What is a Hybrid Event?
Hybrid events describe an event that makes use of both in-person and virtual aspects. It is most commonly used to describe an event that one can attend in-person, or online through the means of video streams and interactive website pages or apps. They mix the best parts of traditional face-to-face events with the latest online technologies to provide an enhanced experience for all attendees.
How to Host a Hybrid Event
Hosting a hybrid event has never been easier. It’s not a walk in the park by any means, and it adds a whole other layer to your event planning responsibilities, but it is definitely a “must-have” for all modern corporate events. If it all seems a bit overwhelming, fear not, these days there are plenty of options for help with hosting hybrid events.
Let’s take a look at some of the key components to consider when planning a hybrid event.
The Event Venue
Finding the right hybrid events venue is key. The in-person side of your event should be easy to reach for as many people as possible. Plan to hold your event in an area close to the largest demographic that you’re hoping to attract. Look for great public transport connections, as well as considering the walkability and driveability factors. You want to make your event easy to access for as many people as possible.
The same thinking also applies to the virtual side of your event, your virtual venue should be as easy to find and as welcoming as your real-life venue. Pick up a great domain name for your event website, and direct your attendees to it. Keep everything in one organised space or hub, so that your attendees know exactly where they should go to find what they’re looking for. Promote the link on your social media channels, and consider running paid ads across search engines and social media to raise awareness of your event.
To pull off a successful hybrid event, your venue will need a fast internet connection, with upload speeds capable of accommodating high-quality live video streaming, as well as the bandwidth to handle all of your download and upload requirements simultaneously. This all depends on the size of your event, if you’re going to have several different seminars and conferences live streaming at the same time, you need to consider the implications of this on your video upload speeds.
Many venues now include an in-house hybrid events package, helping you to set up and execute the virtual side of your event. You’ll often find that support technicians can also be hired directly from the venue, and they will have all of the knowledge and equipment needed to make your hybrid event a success. So our first top tip is to look for a venue that includes a comprehensive hybrid events package, with in-house support.
Audio and Video Equipment
In addition to super fast internet speeds, you will also need to have the audio and video equipment in place to provide video streaming and recording capabilities. Your virtual stream seminars should look and sound just as if the audience were in the room (if not better). An experienced independent AV company or in-house AV team is able to assist you in implementing the technologies required to give your audience clear video and audio.
Poor audio quality, delays, or interference really can make or break the audience retention for your video streams. With poor audio, you won’t keep the audience's attention and your viewer numbers will start to drop as some people decide it’s not worth straining to listen to poor audio.
Clean and clear audio is shown to increase the attention time of audiences, and also affect how much of the information they can recall. Ian Wilkinson conducted a study on this for the University of Texas. In the study, Wilkinson showed a video of the same lecture to audiences with 3 different levels of audio quality and asked them questions about the lecture afterwards. He states “The test indicated that participants in the high-quality audio group answered more questions correctly on average compared to those who received medium-quality or low-quality audio”. Thus demonstrating that retention is lower among learners who are exposed to a lower-quality audio source. Have a conversation with your AV team about audio quality, and absolutely conduct trial runs to confirm that the quality is of a high standard.
Make it Interactive
One of the challenges of hosting hybrid events is how do you allow your virtual attendees to engage in the same way as your in-person attendees? The people that attend in person are able to participate in workshops, ask questions of speakers, and network with each other in ways that are more challenging in the online world. Just because this is more challenging, doesn’t mean you should simply not try to provide it. There are a number of ways to make sure that your virtual attendees feel as engaged and included as the others.
Include a “live chat” section on your video streams, where your online audience can interact with each other, and the guest speakers at the same time. A Q&A feature is also a great idea, where the audience can submit their questions for the speakers to answer at the end of the lecture.
Hold virtual workshops alongside your real-life ones, video conferencing tools such as Zoom can help with this. Sign up smaller groups for short workshops where everyone can feel included, and everyone feels like they’ve got a chance to engage directly with the professionals leading the workshop.
Your event website acts as the hub, the jumping-off point for all of your virtual events. Not only is it the place where in-person attendees can get information about dates, times, travel, and content, but it’s also where a significant portion of your audience will be attending virtually.
You will need to consider the user experience (UX) so that visitors to the website are able to find the information they’re looking for easily.
You might have several real-life rooms with speakers conducting seminars and lectures all at the same time, and your virtual audience needs a way to navigate to the content that’s relevant to them. Make your website clean, clear, and easy to navigate. Engage with professionals in UX and website design, plan to invest a good portion of your budget in this area, as the website will be the longest-running piece of your event. From the early announcement to post-event catch-ups using video on demand, your website has a much longer lifespan than the in-person event, so be sure to take this into consideration when budgeting for your hybrid event.
Hybrid Events at Royal Armouries Leeds
Here at Royal Armouries, we’re well-equipped to host hybrid events in Leeds. Our dedicated in-house team of experts are available to make your event a success. We offer hybrid events packages to suit all sizes of events, from smaller meetings of just a few people to large conferences with attendance numbers in the thousands.