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Hybrid events have been with us for many years. Some organisations have been producing them successfully for a long time. However, for many planners, hybrid events are something completely new. And we start to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, planners will need to add ‘hybrid events’ into their toolkit to compete and be relevant to their audiences.
But a hybrid event can mean a lot of different things. And it’s important to understand what kind of hybrid models organisers can choose from when planning for events this year. Let’s take a look.
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The beauty of hybrid events is that they enable in-person and virtual delegates to attend an event together. In effect, a hybrid is a combination event. And it’s important that your team, your client and your stakeholders all have the same understanding of hybrid to avoid any confusion.
A hybrid event is not an event where you have a studio presenter talking to a virtual audience. But it would be if the studio presenter had an in-person audience as well as virtual attendees. A hybrid event is not an in-person event with sharable recorded sessions. Or a virtual event with social media interactivity. A hybrid event combines both in-person and virtual elements and treats both live and online audiences equally.
Now that we understand what isn’t a hybrid event, let’s take a look at the three main hybrid event models that organisers can look into.
Related: The Pros and Cons of Hybrid Events
1. The Basic Hybrid Event Model
The most well known of the hybrid event models is the basic model. This has been dominant in pre-Covid times and will become popular again when delegates feel secure enough to travel.
The simplicity of this model makes it attractive to event planners. They simply bring in the technical crew to stream the content to the virtual delegates from the physical location that is being used for the in-person event.
2. The HQ and Hubs Model
A step on from the basic model is the version that includes hubs. Hubs are additional physical locations where in-person delegates meet. The hubs are smaller in size than the HQ (lead) venue which is used for streaming. As with the basic model, virtual delegates can attend too if they have a web-link.
Even though this model has a lead venue which is where the technical crew and streaming takes place from, there is opportunity for the hubs to run their own activities for delegates. This breaks the dependency on everything coming from the HQ venue.
This model means that the in-person delegates do not have to go to the main location. Therefore they have greater choice in deciding how much or how little travelling they want to do. Having hubs also adds another dimension to the attendee experience. It does of course result in additional complexity for the planner in producing the event.
3. The Multiple Hubs Model
The multiple hubs model is another option. It is an extension of the HQ and hubs version. In this model, you have a number of hubs where people meet in-person. The hubs are connected to each other through technology and as usual virtual delegates can participate as well.
This model requires a high degree of precision planning to ensure that all hubs understand how they are contributing to the production of the event. There is no single location from which the streaming is carried out.
The multiple hubs model is the one that is likely to be very popular over the next year or so, as lockdown bans are lifted and people start moving around more freely. Whilst people will venture out, the extent to how far they will go is less well known. Therefore, travelling a short distance to a local hub could easily be the way that delegates step into the new post Covid events world.
Passive Vs. Interactive Hybrid Events
Whichever of the three models you choose, you will need to make decisions on how passive or interactive you want your hybrid event to be. This will depend on several factors but ultimately it comes down to what you are seeking to achieve in terms of event objectives. And of course, you should consider your understanding of your delegates and how they best respond to new ideas and new ways of participating at an event.
There are no rules stating that a hybrid event has to be super interactive. Some hybrid events can be passive. For example, the virtual delegates could just enjoy the content that is streamed to them. This is perfectly acceptable. It works well for some events, where the focus is to give information and not to encourage questions or comments. Think of airline safety announcements on flights. They never encourage interaction and it wouldn’t make sense for them to do so. What sessions do you have where passive viewing would work best?
Equally, your hybrid event can be as interactive as you want to make it. The virtual delegates can become involved in a variety of ways. They can be encouraged to send in questions, get involved in chats and participate in group tasks that involve both in-person and virtual attendees. All you need to do is to design your event that allows for them to participate without any ‘user’ obstacles.
Conclusion – Understanding Your Hybrid Event Objectives
The skill in producing a great hybrid event is in understanding what your objectives are. Whilst hybrid events may puzzle, they may also dazzle. They look new and exciting. But ultimately hybrid events are an industrial strength vehicle for you to draw on to help your organisation achieve its objectives. Not only can you bring in-person and virtual delegates together, but you can also do so in any of the three flavours we have outlined. You have choice when it comes to working out what level of interaction is needed. It is worth remembering that the interaction levels can be different for your programmes and for your hubs.
When it comes to hybrid events there are no set of rules to follow or adhere to. You are free to make your own choices. Just keep in mind the objectives that need to be achieved and you will be well on your way to maximising the ROI of your events.
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