It seems like everything is “hybrid” these days – thanks to an ever-growing divide between in-person and virtual experiences. In all likelihood, the return to 100% in-person events will be slow, and vary widely from one location to another. Even after pandemic risks have subsided, people may be hesitant to attend gatherings that could be perceived as “crowded.” For some, it will be a matter of following the newly acquired habit of social distancing, but for others, the convenience offered by virtual events will be a benefit they will want to continue in the future.
Whether it’s now or in months to come, the usefulness of hybrid events lies in the ability to maximize reach without asking either audience to give up the part of the experience they enjoy most. The challenge lies in delivering well in 4 key areas we can the “4 E’s”:
- Environment – Make sure your digital/virtual environment is just as engaging as your in-person venue. This can be achieved with live-streaming cameras at the in-person event in which people can interact with those attending virtually. It also may be a web- and mobile-friendly design aesthetic that coordinates across both the bricks-and-mortar venue and people’s at-home devices.
- Entertainment – Consider ways that all attendees can participate in enjoyable, memorable encounters. A live band may be great at an in-person event, but could present challenges for those attending virtually unless high-end sound and internet are involved. Instead, a music playlist both sets of attendees share can set the tone evenly for everyone. Or, you might plan ahead to make sure goodie bags are delivered to virtual attendees the day of the event, the same as those who would receive theirs in person.
- Engagement – You need to make sure that each and every attendee has the opportunity to actively participate in the event – whether that’s with a Q&A, a game, raffle prizes, team building, or other activities. At VIBE, we’ve been enjoying the flexibility that Sparkup.app has allowed us to integrate into our events, but at minimum, you need to think of ways your event appeals to both live and virtual audiences that isn’t “just another zoom.”
- Execution – If you’re used to ‘just winging it’ when it comes to event planning, you’ll want to seriously rethink that strategy for hybrid events. You’ll need a venue that can not only host your in-person attendees, but also provide sufficient technology resources for streaming, internet, video, and beyond. You certainly cannot afford to show up on the day of the event and find that the venue only has low-speed internet available. You will also need speakers and moderators who understand the subtleties of addressing online and in-person audiences at the same time. This may mean working with talent or featured speakers ahead of time so they learn to look at a camera from time to time, or refer to digitally orchestrated portions of a presentation. Advance planning of all the possible variables will be crucial to managing hybrid events successfully.
About the VIBE Agency: The VIBE Agency is a Miami-based award-winning full-service production agency that specializes in the creation and orchestration of live and virtual experiences for the corporate industry. The agency is forward-thinking and was recognized as one of the 50 top event companies by Special Events magazine in 2019.