Virtual events and meetings are expected to continue to grow strongly next year, but with a promised easing of the Coronavirus crisis looming, the business community can look forward to resuming a face-to-face presence when it comes to events.
Internal company and routine customer meetings, webinars, education and training, board meetings, and so on, are among those events likely to continue to take place in a largely virtual environment.
But what about conferences, summits, conventions and other long-form in-person commercial events?
While many organisations made the leap to online or virtual-only versions in 2020, when the physical event industry reopens to face-to-face events, we expect to see the return of some long-form physical events — possibly with smaller audiences, social distancing and attendees now used to the flexibility of attending sessions online.
Hybrid events, which combine a physical event with an online component, are a great alternative — a way of having your event, and streaming it too!
There has been some resistance in the past to hybrid events: in fact, there are 3 myths we’ve encountered that may prevent people from holding hybrid events.
Myth #1. A hybrid event will cannibalise attendance to my physical event
“Why would I stream my physical event online? No one will come to the face-to-face event.”
While that may sound logical, in fact, a virtual component is a great way to promote and expand attendance of your event overall.
The trick is to be strategic about how you make it available online. You might consider:
- Thinking about why attendees would attend both live and online sessions and tailoring your content carefully to suit both channels
- Charging people to attend your online sessions as well as in-person events
- Only offering online access to people outside the immediate local area in which your face-to-face event is being held.
- Live-streaming your keynote sessions to promote your event, but reserving other sessions (such as interactive workshops) for the face-to-face event
- Simulcasting live on social channels to reach a broad audience and rank more highly on social feeds
- Offering content on-demand, which enables both live and virtual delegates to attend more sessions, maximising the value they get from your event.
The Professional Conference Management Association began live-streaming its annual conference more than 8 years ago and has since added 1800 new association members and a million-dollar revenue stream for online attendance.
Myth #2: It’s too risky and adds too much complexity
“It’s too risky. What if delegates pay to attend online but can’t log on? How can I support them?”
If you’re used to running physical events, where you’re busiest on the day of the event itself, frantically overseeing everything from speakers to catering, it might seem too risky and a step too far to film part of the event and offer it online over the internet.
But unless you already have videographers and technical support on staff, the key to minimising risk when it comes to hybrid events is to use a managed virtual event provider that is experienced in filming and live-streaming online events, and offers proven risk-mitigation plans.
When it comes to the virtual component of your hybrid event, most of the preparation work will take place in advance, leaving you to focus on your face-to-face event and your virtual event provider to manage the virtual side of things.
Ask if your provider:
- Is experienced in running and live-streaming hybrid events
- Offers technical support for virtual delegates who can’t connect
- Has a back-up plan if the broadband connection fails
- Can offer a technical alternative, such as a teleconference
- Offers a secure connection only for registered attendees
- Hosts the event on local servers
Myth #3: It’s not engaging enough
“It’s too boring. No one is going to watch my speakers giving their presentations online.”
Actually, with a little forethought, you can create a hybrid event that is just as engaging for your virtual delegates as it is for the live audience.
Most virtual event platforms offer interactive features that not only enable your online attendees to participate live, but also provide you with engagement data that you can use to inform your hybrid event session and improve future events.
Some things to consider include:
- Incorporating pre-recorded video to break up presentations
- Running polls in live environments and announcing the results in the live event
- Calling for questions from both the physical attendees and the online audience via live chat Q&A
- Offering downloadable resource packs to add value for online attendees
- Asking your virtual event provider about how they can help you track and measure engagement for the online component.
We think 2021 could be the year of the hybrid event.
To find out more about how you can make hybrid events work for you, download our eBook: Hybrid Events: Trends, Facts and Hacks!