How to Plan Hybrid Events
Hybrid events are shaping up to be a defining trend as we slowly welcome back in-person events. Nearly 80% of organizations plan to host a hybrid event by the end of 2021, and 70% of event planners see going hybrid as the future of event hosting.
What is a hybrid event? Hybrid events offer the vibrancy and excitement of in-person events and the convenience and accessibility of virtual options. Attendees have more choices, and organizations can increase their reach.
These benefits can come with additional challenges though. How do you plan content, manage logistics, develop your event signage, run promotions, and successfully engage both in-person and online audiences? It can feel like a lot to take on, but by following these steps you will ensure that your next hybrid event is a home run.
Define your Vision
Successful events start with a clear vision. This is even more important given the added complexity of hybrid events. You now have two different audiences, new technical requirements, and more content to produce, so starting clear-eyed is vital.
Hybrid events are far more successful when defined early on as hybrid events. Try to avoid having to hybridize an event late in the planning process: headaches will ensue! Planning your content from the beginning with a hybridized end in mind will simplify the planning process, and ultimately result in a better experience for your team and your attendees.
Defining your vision also requires understanding your audience and the need your event is filling. Ask yourself:
- Who is it for?
- What are they seeking to learn or experience?
- Why will this event appeal to them?
- Where and when will it happen?
If you don’t take the time to understand the needs of your audience, your event is not going to resonate with them.
Detail Event Needs and Team Responsibilities
Develop a detailed event plan for both your in-person and online components. This should start with building out a timeline that includes the lead-up to the event, everything during the event, and wrapping things up. Get specific with your timeline: detail speaker timelines, session topics, and what the transitions between sessions look like online and in person. Ensure every detail has a team member responsible for its delivery.
To pull off a hybrid event, it is pretty unlikely that you have all of the talent and resources needed in-house. Understand your capacity gaps early on, and establish partnerships with vendors for virtual event logistics, physical event space, and promotional materials.
Arguably the biggest factor in creating a successful and engaging hybrid is developing an understanding of the differing needs of in-person and online audiences. Plan some events that include both, but also think about sessions that are specifically tailored to each audience. Focus on developing engagement strategies, like a dedicated emcee, to ensure your virtual cohort does not feel like an afterthought.
Hybrid events require that you think about things you otherwise wouldn’t need for entirely virtual or entirely in-person events. In your event plan, you’ll also have to consider:
- Double staff: You’ll need moderators and support staff for both in-person and online audiences
- Content Schedules: Will live events be recorded and shared online later or are they running concurrently alongside the in-person events?
- Accessibility: Is your event inclusive for a digital audience? Incorporating alt text, sign language interpreters, and encouraging speakers to speak clearly, at a moderate pace, will make your content more accessible for every attendee. In-person event signage should include tactical ADA signage for attendees that are visually impaired.
Plan your Promotions and Event Spaces
For hybrid events, you need to think about physical and digital event signage. Develop brand and design consistency across your digital marketing, registration page, banners, murals, and conference event signage for your physical event space.
Remember, you will be designing your space for one event, but two experiences. Clearly communicate what the in-person event space offers for live attendees, and be mindful of designing brand collateral and stage space that will reflect well for audiences tuning in virtually.
Outdoor events are becoming increasingly more popular as the summer heats up and with indoor restrictions in many areas still in place. Establishing an outdoor event space means using products to help define the space and make wayfinding easy.
Products you’ll need for outdoor event signage include:
- Tents to define an area or provide weather protection from sun and rain
- TV monitors to display agendas and virtual speakers
- Event wayfinding signage to help attendees navigate the space easily and reduce confusion. Floor stickers offer an easy way to direct attendees from one space to another or to areas they need like the restroom.
- A-Frames can easily be moved from one location to another.
- Large format printing banners can be used as partitions from one space to the other, or for event signage or to highlight sponsors
- Backdrops for step and repeats are great to engage attendees and provide them with something shareable for social media
Maintain brand consistency with virtual speakers and hosts by sending
Design Memorable Experiences
Although motivations for attendance between in-person events may differ, both audiences are looking for valuable content and memorable experiences for hybrid events. The energy and potential for chance connections during in-person events may be more naturally suited to creating memorable moments, but you can create memorable experiences for online attendees too.
You can engage your virtual attendees by leveraging social media and live chats to facilitate real-time, dynamic discussion around event sessions. During event Q&As, allow virtual and in-person attendees to submit questions for speakers in real-time. Sessions that allow for participation from both audiences will create a feeling of connectedness for all participants. You should also consider planning breakout rooms and smaller sessions targeted to attendees’ interests that allow for more connection between your virtual attendees.
Don’t forget about this conference staple: Swag bags! Send out branded promotional swag and exclusive content for your virtual crowd as you’re gearing up for your event.
Finally, take full advantage of your virtual content by recording and offering on-demand viewing for registrants. Flexible, accessible content will boost attendance numbers, and even your live audience will be able to catch up on sessions they may have missed in person! Allow access to recorded content as one of your registration perks so attendees can revisit and get the most out of your event content.
Custom Graphics for your Hybrid Event
Color Reflections offers custom event graphics that will take your next hybrid event to the next level. Work with us to perfect a visual marketing strategy that captivates audiences, both in-person and online!