This post is sponsored by Hubilo.
With the return of in-person events, many event professionals aren’t sure where hybrid and virtual events should fit in. Here’s what the experts say.
Is everyone hating on hybrid?
On a recent episode of In Any Event, Hubilo’s weekly live-streamed show for event professionals, host Rachel Moore and co-host Pauline Kwasniak discussed a LinkedIn post by Richard King, founder and CEO of Product Marketing Alliance.
The post generated a lot of buzz in the event industry, and for good reason. King took a definitive, and controversial, stance on hybrid events: “The only people that like hybrid events … are those selling the platforms that facilitate them. It’s either virtual or in-person – not both.”
As both hybrid event producers and attendees, Moore and Kwasniak disagreed with King’s assessment, noting that they have seen their impact first-hand as well as the continuing demand for the format.
At IMEX, about 60% of visitors to the Hubilo booth not only mentioned their hybrid needs, but also demanded Hubilo’s hybrid event planning template used to plan its most recent event, MIX.
Moore and Kwasniak cautioned that hybrid events are not one size fits all, and they can’t be done by pinching pennies.
“You do have to invest in it to make it work,”Kwasniak explained, stressing that high production value is essential. This means working with (and listening to) A/V experts that can help you “make sure that the events are awesome”.
Why two-for-one is special
We all know that hybrid events are a ton of work, simply, because the in-person and virtual components may each be 50% of your hybrid event, but each of them takes 100% effort. It’s no secret that pulling off a successful hybrid event can be stressful and exhausting for any event professional, but the results can be worth it.
What’s unique about hybrid is that the in-person and virtual audiences can have the specific benefits of their chosen platform while also sharing an overall event experience. Here are some of the reasons we shouldn’t count hybrid events out:
- You can reach an exponentially larger audience – and that’s important for a lot of reasons. It’s the most obvious point, and the most essential benefit of hybrid. An event with a virtual component can be accessed by people from around the world in whatever place they choose, broadening your event’s reach and providing a chance to increase equality and diversity.
- Attendees have more options. Just because you’ve added a virtual element to your event doesn’t mean those who can and want to attend in-person have to miss out on that experience. And, if someone’s circumstances or schedule changes, they can adjust their attendance accordingly by switching from attending virtually to in-person, or vice versa.
- It’s easier to get great speakers to participate. Top-notch speakers, panellists, workshop leaders, and special guests are essential to the quality and reputation of your event and, of course, can be one of the best ways to attract the audience you want to reach. More speakers are willing and able to participate virtually simply because it’s more practical. Giving both your in-person and virtual attendees the opportunity to see these speakers is a win-win.
But remember: virtual/hybrid and in-person-only events are still different experiences, and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise.
Patrick Delaney, co-founder and managing partner of SoolNua, a business event consultancy based in Dublin, recently spoke with Kwasniak on our EventProfsCast podcast. He emphasised the importance of recognising that an in-person event experience can and will differ from a virtual one. It’s important that event professionals remember this rather than trying to make everyone’s experience exactly the same.
“The serendipitous interactions at a live event, as well as the other sensory experiences of a live event, can’t be replicated. At the same time, not everyone can go to a live event,” Delaney said.
“What we as event planners and designers have to do is take those experiences and make them available [to more people] in an appropriate way.” That means using the right technology in the right ways to deliver virtual experiences that are memorable in their own right.
It comes down to quality
Delaney explained that we’ve had a virtual element of in-person events for a long time by providing recordings or live-streams. What’s different today, however, is that we can actually create a virtual event (or the virtual component of a hybrid event) with a high production value and engaging, interactive experiences. We’re delivering virtual content in a “more intelligent and targeted way” to give people what they truly want from an event, which is different for everyone.
“We just have to talk to customers and make sure the experience is high-quality,” Kwasniak stressed. Ultimately, that’s what planning a successful event, no matter the format, is all about.
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