Are hybrid events the future of meetups?
The short answer is yes! More companies have eliminated or consolidated physical offices. More employees worked remotely last year than ever before. And more event organizers have incorporated at least some virtual component into their live events. But we can generally agree that we don’t only want to interact with one another on our devices all the time, so hybrid events strike that happy medium. Plus, with hybrid events, anyone can attend any event anywhere, regardless of location, time, or cost. Win, win, win.
Are hybrid events actually two events or one?
The idea behind the hybrid event is to have one cohesive event that combines both online and offline participants. Although some experiences may only be available to in-person audiences, and vice versa, the event goals and value derived from all event participants are the same. A seamless hybrid event will also successfully facilitate simultaneous interactions among both live and virtual audiences and presenters. (This can be challenging. More on that later.)
Help! How do I start planning a hybrid event?
We cover this topic extensively, step by step, in another post, The Secret to Creating an Action-Packed Virtual Event. One additional takeaway from our Wonder Talk, however, is how helpful your peers or even complete strangers can be! Just talking to others who are planning their own hybrid events or have planned a hybrid event before is a great place to start.
How do physical and virtual attendees interact?
Herein lies the most difficult conundrum of the hybrid event space. How do we get virtual guests to really feel what in-person guests feel? How do we engage their other senses and really make them active participants in the experience? Well, there were a few ideas and suggestions that came up in our circles.
Connect attendees mentally, socially, or emotionally. While guests may not be able to physically interact with one another, they can connect in other ways. Consider mixing live and virtual audiences in small groups and tasking them with a collective challenge to solve together. For social events, this task could be something fun, like a scavenger hunt or trivia game. For business networking purposes, consider creating mastermind discussion groups tasked with tackling specific business challenges common to the group.
Give presenters a clear structure. Presenters at hybrid events may find it difficult to manage both live and virtual audiences. Knowing where to look during a presentation or how to field questions from dual audiences can be challenging. As a host, it’s your job to lay out a clear structure for presenters to follow. Tell them when and where to look on a screen for virtual questions or have a dedicated facilitator field questions that come in via comment threads so your virtual audience doesn’t get neglected.
Make sure everyone has the same resources. If you’re hosting a hybrid cooking class, wine tasting event, or baby shower, make sure all attendees have the physical items they need in hand before getting started. If you’re organizing a hybrid trade show, make sure companies know where to mail swag bags to virtual prospects. This way, when there is, say, a cooking class, everyone is smelling the same smells and engaging all the same senses. (Smell something burning? See that smoke? Hear that fire alarm? Something went wrong.)
Host small, in-person hubs that connect virtually. This works especially well if your participants are spread out geographically but are tied by some common interest. Junction’s 2021 Hackathon is a great example of a hybrid event done right. It’s an online-first event with all the content available virtually, but they also offer in-person hubs in multiple physical locations around the world to give participants a chance to meet and work with fellow hackers nearby.
By and large, hybrid events are uncharted territory, which makes our discussions around the subject so valuable. Together, we’re shaping the future of hybrid events, so let’s keep the convo going! Chime in below with your own thoughts, questions or challenges about hosting hybrid events. We’d love to hear stories of events gone right (or wrong) and what lessons you learned along the way. Heck, we may even feature you in a future blog post to share your own experience!
… The more we get together, the happier we’ll be …
We have plenty of opportunities to ask questions and start discussions in our community! Join a group, create a new topic, or attend an upcoming Wonder Talk to leverage insights from those who have blazed the trail before.