Human nature is a funny thing. Just a few years ago we envisioned everything virtual, including business events and conferences. And when CoVID struck, we just couldn’t wait to get back to how it all was before the whole social distancing thing. Audiences feel very positive about virtual events, with 93% stating companies have done a good job transitioning from in-person to online. But still, many attendees experienced virtual events as being less personal (55%) and offering fewer opportunities to socialize (44%) and network (35%) than physical events.
Well. Their feedback did not fall on deaf ears. With hybrid events, audiences get the best of both worlds. It does mean added work and challenges for organizers, but the juice is worth the squeeze. In this 2022 guide, we paint you the full picture of hybrid events.
- What are hybrid events?
- The main benefits of hybrid events
- 8 types of hybrid events to consider
- How to create successful hybrid events
- How to promote your hybrid event
- Successful hybrid event examples to inspire you
- Kaltura’s hybrid events solution
- Hybrid event FAQ
- The future of hybrid events – where do we go?
What Are Hybrid Events
Hybrid events are events that combine an in-person segment with a virtual segment, with equal importance or weight for both experiences.
This last bit is important. Attendees can choose to physically attend the event or tune into the event webpage and participate remotely if they can’t or don’t want to travel to the event venue for some reason. But both virtual attendees and in-person attendees should be able to enjoy an equally strong experience. Anything else cannot be considered hybrid. Hosting a brick-and-mortar event, recording it, and then offering the recording as video-on-demand on your website, does not constitute a hybrid event. Neither does a live-streamed in-person event, nor a physical event that has its own app. Audience engagement is the key differentiator here.
Both types of audiences should be able to attend the sessions and workshops, network, take part in polls and contests, or enjoy the entertainment acts.
|In-person events||Participants gather physically in the same venue.|
|Virtual events||Participants tune into the event online, from anywhere, and in most cases at any time.|
|Hybrid events||A blend of both. Attendees can choose whether they attend the event virtually or in-person. Either way, they’ll have access to all the content and networking options.|
Learn more about the differences between virtual, in-person, and hybrid events in our 2022 Guide to Virtual Events.
The Main Benefits of Hybrid Events
Generally, hybrid events offer the best of both worlds. People who need the thrill of the real-life experience, with all its socializing advantages, can attend in person. Others who feel those advantages don’t weigh up against the cost and hassle of traveling can join the event from the comfort of their own home. And for the organizers, the advantages are considerable, too:
Anyone can join from anywhere in the world
People can have all sorts of reasons not to attend your event. Time and distance are the main constraints. With hybrid events, you offer enough flexibility to lower friction and enable more people to attend, from anywhere in the world. Hybrid events also offer improved accessibility. People with disabilities now have the option to consume the content and network from home. With everyone staying home, you also lower your event’s carbon footprint and save on travel expenses.
Higher Return on Investment
The increased reach of hybrid events also means higher ROI. The scale of your event is no longer limited by the available space at your event venue. The virtual component can add infinitely more views to your event, which means more potential leads and lots more data for your post-event performance report. Don’t forget about your sponsors. Make sure they can reach both audiences.
There are two ways you can increase your ROI furthermore. You can create a small-scale live event, reducing the cost of the physical event, and aim for a larger-scale virtual component. You can also keep on leveraging your content beyond the live event by repurposing your session recordings as marketing collateral (e.g., gated content that lets users view the content after submitting their details).
Higher audience engagement
When you invest in a professional-grade virtual event platform like Kaltura Virtual Events you can leverage a host of engagement features that’ll keep your audience at the edge of their seats. Before and during the event, your audience can create their personalized agendas, participate in polls, communicate and collaborate in breakout sessions, react with emojis, like, comment, and share to social media. You can also engage your audience with live quizzes and other gamification activities.
Think of ways to connect in-person attendees with virtual attendees. You can organize in-person meeting areas with stations to connect with virtual attendees or have the in-person attendees participate in polls and quizzes from their phones. Need some inspiration? Read our blog post on how to design an engaging virtual event.
We touched on it before. Data collection is a huge benefit of virtual and hybrid events. Performance has always been a bit of a gray area with physical events. But online, everything can be tracked and measured. Your virtual event platform will collect data in the background about participant attendance, engagement, preferences, interests, and more.
You’ll get a ton of invaluable information that will help you with your reporting, and with proving a positive ROI to stakeholders, including executives and sponsors. And, not in the least, it will help you identify what worked and what didn’t work with your event and improve on your formula for future events.
8 Types of Hybrid Events to Consider
You can go hybrid for most types of events. In general, you can divide hybrid events into two categories, internal and external.
Internal hybrid events
Hybrid events are obviously a good fit for hybrid workplaces. Whoever can join the physical event is welcome to do so, while remote staff can tune in online. Even if your office isn’t hybrid but operates on a global scale, you can run a physical event at your headquarters while remote staff joins online. At Kaltura, customers have opted for a hybrid approach to the following types of events:
- Large departmental meetings
- Training seminars
- Town Halls (all-hands meetings)
- New Year’s events
- Sales Kickoffs
External hybrid events
Hybrid events are also a great fit for public-facing events. It allows you to scale your event without physical limitations and without bumping up your on-site costs. So, if you’re going for scale and you want to reach your global audience while still offering all the prestige of a physical event, then hybrid events are the way to go. Here are some examples of external hybrid events:
- Conferences, summits, and trade shows
- Marketing and sales events
- Product launches
How to Create Successful Hybrid Events
It is surprisingly straightforward to plan a hybrid event, thanks to virtual event technology being more accessible than ever. We published a quick guide to creating a virtual event from scratch which we recommend you read before you set up the virtual component of your hybrid event.
To create a successful hybrid event, you need to know how to set up an in-person and a virtual event and then create a balance that makes the combination larger than the sum of its parts. Participants should be able to choose between two experiences of the same event. To realize this kind of balance, you’ll need to do a few things:
Choose the right hybrid event platform
If you want to deliver an engaging virtual experience that doesn’t feel like a half-baked version of the real thing, you’ll need a hybrid event platform with a complete arsenal of engagement features:
- Full chat functionality
- Emoji reactions
- Breakout sessions
- Live quizzes
- Calendar personalization
- Social media integration
- Smooth high-quality broadcast
Adapt your content to the format
There are many things you can do to adapt your content to the needs of your in-person audience and your online audience. Make sure your content is relevant to both. Remind your speakers to address both audiences in their sessions. Flexibility is one of the main reasons people will choose to attend your event online. Offering all your content on-demand will help this segment of your audience better plan their schedule and enable them to view all the content they want.
You’ll also want to enrich your sessions with the engagement features we mentioned before, such as polls, quizzes, and Q&As.
Hybrid event sponsors
Hybrid events can be great value to your sponsors, so make sure to give them the tools needed to connect with attendees in both experiences, drive brand awareness, and generate leads. On top of the physical event offering, sponsor packages could include virtual features like:
- Branded sponsor booths and virtual spaces
- Banner ads
- Custom content collections
- Deep links to sponsor pages
- Bumper videos
- Lead reports
Your hybrid event success also depends on what you do after the event. This is when you truly consolidate your return on investment. Follow up on your attendees with a post-event thank you email. This email could link to a survey about your event and include the final Call-To-Action, which could be to subscribe or to purchase something at a special discounted price.
You’ll also want to follow up internally with your team and with your executives to discuss the performance and ROI for your brand. Finally, you’ll want to follow up with external stakeholders, your partners and sponsors. Share a post-event report with all the data they’ll need to calculate their own ROI. Make sure you keep a foot in the door for collaborations and partnerships in future events. The last step in your hybrid event follow-up is to repurpose your content as video-on-demand. You can offer that content for free, for members only, or as marketing collateral.
Check out our top tips for planning a hybrid event for more ideas to create a successful hybrid event.
How to Promote Your Hybrid Event
It’s important that your audience is made aware of the choice to attend in-person or online from the get-go. Your communications should contain a CTA to register online and a CTA to purchase tickets for the physical event. Other than that, promoting your hybrid event is not much different from any other type of event.
Create a hybrid event your audience will want to attend
No sense in promoting an event no one has any use for. Research the information and networking needs of your audience and set up a hybrid event that fills in those needs. Attract relevant speakers your audience perceives as authorities in their field. A lineup of high-profile speakers whose input the attendees want to hear will often be all they need to decide to register.
Keep your audience in mind when you set a date and time
Choose a date and time that will most likely fit your audience’s schedules. That means considering time zones and also avoiding holidays or other major events. Research has shown that most people prefer viewing sessions around lunchtime on weekdays. Of course, the tricky part with hybrid events is to find a date and time that is optimal for both audiences and is also available in your venue of choice.
Create a compelling event landing page
All your promotional efforts will point to your hybrid event landing page, where your target audience will be able to learn more about the event, consult the agenda, and of course, register. Your landing page should be attractive and on-brand, with a countdown to the event launch, teasers, speaker bios and session descriptions, sponsor information, news and updates, and secure payment options.
Start promoting as soon as possible
As soon as you have a set time and date and your landing page is live, you can start promoting. Email blasts and social media will be your main channels (see below). But don’t forget to place ad banners and blog posts on your website and on your partners’ websites. You can also put out a press release and publish guest posts in industry magazines and popular websites.
Email blasts are your friend
Emails are the most effective way to drive registrations. You can leverage the email databases of your partners and sponsors, on top of your own. Send regular reminders with a link to your landing page. Any time you land a new star speaker, or you make a noteworthy addition to your event (competition or prizes, a major entertainment act or fun activity, new technology, …) is a good opportunity to send out an email update to your audience.
Promote your event on social media
Social media are powerful event promotion tools. You can post regular updates about your event to your followers, but you can also reach out to industry-related groups and pages, and run paid campaigns for targeted social media ads. Don’t forget to involve your employees and your partners in creating a social media buzz around your hybrid event.
Throw in a little extra for the shilly-shalliers
Chances are you thought of swag bags for the brick-and-mortar part of your event. But nothing keeps you from bribing your online attendees too with an adapted ‘virtual’ swag bag: a 1-month free subscription to a partnering app or platform, discounts on online purchases, a free eBook, free consultations, or maybe a gift card. Let your online audience know that competitions and related prizes are also open to them.
Successful Hybrid Event Examples to Inspire You
Here are three examples of successful hybrid events to give you an idea of how a different approach can truly help you stand out from the crowd with your hybrid event:
You would think a live streaming giant like Twitch would keep their annual event entirely virtual. But the people at Twitch were smart enough to understand that hybrid events will cater to their massive online community, while simultaneously making the brand more tangible through the brick-and-mortar components of their event in Amsterdam and San Diego. Making their events hybrid helps Twitch remind their users that there are people of flesh and blood behind the brand. It also enables them to whip up a great party with live musical acts. Of course, the whole shindig is streamed via Twitch’s platform.
Dubbed “A Hybrid Event Experience”, FinCon21 was a digital marketing event for content creators in the personal finance sphere taking place September 2021 in Austin, Texas. What they did very well was making sure that virtual and in-person attendees could network with each other, via video chat and messaging. Both audiences enjoyed equal opportunities to do business with sponsors, and access content, including breakout speakers.
Social Media Marketing World
Another San Diego-based hybrid event, Social Media Marketing World caters to social media managers, worldwide. The organizers made a point of delivering the same level of access, quality, and functionality to both in-person and virtual visitors. They also applied multiple ticket tiers: All-Access, Marketer, Streaming, and On-demand. The former two include on-site access, whereas the latter two are virtual-only.
Kaltura’s Hybrid Events Solution
Kaltura Virtual Events is designed to turn the virtual component of your hybrid events into a brand experience at scale. Getting started is very convenient with Kaltura’s customizable template. From there, everything can be personalized for you, your audience, your partners, and your sponsors.
Kaltura’s white-label platform will be 100% about your brand and your community. From behind the curtains, Kaltura will deliver your content live, pre-recorded (simulive) or on-demand in flawless high quality to your viewers wherever they are, no matter on which device.
Leverage Kaltura’s powerful Advanced Analytics suite to collect data and measure performance. Boost audience engagement with a wide array of interactivity features, from chat features to video paths, emoji reactions, social sharing, live quizzes, and quick polls. Repurpose your event content with Kaltura’s video editing and enrichment tools. Kaltura fits snugly into your existing work processes through seamless interoperability with your marketing automation tools, BI, and other SaaS.
Experience it for yourself. Request a demo of our virtual events platform, today!
Hybrid Event FAQ
1. What is the difference between a hybrid event and a virtual event?
Virtual events are online events that people attend remotely to network and consume content around a shared interest. They are the online versions of the traditional in-person conference, trade shows, and other marketing and sales events. Hybrid events combine an in-person event with an online component, with equal importance or weight for both experiences.
2. What are the challenges with creating a hybrid event?
The main challenge is to deliver an equally strong experience to both in-person and online audiences. That includes networking opportunities and contact with sponsors and partners. Another challenge is the added work of orchestrating two events in one. Everything you plan for your in-person event should ideally be translated and adapted to the online experience.
3. What are the main costs of a hybrid event?
The costs of a hybrid event are mainly centered around the in-person experience: venue, catering, travel and accommodation, staff, lighting, etc. The added cost of the virtual component is limited to the virtual event platform and maybe subcontractors like website creators, designers, etc. Promotion can also add to the budget.
The Future of Hybrid Events – Where Do We Go from Here?
The conversation is ongoing whether virtual events or in-person events are the way to go. After all pandemic-related restrictions will be history, the choice between virtual or in-person will be a question of industry or niche, resources, prestige, and reach. A small tech company operating on a global scale will probably opt for virtual events. Their local audience might be very small, and they might have limited resources, so a virtual event would make more sense to reach a globally dispersed audience. A winemaker conference will rather opt for the prestige of organizing an on-location event where people can physically gather around the wines and use their senses to sample the offering.
Given the flexibility and best-of-both-worlds aspect of hybrid events, however, we believe most medium to large enterprises will opt for this solution in the future. Many things got lost as we switched from in-person to virtual events during the pandemic. That’s why many of us were looking forward to returning to the in-person experience again. But we all got a taste of the scalability, measurability, and convenience of virtual events, and those compelling benefits of online events are just too big to give up.
Luckily, with hybrid events, we can have it all!
Create powerful hybrid experiences for your brand and your community… With Kaltura Virtual Events!