I don't think I'm alone in saying that 2020 has shown us that virtual events are here to stay. COVID has accelerated what we already believed to be true: virtual is an inextricable component to the future of the global events industry.
To that end, we've seen millions and millions of people truly enjoy virtual events on Hopin this year. But, as we turn the corner into 2021, what's next?
As social distancing guidelines relax, 78% of brand marketers surveyed by Freeman Data Solutions agree that moving forward, in-person events will pivot to hybrid models.
It's not just marketers -- many are predicting all major events will have a virtual component in the future.
But what exactly is a hybrid event, and what do they look like? How do they work? You can learn more directly from our team or, released today, download our new ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Hybrid Events.
What Is a Hybrid Event?
A hybrid event is any event — conference, team meeting, trade show, etc. — that combines a live, onsite experience with a virtual version of the same event.
Livestreaming keynotes, having interactive messaging, and incorporating real-time networking between virtual and in-person attendees are just a few examples of how hybrid events increase audience engagement. The goal with hybrid is for the virtual attendees to be just as engaged as the onsite audience. Live participants and virtual attendees should have, essentially, the same high-quality event experience.
To clarify, a hybrid event does not mean simply streaming (or uploading a live stream) of the live portion of an event for an online audience. The purpose is for both the onsite audience and the virtual audience to engage and interact during the event itself — everyone is a part of the event, no matter where they may be.
What Are the Benefits of Hybrid Events?
A successful hybrid event has many benefits for all participants, including event organizers, attendees, speakers, and sponsors, regardless of whether they’re onsite or online.
1. Hybrid events increase attendance.
The number of onsite participants attending your events can be limited, whether it’s due to social distancing protocol or even the capacity of your physical venue. When you host a hybrid event, the sky’s the limit on how many people you can gather. The Wolves Summit hosted a hybrid event in October with over 300 attendees onsite and social distancing, but over 800 participants were able to attend virtually. The Atlantic Festival on the other hand had north of 37,000 people tune in for their recent conference, far beyond the volume that would have gathered in person. With solid event platforms and advertising through email marketing, social media, and other channels, hybrid events create a world without limits – talk to our team or read more on how to increase your attendance through hybrid events in our newest ebook download.
2. Your speaker pool is widened.
When you have the opportunity for speakers to attend virtually, your speaker pool is significantly widened. You aren’t taking people from their families or asking them to travel for a week. The Information, for example, was able to secure bigtime speakers for their WTF Summit who normally might not be able to participate in an in-person event. Acclaimed, crowd-drawing speakers like Sheryl Sandberg were able to participate because they had the luxury of being able to film sessions ahead of time.
3. Hybrid events save money for everyone.
Hybrid events ultimately save money for event organizers, presenters, and attendees alike due to cutting down the costs of travel, lodging, food, staff, and more. For organizers, the fees to gather hundreds or thousands of people inside a massive venue are astronomical compared to getting fewer people together in person and having the rest attend virtually.
Since you won't have to foot the bill for nearly as much onsite support, you can invest those dollars to make your experience even more engaging. Event organizers can put the venue, catering, travel, and security budget toward other investments like a high-quality DJ, the highest quality A/V, or creative ways to “gamify” the conference experience to get attendees to engage virtually.
4. Hybrid events reduce your carbon footprint.
One of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a temporary reprieve for the environment. As households, regions, and entire countries went into lockdown, greenhouse gas emissions caused by transportation lowered, as did the environmental impact of crowd movement and control, noise pollution, and litter. That same impact translates directly to your hybrid events.
When fewer people travel to attend your event, the overall carbon emissions linked directly to your event go down. And you can use that to your advantage in your marketing materials, as audiences appreciate knowing a company is environmentally conscious.
5. Hybrid events allow for flexibility and scalability.
One of the great things about a hybrid event is that it offers plenty of flexibility. If something comes up that makes the in-person portion of your event impossible — a tornado hits, for example — you can simply transition to a fully virtual event without losing the key parts of the value you’re delivering.
Hybrid events are also very scalable — you can increase or decrease the number of virtual or in-person attendees as needed. Unlike a physical venue which has physical limitations such as limited seating and walls, or variables that can impact the attendee experience like parking and inclement weather. Talk to our team about examples of top event organizers are using Hopin to allow for flexible and scalable experiences in 2021.
6. Deliver more value to your sponsors.
When you add a hybrid event experience to your events, you unlock seven major value-adds and advantages for your vendors and sponsors:
- Deeper data analytics from your virtual event
- More brand and messaging exposure
- More capacity, deliverables, and opportunities to speak
- More leads and attendee engagement
- Offer a physical booth and a virtual booth to your vendors (over 50% of attendees engage with an event’s expo booths on Hopin)
- Receive data instantly
- Vendors can manage their virtual booths directly
Hybrid Event Ideas
Almost any event can be turned into a hybrid one. Here are some ideas:
- Industry conferences: Large conferences in almost any field can be adapted into a hybrid experience. Many events offer a "virtual access pass" for attendees who can’t participate in the hybrid event onsite.
- Gaming events: Massive gaming events like TwitchCon and the League of Legends World Championships incorporate both a live and virtual experience. Contact our team to learn how companies like Twitch use Hopin for their events.
- Large webinars: Any webinar could be made into a hybrid event, with several speakers in the same place and a larger virtual audience listening and engaging onsite where the webinar is being recorded.
- Company meetings: Company-wide meetings are still necessary during the pandemic, but there's no need to gather every member of the company together physically. A hybrid event allows everyone to participate without putting employees or management at risk.
- Career fairs: So much job hunting is done online. Why should career fairs be any different? Socially distanced live attendees and virtual participants can equally benefit from a hybrid career fair.
Ultimately, every hybrid event will look different, depending on your event experience and specific requirements. The key takeaway for maximizing success is to deliver the same value to both virtual and in-person participants — if you can do this, you’ll achieve the “best of both worlds” — a successful hybrid event that people will want to participate in again.