Are we limiting ourselves by not thinking outside the box on what a hybrid experience could look like? Our Director of Sales weighs in on the conversation surrounding the next big Event Industry pivot.
In the past year the most common refrain I’ve heard from event professionals, whether on a call with clients or at industry panels, is that the “future of events is hybrid.” Event planners are being cautioned to not miss out on the many benefits of hybrid events. My LinkedIn feed is currently flooded with articles on topics like:
- What is a hybrid event and how do you organize one?
- 18 hybrid event ideas
- Questions to ask before you plan hybrid events
- How do drive growth with hybrid events
Given that the present iteration of a hybrid event model is still in its infancy, conversations around the idea of “hybrid” are understandably limited to the “why” and “how to” of organizing hybrid events.
I want to push the conversation forward and address what is missing i.e. the need for a hybrid strategy, one that depending on the event planner’s needs, might not include hybrid events at all. That’s what I’m here to talk about.
Before I dive deeper, I’d like to begin by explaining what I mean when I say “hybrid strategy.”
What is a hybrid strategy?
A hybrid strategy is a long-term event strategy that includes hosting a mix of in-person and virtual events. Depending on the objectives of the event planner, it might or might not include hosting a hybrid event.
A hybrid strategy that doesn’t require hosting hybrid events might seem counterintuitive but at its core, a hybrid strategy is all about making the best of your IRL and virtual toolbox without feeling the need to use all of your tools every time you put together an event.
The purpose of a hybrid strategy is to use the tools you already have access to and tactics you have mastered to achieve your larger business goals and objectives throughout the year.
An example of a hybrid strategy could be to curate year-long event programming that includes hosting an in-person flagship event and then using recurring virtual events to continue engaging your audience throughout the year.
“At its core a hybrid strategy is all about making the best of your IRL and virtual toolbox without feeling the need to use all of your tools every time you put together an event.”
Why is it more important to build a hybrid strategy than to simply focus on hosting one-off hybrid events?
A hybrid event is a gathering that combines both virtual and in-person elements. In that sense hybrid events have existed for a long time. Think of any live event that streamed its content to audiences around the world – that was a hybrid event! The difference between hybrid events pre-covid and the ones currently envisioned by event planners lies in the connection piece between live and virtual attendees.
Unfortunately, as it stands now, this very connection piece is also the biggest challenge to hosting a successful hybrid event. Recent survey by Markletic revealed that 71.1% of event organizers say that connecting the in-person and virtual audience is their biggest challenge.
There are several challenges that need to be addressed to successfully design a hybrid experience that bridges the two audiences, like:
- Creating content that engages both in-person and live audiences
- Having the right audio-visual equipment and a production team with experience working at virtual and live events
- Selecting the right event technology platform to bridge virtual and in-person audiences
- Identifying venues with the wifi and bandwidth to support in-person attendees connecting with their virtual counterparts via video conferencing
Event technology providers (including us) are currently in the process of designing hybrid solutions. Here at e180, we also know that it takes a lot more than technology to design a successful experience that fulfills the objectives of both the event organizers and the participants.
We develop our product and services based on the current and evolving needs of our clients. In the past couple of months, I have heard many clients (current and prospective) express an anxiety over hosting hybrid events.
While the objectives behind hosting events have remained the same—brand awareness, lead generation, business development, product launches, customer engagement, etc—what has changed is that they now feel pressured to follow the status quo.
Unfortunately, many don’t have the resources (reduced budgets, smaller teams due to Covid-related layoffs) to host hybrid events that can successfully bridge the gap between live and virtual audiences.
This got me thinking: instead of stressing out over hosting a one-off hybrid event, why not “make the best of both worlds” by deploying a thoughtful year-long hybrid strategy instead?
Want the serendipity and magic of in-person encounters? Host in-person events that target audiences in specific regions.
Want to keep benefiting from the expansive reach of virtual events? Keep your community connected in between live events with virtual initiatives that attract people who couldn’t travel to your IRL gatherings.
So, why do I think it’s more important to have a hybrid strategy than to simply focus on hosting hybrid events? The short answer is…
“Many don’t have the resources to host hybrid events that can successfully bridge the gap between live and virtual audiences. So… instead of stressing out over hosting a one-off hybrid event, why not ‘make the best of both worlds’ by deploying a thoughtful year-long hybrid strategy instead?”
Hosting a hybrid event might not guarantee you achieve your objectives, but having a hybrid strategy sure will.
Event planners have mastered the art of hosting great in-person AND virtual experiences. So, if you’re reading this, know that you already have all the tools you need to achieve your objectives!
So, if you’re not ready to make the pivot to hosting hybrid events, you don’t have to. Contrary to popular opinion, you will not be missing out on the opportunities of hosting hybrid events IF you focus on developing a hybrid strategy instead.
The question I leave you with is what will a hybrid strategy look like for you? How can you use a mix of virtual and in-person events to achieve your objectives and help your attendees do the same?
“If you’re not ready to make the pivot to hosting hybrid events, you don’t have to. Contrary to popular opinion, you will not be missing out on the opportunities of hosting hybrid events IF you focus on developing a hybrid strategy instead.”
If that strategy includes also hosting a hybrid event, then I would be excited to give you a peek into Braindate’s hybrid solution and discuss how we can help your community learn from and meaningfully connect with each other. If you’re not ready for that solution yet, my team and I are also happy to brainstorm with you, and support you in developing a year-long hybrid strategy that best meets your needs.
This is an exciting time for all of us in the events industry. With this piece, I hope to expand the existing conversations around hybrid events and to push us to think more deeply about what a year-long hybrid experience can look like.
In my opinion, the future of events is much brighter when we think of it in terms of innovative, human-centric hybrid strategies, rather than just hybrid events.
Hungry for more? We’ve got you covered:
- Introducing Braindate Hybrid
- Hybrid Events in 2021: The Ultimate Guide [Infographic]
- 7 Ideas to Supercharge Your Hybrid and Virtual Event Sponsorship
- How to Have Engaging Conversations at Virtual and Hybrid Events
- How to Create Human-Centered Experiences at Hybrid and Virtual Events