Moving on to Hybrid Events

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Anyone involved with events is wondering about the next phase of events – hybrid events.  AVFX is providing this information as a place to start developing your strategies around hybrid events this year.  Of course, every organization is different and every event unique.  We do not believe there is a “one-size fits all” method to approach this, however, this information will help you in refining your plans.  As always, feel free to reach out to us to schedule time to discuss or brainstorm how these might apply to your events.

What is a hybrid event?

A hybrid event is hosted on-location at a venue of your choosing that employs all of the familiar live event experiences, with one important distinction – it also employs virtual event technologies to extend the reach of the event to attendees in remote locations.  Additionally, it may also facilitate remote presenters through those virtual technologies to present from a remote location.  Simply put, it is taking your virtual event to a venue.

The same planning is required as it was for purely virtual events, however, you will now be at a venue with a live audience.  In many ways, you are adding a “live studio audience” to your broadcast.

Why produce a hybrid event?

Many organizations had a pleasant surprise when they started hosting virtual events last year.  Mainly, they saw a substantial increase in attendance.  They were also able to take advantage of presenters that they may not have been able to coordinate had those presenters been required to travel to the event.  Today, there is a belief that audiences have been conditioned to be more accepting of viewing an event on their laptop or tablet and that remote presenters are now a norm.

With these beliefs in mind, a live event can take advantage of this new environment to deliver content from anywhere on the planet to audiences in one place where they can build a sense of community among themselves while attracting a second audience that may not normally have been able to attend.

This results in your team needing to plan for two event experiences – one for the in-room, or live audience; the second for your virtual audience.

So… we have to pay for two events in one?

Yes and no.  There is no simple answer to budgeting for a hybrid event.  There are too many variables that may or may not apply to your situation.

Our recommendation is to develop two distinct planning processes.  The live audience is there to experience a live event.  They want to see and experience the moment with their own eyes and ears.  The remote audience now has experience with virtual events, and along with that experience comes an expectation for what they want to see and do in the virtual platform before, during, and after the event.

The content is the common denominator between them.  And content can be planned once for both audiences.  However, it is how each audience will experience that content that becomes distinct.

Integrating the two worlds of live and virtual should result in the best of both worlds.  However, it will take a concentrated effort for each audience uniquely to achieve the results you are hoping for.  In budgeting, you will need to develop a P&L for each audience to ensure there is a balance to what you are providing.

Important Note on Budgeting:
Internet, internet, internet!

Internet charges from venues were wildly variable and potentially costly before the pandemic.  Now, internet connectivity is literally the linchpin of every hybrid event.  Negotiate internet fees BEFORE signing the contract with the venue! 

The live audience

The audience in the room will expect a safe, live experience.  What the event looks like and how much production goes into the live event will depend on the type of event and your objectives.  However, if you have a producer/planner/team focused on their experience in the room and throughout the event, they will enjoy a rich experience.  Consider too that this audience will have access to more local highlights, such as local tours, dinners, social hours, networking, etc.

The remote audience

The virtual audience will expect an event on par with what they have seen over the past year.  That means all of the same planning needs to go into that “on-screen” experience for them.  In fact, you will need to consider some “special” moments for your virtual audience that the live audience will not immediately be able to enjoy.  They need to feel the love to know you recognize them as part of your event.

This means you can plan little insightful moments that may only be available to them – e.g. perhaps a special 1-1 interview with a keynote speaker once they leave the stage that only they see right then, and then is posted to the conference app later in the day.  Little moments to make them feel appreciated.

Interactivity between the two audiences will be a key consideration.  Planning roaming cameras at social events, live chats with other attendees or speakers, discussion groups, etc. will be critical to connecting your two groups.  Panel discussions will need to have a direct display or connection to your speakers from remote audience members.  Live video questions during general sessions will go a long way towards connecting your audience as well.

Conclusion

The devil is in the details.  Now there are two streams of consciousness to consider in planning your next event, and that means twice the details.  This may sound painful, impossible, or improbable to many.  However, this is the next step towards normalcy for the events industry.  By the way, “normal” will likely never be what it was before the pandemic – we are all defining normal as we move forward.  The sooner we start, the sooner we settle on what our industry will look like long-term.

Let us know how we can help.

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