyone has been dying to try, but is it possible? The hybrid wave began nearly a year ago as event professionals and industry leaders looked at the data and volleyed for an event option to decrease virtual fatigue, increase attendance, and reach larger audiences. You may be asking yourself: Is hybrid still the way to go?

We believe that hybrid is here to stay because it never truly left.

What is a hybrid event?

Hybrid events are, at their core, a bridge between an onsite event and a virtual audience. Hybrid has been around for years, but the industry used other different names for these events. Meredith Shottes, CXO of Miller Tanner Associates, was a part of a team who, in 2002, hosted a hybrid event with polling and advanced (for its time) audience response systems in an event to announce the new M&M color. Check out a commercial for the event from Taiwan!

You can learn more from Meredith and hear her story live through MPA University’s Hybrid Master Class. If you miss a session, don’t fret. You can watch on-demand. Register now to connect with peers and industry leaders and learn from the Masters of hybrid.

Why host a hybrid event?

There are plenty of reasons why your organization would choose a hybrid versus strictly on-site or fully virtual, including:

  1. To extend your event’s reach

The data doesn’t lie. With a hybrid event, you can double (and triple) your attendee list, especially if you incorporate translation and learning tools for a global audience. With a proper marketing and sponsorship plan and the right event tech partners, your hybrid event could exceed expectations for both your organization and your attendees.

  1. To boost ROI

Like in #1, extending your event’s reach will bring in sponsors that may not be able to make the onsite event and vice versa. Offering packages ranging from onsite and virtual booths, ROS banners, and in-program virtual videos between presentations will boost demand for high sponsorship package options. This not only boosts your organization’s ROI, but your sponsors and exhibitors too. Revenue goals need to be met, and while hybrid events may cost more than strictly onsite or fully virtual, there is potential for a higher ROI, as well.

  1. To offer a safe event experience for all, no matter their comfort levels

Let’s face it – the world created by COVID-19 can be scary! Some attendees may be ready and willing to jump back into live events, tired of watching screens and not knowing their co-workers in person, but others may still be nervous about variants, be at-risk themselves or live with others who are, and simply cannot take the risk of attending a live event, even if safety protocols are in place. Offering a virtual option, even if it’s only video, brings your audience together and ensures an individual who wants to attend, can.

3 hybrid event formats:

The Hybrid Experience:

The hybrid experience encompasses your onsite features (registration, check-in, badge printing, mobile app, and more) along with a complete virtual engagement platform for your virtual attendees. The hybrid experience is the full package and a true bridge between your onsite and virtual attendees. Your onsite attendees have the same viewing options as your virtual audience, and your virtual audience can communicate, interact with, and view all sessions your onsite attendees have, too. The hybrid experience brings the show to life in the comfort of your virtual audience’s own home, office, or Starbucks! Your event technology partner will be able to offer ARS and polling available to both the mobile app and the virtual platform, gamification options, networking rooms, chat sessions, and interactive messaging features (like Stova Join!) to bring your virtual audience into the onsite event. Connecting your mobile app to your virtual engagement platform provides a truly connective hybrid experience for all guests.

The Onsite Goes Virtual:

The  next type of hybrid event is an event set in one space, with all hosts and presenters onsite with minimal in-person attendees. This type of hybrid event would have a hybrid studio and the bulk of attendees streaming through a virtual platform. In this event, there is no need for a mobile app or onsite check-in features, and instead focuses efforts on how to bring the speakers and the virtual audience together with ARS tools, Q&A sessions, and other features. This hybrid event is a good option if you need to pivot to a more virtual space due to changing regulations. The key for this hybrid event to succeed is working with an event technology software partner that can build your virtual platform to sustain more guests than you originally planned for your initial fully hybrid experience! If this option is utilized, it’s also extremely important to be aware of event timelines. The likelihood of a tech partner to be able to swap to a fully virtual event within a month successfully is small, so planning is necessary. Add the postponement, cancellation, or pivot decision-making process into your risk assessment drills when you begin to talk to tech partners. They will thank you, and your stakeholders will, too!

Onsite, On-demand:

Another type of hybrid event you can consider is an onsite event with only on-demand content for your virtual audience. This type of hybrid event is fully onsite, provides onsite attendees with mobile apps and electronic check-in features with badge printing and QR code technology, but the virtual platform is built to host the live sessions for a virtual audience only. In this environment, there is no true bridge between a virtual audience and an onsite attendee, ARS, and polling options are only available after the live sessions end for virtual attendees, and your virtual audience is comprised of most individuals who were not in the in-person space, do not necessarily care for networking or chat options, and simply want to learn from industry professionals. This hybrid event does not focus on engagement or connectivity and mostly focuses on the onsite attendee experience.

There is no correct form of hybrid event for your event, but there are clear options available for hybrid event goals and timelines. When you discuss with your event technology provider, make sure to ask about timelines and pivoting options. The right tech partner will be able to work with your events’ goals and walk you through the entire process, discuss options, and create a hybrid environment that your attendees want to come back to even after the last session ends.

For more information, contact us today and see how Stova is more than just a contingency plan, we’re your partner when you need to pivot. Hybrid doesn’t fit in a box, unless you need it to.

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