A hybrid event can technically be anything from a football match – where there are in-person attendees and people watching on live TV – to a three-person business workshop where one attendee video-dials in. In this sense, we’re all far more used to hybrid events than we may realise. Take, for example, the judge on the hit TV talent show that live-streams performances to their own personal Instagram audience. Or the sell-out solo artist who does the same mid-concert.
The basic concept of running an event with both in-person and virtual/live-streaming elements is far from a new one. But today, thanks to technology, it’s gaining serious traction. And of course, the concept’s been catalysed in recent months by the Covid-19 pandemic. Nobody could have predicted the profound difficulties the events industry would face in 2020 (alongside most industries). But the fact that large, close-knit gatherings are now out of the question for the foreseeable future has led to fast thinking and impressive innovations in the events world.
In this article, we’ll look at a few hybrid event fundamentals that can be adopted by anyone.
Don’t feel like it’s out of your reach
The important thing to remember is that, despite the futuristic sounding name, the concept of the hybrid event can be treated as a simple one that can be scaled up or down. From part-virtual yoga classes to (virtually) global businesses conferences, pretty much any kind of event can benefit from going hybrid.
Treat great tech as a priority, not a nice-to-have
Even if you’re running a ten-person exercise class with half of the attendees tuning in online, you’ll need to make sure you have the right tech to make it a great experience for everyone. For smaller events like these, it can be worth investing in things like higher-spec web cameras, professional lighting and a decent microphone. Just a few simple equipment upgrades could be enough to make the virtual side of your event really stand out, opening it up to a potentially vast new audience.
For larger events, consider partnering up with a virtual event expert who’ll be able to provide state-of-the-art equipment on a rental basis. Equipment you’ll need will include things l ike:
Cameras and tripods
A video switcher
A reliable streaming platform and possibly a server if the platform doesn’t provide this
Choose a hybrid-event friendly venue
Asides from the obvious things, like a reliable, high-speed internet connection, you’ll need to make sure your hosting venue is equipped to deal with a hybrid event.
Some key factors to consider here include:
Is there enough space for all of your cameras, lighting and other equipment?
Will the layout allow for camera-professionals to move around freely (if they need to)?
Will there be someone on hand to help you deal with any technical issues?
Can you hire the venue for enough time to run a few technical rehearsals?
Is there enough space at the venue for social distancing for the in-person attendees?
Treat your in-person and virtual attendees equally
Having a mixture of in-person and virtual event attendees makes things a little more complicated when it comes to things like breaks and Q&A sessions. Say, for example, in-person attendees get to network during an event break – what will your virtual attendees be doing at the same time?
For this reason, it’ll be crucial to make sure you have things planned for both audiences at every stage of your event. Organising separate Q&A and virtual networking sessions for online attendees could be one way to get around this. Alternatively, it could be a great idea to carry out a fully integrated Q&A session, where both in-person and online attendees are pre-selected to ask their questions in turn. This way, things can be kept streamlined and won’t get confused.
Promote your event’s Covid-secure benefits
An important selling-point for your hybrid event will be that people can enjoy it in a fully Covid-secure way. With less in-person attendees, social distancing will be easier, and those attending online can do so from the safety of their own home.
Big-up the live and interactive elements of your event
For things like hybrid music events, it’ll be crucial to make sure your online attendees feel as though they’re getting something truly special – not just another video they could have watched on YouTube. To make your event stand out from the usual music (or comedy, or whatever else) coverage they’re used to seeing, big-up live and interactive elements as much as possible.
You could interact with your online audience by letting them make requests and ask questions, for example – which is sure to lead to a more memorable experience than if they were to simply watch on silently.
It could also be a good idea to leave some room for improv in these kinds of events (even if it’s staged!). In short: make sure your virtual attendees are aware that they’re getting an exclusive, personal experience, rather than a performance that feels more like a recording.
The term ‘hybrid event’ may feel a little fad-y right now. And it’s true, the phrasing itself may change as we get more and more used to the concept. But while the coinage may not last forever, it’s hard to imagine a future where events don’t incorporate different modes of attendance as a matter of course. In that respect, we reckon the hybrid event is well and truly here to stay.