This Oh-Ah-Ha Live deviates from our usual interviews. This one is a solo-episode that delves into the framework and strategy of when you design a hybrid event.
The year is 1914. Thomas Edison is standing in front of a massive inferno. His 10 buildings are going up in flames in front of his eyes. There is absolutely nothing the fire department can do. His life project is a massive disaster. He could be absolutely devastated. Only… he’s not.
Edison’s response? “We just got rid of a whole series of mistakes. Let’s start anew.”
We all know he did. A year on his team booked a revenue of 10 million.
Why am I telling this story?
Because it is a perfect example of how adversity can be the instigator of great things.
The shake-up of the events industry
Just a little more than a year ago, 100% of Auaha business disappeared in front of my eyes in less than a weeks’ time. You can take my word for it, there’s nothing like this kind of experience to take somebody out of their comfort zone.
I had 20 years of experience in the events industry and I needed to go right back to where my curiosity started.
Fast forward a year or so, and we’re whipping out virtual and hybrid events like there’s no tomorrow.
It really begs the question: Is this the future of events?
It’s a very exciting conversation because it implies long-term innovation.
But it also requires fast adjustment to ‘the new ways’ from many people. As you are planning your next event or conference, you may have some very valid questions around what it means to design a hybrid event. I mean…. it’s all so new!
Hybrid Events Definition
So let’s start at the beginning. What is a hybrid event?
A hybrid event lives in the overlap zone between an in-person event and a virtual event.
This is a Hybrid events definition I found.
‘A hybrid event is a mix of live and virtual events. You take your in-person event, complete with audience, content, etc. and you add a virtual component to it so your audience can participate from anywhere.’
While this is not wrong, it’s also not quite right. See, hybrid events are an entire spectrum, and it can be what you want it to be as long as it has an in-person and a virtual component. There really is no one-size fits all.
Hybrid Events Examples
My problem with above definition is that it assumes that a hybrid event is an in-person event where they plonked a camera in the middle of the room that live-streams the sessions. In my opinion as an experienced PCO, that’s a very poorly designed hybrid event that hasn’t been thought trough very well. There is sooooo much more to play with.
So, what other events would fall into the hybrid event spectrum? Here are some hybrid event ideas we used in the last few months.
Hybrid Events Example 1: You could have an event with different pods of delegates that could be located anywhere in the world. Speakers could be streamed to all pods or they could be in one of the pods and streamed from there to the other locations.
Hybrid Events Example 2: You could have the speakers in a studio or on a real-life stage, but the delegates are all virtual, at home behind their laptops.
The important part about designing a hybrid event is the BALANCE between the virtual and the in-person aspect during the event. BOTH need the same amount of attention, care and planning so ALL delegates have a great experience. That (among other things that we’ll get to later) was where the microphone-in-the-room event from our definition was severely lacking.
The big question is: How do you create that balance?
Hosting Hybrid Events? What is involved?
I’m not a believer in a one size fits all approach at the best of times. My answer to the question of how to best host a hybrid event as a result is ‘It depends’.
It depends on the outcome you want from your event.
My favourite approach to any problem is reverse engineering. So rather than coming up with a solution and working toward an outcome, I prefer to ask what outcome you want and work it back from there.
So, think: ‘Outcome-Challenges-Solution’ instead of the other way around.
- Why do I want to host the event?
- Who do you want to attend?
- What do you want to achieve when the event is over?
I can’t stress the importance of these questions enough! It requires you to dig deep and ask the question again every year. (Yes, every year!) A list of benefits your attendees will get will not cut it. That’s because the answer to the outcome question gives you the clarity you need to steer your event in the right direction. Failing to do so, is like navigating your car without a map: You get lost….
Once you’re clear on the outcome, it’s time to look at the challenges you will be facing. These challenges will be different for everybody, and they will depend on the outcome you outlined.
This could be things like
- Limitations on how many people can attend
- People can’t enter the country
- Budgets for travel and accommodation have been cut, resulting in reduced registrations
- Large venues might be unavailable because of demand or they may be used as MIQ facilities
The key word here is to BRAINSTORM. Don’t look for the solutions (yet); identify the challenges.
At this stage you’re thinking about the experience people will have and what you need to achieve that. You are ‘designing’ the event. This is still not the point where you are looking at technology.
Consider the 3 reasons why people attend events: content, connecting and community. To nail the experience for both an in person AND virtual aspect, both aspects of your event need to get the attention they require.
To competently formulate the design of your hybrid event, you need to answer the following questions:
- What element of your event will be in person?
- What element of your event will be virtual?
- How will you create engagement?
- How are delegates connecting?
The success of your event will depend on how effectively you handle these challenges.
And yes…technology is a vital tool in bringing the virtual and in person side of your event together.
The answer is a CENTRALIZED VIRTUAL EVENT DASHBOARD that meets your needs. Call it ‘an app’.
Hybrid Events Cost
Which brings us to the question that’s been niggling at the back of your mind all along. What’s the price tag of a hybrid event, and how does it compare to an in-person event or a virtual event?
Largely, my experience has been that virtual events are the cheapest, in person events sit in the middle, and hybrid events are the most expensive.
That’s mainly because when you design a true hybrid event, you have cost for the virtual side (think an event platform, streaming software and staff dedicated to the virtual side) plus the cost that typically comes with an in-person event (like a venue, catering, AV , etc.).
As with anything, this is not a guaranteed cost scenario. I’ve seen it swing the complete other way.
It really depends on how you structure your event and again… the outcome you have set out.
There’s a flip side!
But before you throw out the hybrid event idea, there’s also a flip side that needs considering!
It has also been our experience that in general hybrid events may be more expensive, but it’s also been our observation that hybrid events generate more money! I mean, we’ve seen events jump from 100 registrations to 450 simply by adding the virtual factor.
And if that’s not opening an entire world of creative opportunities, I don’t know what is!
So here’s to hoping that this gives you a better idea of what the future of events can mean. It’s a new world opening up to all of us, so get in touch! We’d appreciate your questions and feedback!