Bans on mass gatherings have eased considerably this year. However, in the autumn, most regions of Ukraine again found themselves in the “red zone” with increased quarantine restrictions. Nevertheless, people who have been vaccinated are able to freely attend any events. A “green zone” for those who have a vaccination certificate allows them to participate in face-to-face meetings, but online streaming is still relevant for event agencies. The combination of the virtual and physical presence of the participants contributed to the formation of hybrid events, a new direction in the event industry.
Hybrid Events: Advantages and Disadvantages
The format that combines online and offline presence has a number of advantages. And these advantages make hybrid events a key area of the event market under quarantine conditions. At the same time, mixed meetings have also proven their usefulness in stable situations.
● Minimizing the possibility of disruption
Preparing a mass event for several hundred or thousand people takes a lot of time. And the risk of the next wave of the pandemic is quite high. Therefore, a meeting of participants from different parts of the world or even one country may be in jeopardy. And in this case, hybrid conferences are an ideal option. They allow you to move participants online and not to cancel the event completely.
● Cost Saving
The mixed type of events is less costly for the organization and is quite ergonomic. A suitable venue is required for any event. There are many more options for renting premises for 200 people (TV studios, lofts, atriums) than for 2000 respectively. Accordingly, the price for small premises will be lower. Hybrid events do not require a full occupancy rate, as half of the participants will join such events online. This allows those present on the site to maintain the required distance.
● Attracting sponsors
It is difficult to find a sponsor for an event with a small number of guests. Whereas, the presence of virtual participants can change everything. The huger the outreach, the lower the cost of contacting the target audience is for the sponsor, and the more profitable is the offer.
● Engagement of participants
The hybrid format allows attracting more people. To participate in the event, you do not need to go anywhere, you just need to connect to the streaming from home. The technologies allow combining virtual and physical sites into a single system, where each participant can influence the course of events.
Disadvantages of hybrid events
The main disadvantage of the mixed format is possible technical problems or unstable connection. A thorough check of audio and video equipment is required before launching such an event. If everything is properly checked by the organizers, there is no guarantee that online viewers themselves will not have any problems. Fortunately, these are rare cases. Modern technologies and the development of Internet coverage minimize streaming problems.
Features and organization of hybrid events
A hybrid event should not be turned into a boring conference with a static picture. It should hold the attention of the participants. The organizers need to create an event that looks more like a show. The mixed format enables you to convey the spirit and the style of the event thanks to the branding of both the venue and the screen where the video is streamed.
In a mixed format, it is not always convenient for virtual participants to sit in front of a monitor for a long time. The optimal period is 2-3 hours. Hence, long-term events are extended over time by dividing them into several broadcasts with a combination of live and virtual communication. For example, it is possible to combine online speeches by experts and live discussion meetings. This allows the implementation of a multi-day program with the maximum level of participant engagement.
An emotionally rich event, useful both for online and offline viewers, will allow you to attract a new audience. Therefore, organizers need to think carefully about how to maintain the connection between these groups. This is especially important for educational streams or networking events.
Networking is a serious problem facing the hybrid format. Especially, when some guests are present at the event in person, while others are attending it only virtually. Event technologies have reached a sufficient level of development to provide full-fledged networking for all participants. An additional tool is needed to make a hybrid event useful. This is where an application with networking functionality, used by both online and offline participants, comes in handy.
Another challenge of the hybrid format is keeping the engagement of real and virtual audiences. If the first group is directly in the thick of it, then the second is in the position of an observer. It is important to find the balance in the interaction of all participants. Online viewers shouldn’t feel slighted. For example, they can be shown some information from backstage or short interviews with celebrity guests, while the live audience leaves for a coffee break.
Prospects for the development of hybrid events in 2022
If the Covid-19 threat finally goes away in 2022, most participants will be willing to meet in the real world. After all, live communication is more emotional than virtual communication. However, hybrid events have already established themselves as an effective tool, for example, to expand the outreach. That’s why event agencies will actively use this format in the future.
The pandemic has negatively affected the desire of people to gather in large groups. Most likely, this trend will continue next year. In addition, not everyone can postpone carrying out their duties and leave home in order to go to a conference for a few days. And the possibility of a virtual presence is more likely to encourage them to participate in the event.
The hybrid event management model will be a key area in the event market in 2022. Event services in an innovative format will be in high demand as they bring technological evolution to the event industry.
Author: Alexey Akimov, CEO of event agency Idealsecrets, Partner & CCO of marketing company Superheroes.ua