Defining Hybrid Events With Attendee Experience in Mind

By: Carrie Winton
hybrid event producer livestreaming event

Defining “hybrid” could be its own category in event design “Jeopardy!”. There’s a lot of buzz about the trend, yet you may still feel stumped about how to get it right.  

You’re not alone. Although various surveys predict anywhere from 30-65% of meetings will be hybrid in 2022, GBTA reported 55% of companies are hesitant to host a hybrid event due to low attendee engagement concerns because of virtual networking complexities.

Excited about the possibilities of hosting hybrid event programs, but daunted by managing the dynamic components? Put your audience and objectives first. After all, “hybrid” is purely a production term, representing how you’ll deliver the event. Attendee experiences are personalized, depending on how they participate.  

Getting Clear on Goals

Let your end goals inform the event format. Going virtual is great if you want to reach global audiences. Online components work best to increase impressions for brand-building activities and share big announcements like new product launches. Plus, virtual components support those who either can’t attend in person or prefer to stay home.

But if you’re aiming for relationship building and pipeline development, in-person events are more effective.

A hybrid approach requires strategically identifying which outcomes are best achieved virtually versus on site.  

Defining Hybrid Events

Offering a hybrid event model might seem like a best-of-both-worlds approach. Especially after seeing the scalability, environmental and accessibility benefits of offering virtual events during the pandemic.

“Hybrid” has many meanings in today’s event landscape, though. And slick event platforms can be budget-busters.

Review the five most common hybrid approaches below to find the best type for your needs.

1. Hosting Dual Experiences

Simultaneously welcome attendees into a full on-site event and produce a parallel high-quality broadcast with interactive elements. This is a high-budget approach, so make sure to consider your ROI.

2. Featuring a Live Event With a Virtual Component

Often used pre-pandemic, this is a good way to extend audience reach without breaking the budget. Speakers, breakout sessions and interactive elements are presented in person, with main-stage content livestreamed to a virtual audience. Some in-person attendees may also opt to watch a general session from their hotel room while they finish up work tasks, heading to the live event for networking and breakouts.

3. Presenting a Live Event With Digital Engagement Before and After

Kick off the event with on-demand digital content, like learning modules, video presentations and quizzes to understand your audience. Then focus on engagement when you bring people together in person. Follow-ups might include webinars and virtual toolkits.

4. Facilitating Watch Parties/Networking Parties Around a Virtual Event

Broadcast content from a hub and take advantage of building relationships at a local level. Support the in-person experience by sending material to site hosts. For example, encourage breakout discussions after the broadcast followed by a networking reception.

5. Cultivating Ongoing Communities

Events can integrate with year-round community-building content on social platforms and through targeted marketing campaigns. This format more directly supports your brand’s marketing strategy but requires more coordination across marketing teams. Choose this route to get long-term attendee engagement and prove your event’s value.

Making Hybrid Meaningful 

Before choosing a hybrid event, ask yourself: Are we pursuing a hybrid event because it’s trendy, or because it meets our audience’s needs? Hitting your event objectives requires solid event design. And designing a meaningful experience starts with your attendees.

It’s worth repeating: Hybrid is a production term. Typically, attendees participate in only one way. They’re logged in or they’ve made the trip. Each journey needs to be thoughtfully designed to support both types of attendee.

If it’s not a great in-person event because half the production team’s energy is focused on the virtual experience, it’s not worth the attendee’s time. And if the online audience feels like an afterthought, they’ll quickly log off. Unless event professionals have a clear idea of what they want from a blended event design, both the in-person and virtual participants could walk away disappointed. And the return on investment could be a loss.

Related: Curious about your hybrid event’s ROI? Input your budget and audience data, and we’ll help you calculate the overall event return with our easy online tool

However you choose to define hybrid, taking an event design approach will make it meaningful for your attendees. Before making your final wager on whether a hybrid event is the right option, study event design strategies to ensure you’re meeting company objectives and participants’ needs.

Once you’ve committed, explore our full collection of hybrid event resources that will help successfully implement engaging virtual elements into your overall plan. 

Carrie Winton
Carrie Winton

Carrie received her M.A. in Communication and Research from Saint Louis University (Go Billikens!). Her passion for the meetings and events industry and bringing people together to educate and inspire started over 15 years ago in corporate marketing. More recently, she’s expanded her expertise to global marketing and thought leadership research. Outside of work, Carrie is still likely to be found planning vacations and adventures with her family—her husband and two young kiddos. She loves to explore new places and recently crossed two destinations off her bucket list: Rome and Prague.