Hybrid events are more than just live-streamed conferences or video broadcasts of in-person events. When done right, they allow all participants to immerse themselves in the programming and engage with each other in real-time. What’s more, 91% of event marketers think hybrid formats will be important in future event planning. 

While hosting a hybrid event takes more careful coordination, they offer several benefits compared to picking just one in-person or remote format. Hybrid events are more inclusive and accessible than fully in-person events because participants can join from anywhere. Hybrid events also allow companies to save on their travel costs by removing on-site travel as a barrier to participation. Finally, hybrid formats allow you to extend the impact of your event by enabling a total audience size that exceeds the capacity of the physical space, reaching more people while still having the engaging environment of an in-person event and its ability to foster spontaneous connections. Whether it’s a boost to marketing, building thought leadership, or simply allowing more colleagues to join an internal event, extending your reach in an infinitely adaptable format is a big win.

Before the event: plan for success

Preparation is key to making any event run smoothly, and there are three main areas to focus on: event content, setup and guidelines, and defining what a successful run-of-show will look like to your team during the live session are critical.

Taking the time to create high-quality content will make your event memorable. Quality presentations and sessions should include valuable slides without too many words, opportunities for small group breakouts or other moments for participants to engage with each other and the content itself, and built-in opportunities for questions, networking, and necessary housekeeping items. 

Making sure the setup for the venue and for participants is streamlined and has the right tech is also non-negotiable for hybrid events. Understand your physical venue and adjust your audio-visual setup accordingly. If you are in a larger or uniquely shaped conference room or other space, use technology that can fully cover the space, like a Meeting Owl that can connect to an Expansion Mic, or wirelessly pair with a Whiteboard Owl, an Owl Bar, or a secondary Meeting Owl camera to capture every angle. Even with plug-and-play devices that you have experience using, test out your setup beforehand so you can anticipate any difficulties that do emerge. 

For remote attendees, creating guidelines for required technology will make the experience smoother. Whether it’s a laptop, a strong Internet connection, or other tools that allow them to participate, make it clear what they need so there are no surprises with setup on either end on the day of the event. Having participants register for the event gives organizers a better idea of the total headcount so they know who to look out for in the virtual meeting room. 

Finally, teams should decide ahead of time their vision for what success will look like during the event. Success could be metrics-based, depending on the number of attendees, based on feedback or a survey from participants, or goals-based. A team could create the goal of successfully integrating remote participants or sticking to the timeline for a schedule with multiple sessions. 

Get creative at showtime

Consider what you can enhance with a hybrid format by planning the in-person and remote portions in tandem. Many events can benefit from a hybrid approach beyond a standard lecture or meeting. Even for traditionally in-person events like trade shows, organizers can create additional buzz and access by adding in hybrid elements; Owl’s booth at ISE this year won Best In Show with a combination of displaying hardware and the remote user experience. 

During the event, there are a few best practices to make programming more engaging. Encourage in-person attendees to participate in the discussions happening in the online chat of your video conferencing software so everyone is included, and the conversation can move forward. Leave time for networking and organic connection between attendees across all modalities, too. Whether it’s a five-minute icebreaker activity with in-person groups and smaller online breakouts or a prompt for the entire digital chat, letting attendees in different locations share about themselves and make introductions will build rapport and make the experience engaging. For question and answer sessions, have attendees send their questions in real-time and then go over them at the end so that the most common questions can be addressed and remote contributions aren’t missed. Organizers might also encourage virtual joiners to ask their questions live in the Q&A session to bridge the gap. 

And, as is true of events of every type, be flexible on the day of. Be prepared to deviate from the script if attendees bring the discussion in a different direction. Adjust your tech setup if in-person attendance is different than anticipated. 

Crystal clear conversations from miles apart