I’ve been reading through the comments and suggestions on my LinkedIn posts, and I thought it might be helpful walk you through what exactly a hybrid event is. A lot of people have been reaching out over the last few weeks and are saying that they’re getting themselves in a pickle when it comes to what a hybrid event is and how do they make it happen? 

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What is a hybrid event? 

Hybrid events are one of the good things that has come out of 2021 and are a hot topic right now. I think hybrid events get a bit of a bad rep, and I believe that’s partly because of the confusion and mystery surrounding this new breed of event. Now, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that 2020-2021 was the year of the pandemic and the world shut down, moving us all into the online space for events, and virtual events have exploded. 

Are hybrid events here to stay? 

Online events account for 75% of the world’s business events that are happening right now. Parts of Asia and Europe have started open up face to face events, however, we are seeing that 65% of event attendees want to remain in the online space. This is for a multitude of reasons; companies are saying; actually we don’t want to spend thousands and thousands of pounds, or thousands of dollars sending people out for two or three days, for a one-day event (to account for the time it takes to travel there and back).  

Businesses and individuals are becoming increasingly conscious of their carbon footprint and they don’t want to lose the time, expense and unnecessary inconvenience of travelling long distances to events, when technology has advanced enough to reduce or replace the need for an in person event host or speaker. I would say, on the whole people have become so used to the grabbing themselves a cup of tea and 30 minutes later, landing in an event by 11:00am, fully engaged.  

Are hybrid events the future? 

Your audience still gets the same awesome content, you can do some networking and still be in their kitchen all done by lunchtime, and possibly while wearing your pyjamas! (If that’s your bag). Your audience knows they don’t have to travel miles, they don’t have to miss a day’s work or schedule a full day out of the office to go to your event, whether it’s CPD or a huge industry conference, lots and lots of people are still saying; “I want to attend virtually”. 

What’s the difference between hybrid and virtual events? 

The word itself; ‘hybrid’ is a mixed bag of meanings post-2019. Some people think that hybrid working is being in the office two days a week, then rest of the week working from home. My thoughts on that are; I would call that agile working and a workspace that can change is to me, agile working.  

If you get to pick your own working hours, what time your day starts and ends, that’s flexible working, but let’s not get lost down that rabbit hole! Hybrid is what it says, it’s a mixture of two things, for me, it’s a mixture of two things at the same time.  

So, if you’re going to run a hybrid event, it will look something like a room physically filled with people and the speaker, but the room is also set up to not only transmit what’s going on in the room, but receive comments, conversation, and interaction from the online space. 

How do you set up a hybrid event? 

This is where I really stress to my clients to not get into the habit of plonking a camera in the middle of the room, pointing it at the front to record and presenting a slide deck is a no-no. In setting this up you are speaking at the front and asking the room questions and expecting people to tune in online and feel part of the event. The chances are they’ll feel like you’ve invited them to a party and they’re stood there with their noses pressed against a glass window, looking in from the outside. They can hear and see everything that’s going on, but they’re not involved. 

That’s when you start to find people might say:  

“Do you know what? Attending these things in a hybrid way is not good value for money.”  

“I can’t ask my questions.”  

“I can’t get involved in the conversation.”  

“I can’t get involved in the workshop and group work.”  

So, it’s important that if you are planning a hybrid event, you cater for the ‘in room people’ and the ‘online people’. 

Running hybrid events 

It’s important that you allow conversation to flow between both sets of people in multiple locations. If you’re going to do group work, think about how you design it so that you can get ‘in room people’ speaking to ‘online people’ in the same group. We’ve said it time and again, and if you’ve been through the six-step events method, you’ll know that immersion and engagement is everything.  

The surefire way to get people dialing off and ducking out of an event is to leave them sitting on the sidelines. But by immersing, interacting, and engaging, you’ll not only get them to stick around, but you’ll also get them to see that they’ve had value for money.  

You’ll get them to remember what you’ve been talking about through the whole session. And if that’s a sales conversation, then winner, because at the end they’re going to remember what you’ve asked them to do, remember what you’ve delivered and how you made them feel. They will walk away from your hybrid event, if you’ve planned it well, saying; “That was epic, I got as much value from it as I would’ve done in the room. It was well worth. The several hundred pounds I spent.” 

Hybrid event tips 

So how do we really make an event hybrid? Now, as I said, from the beginning, you’ve got to start with the end user. So, let’s take an example: You’re a facilitator who is presenting to a team in London. The company also have offices in Belfast, in Edinburgh and in Paris. The company has said, “We don’t want to fly all these people into one place, it’s not COVID safe, it’s not financially viable and it goes against our carbon footprint commitment.”  

Delivering a hybrid event 

So how do you deliver? My advice would be to get a couple of really good quality cameras set up. You want something that’s going collect a wide view of the room and something that’s going to get a close up of the speaker. Invest in someone to help you switch between those camera angles and that can do some production for you. Having production support means that you can weave in some of the slides into what people in the online space, you can throw up some pictures, so the people attending online can see the slides and see the speaker and see the reaction of the room. You are starting to immerse online delegates in what’s going on, they don’t just feel like they’re sitting on the sidelines. 

Bringing your hybrid audience together 

Perhaps think about asking your company to bring a few laptops with most people have got a company laptop now, bring a couple with them, that way when you split people into group work, you can give them a laptop to use, again bringing those in the online space and in person space together into a breakout room. 

Hybrid event software 

There is various software that you can use to bring your hybrid audience together. Things like Jamboard, Mentimeter and a whole load more now options offer plugins from Zoom, however they work pretty happily as standalones. So, essentially people can be working together like you would do with a flip chart in the olden days; writing down their ideas, ready to present back to the plenary, but instead you do it online on Jamboard. When breakout groups present; everybody in the whole group, whether they’re online or in person can see all of the work, the thoughts and all of the ideas that have been generated.  

Hybrid event facilitators 

It does take some practice from the presenter or facilitator to be able to incorporate in person and online. You need to remember to defer to the online for questions and comments regularly, you must remember to incorporate them in the conversation. Whether you have somebody that’s helping you out that can keep an eye on the chat, or whether you do that yourself, having a laptop at the front of the room that you can just glance at from time to time is really important.  

This is a skill that you will need to develop as a speaker and as a facilitator, if you want to move forward in events into 2022 and beyond. Hybrid events do take a bit of planning, practice and they the right tech setup, all of these are worth thinking about investing in now for the future. 

Hybrid events in 2022 

This is going to be the way forward; we will see at a huge spike in hybrid events in 2022 and beyond. So it’s a really good time to get your head around: What does hybrid look like? Something which I regularly get asked.  

Hybrid event ticket prices 

One of the questions I get asked is: “Should I be charging different amounts for people online or people on in person?” And I would say, no. I would say if you are designing the content, the layout and the structure of the event well then it shouldn’t matter whether people are in person or online, they will get the same awesome experience. They’ll get the same superb content, you are delivering it and you are the expert, but they’ll get the same immersive active experience as well. The people online haven’t had to pay for travel, but the people who are in the room get the benefit of face-to-face networking and potentially some drinks and refreshments, so it all balances out in the end.  

I would say don’t devalue your online tickets and don’t devalue your online experience, especially if we’ve built it in the way that we discussed here. 

Hybrid event planning 

Spend some time and really have a think about the structure of your hybrid events. How are you going to immerse people in the online space? How are you going integrate the online people with the face-to-face people? If you have any questions, please do reach out to me at lorna@myohmyevents.com, I’d be happy to answer those questions for you. So, whether it’s a workshop, whether it’s a team meeting or whether it’s a four-day multi stranded conference, hybrid is the way forward and should be in your planning.