Here, There, and Everywhere. The Evolution of Hybrid Events.

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Here, There, and Everywhere. The Evolution of Hybrid Events.

 

Virtual communication was the “it” topic in 2020. We all learned together as we sat at home in our newly created office spaces talking to colleagues in online meetings and attending virtual events in dress shirts and pajama pants (…it’s okay; we’ve all done it). 

In case you didn’t already realize it, you’ve just lived through a communication revolution. While there were certainly glitches and hiccups along the way, the tech world rose to the challenge, rapidly innovating new products and features to cater to evolving demands. Years’ worth of technological advancement was accomplished in mere months. Bandwidths were increased, video streaming became more reliable, and the internet of things (IoT) became more pervasive and more necessary than ever. 

As a result of these transformations, we learned a new way of doing things – from teaching grandma how to FaceTime to the art of making your complexion look just right on camera (bless you ring light 💁‍♀️️).

But one of the most impressive evolutions of all was the massive shift from in-person classrooms, offices, conferences, shows, and other events into the virtual unknown. At first, we all scrambled to bring once-physical congregations entirely online. Then, just as soon as we were all getting the hang of learning and communicating entirely online, we found a new way to shake things up by blending the physical with the virtual worlds together. Almost overnight, a new type of event was born: the hybrid event

So, what is a hybrid event? 

Hybrid events combine virtual and in-person interactions, powered by technology. Not only do hybrid events give attendees the flexibility to choose between attending an event in person or online, but they also create new revenue streams for event organizers who can scale ticket sales beyond the physical constraints of an event space. 

A few benefits of hybrid events include: 

  • Increased attendees. Guests from anywhere in the world can tune into a hybrid event from the comfort of their couch. (Yep, that event you’ve been dying to attend in Timbuktu is just a click away.)

  • Broader brand reach. Live streamed event content can be easily recorded and repurposed long after an event has ended. 

  • More sponsorship opportunities. Sponsors get the benefit of double brand exposure online and in-person, driving more value to sponsors and more sponsorship dollars to organizers.  

  • Improved engagement insights. The online nature of hybrid events allows you to track more than just session headcounts. You can glean valuable insights from session engagement or drop-offs, as well as more detailed audience demographic data online. 

What makes a GREAT hybrid event?

The best hybrid events do more than simply livestream seminars (boooring). Rather, they connect and engage live and virtual audiences in new, unique ways. 

Here are a few examples of real world hybrid event experiences that married the virtual and in-person worlds beautifully:

  • No sour grapes here. Austrian Wine hosted the very first hybrid wine tasting event in Moscow during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in November 2020. At the event, 160 wine tasters sipped on wine flights at their own socially distanced tables with quick access to wine growers via live video chat. Not only did they get to experience the same one-on-one conversations with wine growers they normally would, but they could also get live virtual tours of the growers’ vineyards and wineries without ever having to stumble away from their tables. Despite the event having to pivot of necessity, both winemakers and wine tasters reported rave reviews of the hybrid event. One participant, the President of the Moscow Sommelier Association, even said it was one of the best wine tastings he had ever experienced and hoped to do more just like it. 

  • Hacking a traditional event. Junction’s 2020 Connected event was a hackathon like they’d never had before. Instead of attendees descending on a single event location, Junction hosted attendees in 11 smaller in-person hubs around the world and online. Challenges were divided not by physical location, but based on industries and themes, tying those with common interests together whether they were physically close or not. The greatest benefit to this hub and spoke model was that geographic borders no longer mattered. Anyone from anywhere could participate either in person at a nearby hub or completely online from the comfort of their sofas. As a result, the hackathon was able to draw more than 10,000 participants to the hybrid event in 2020, compared to just 1,500 in 2019. 

  • No latency in this love connection. New York-based speed dating and social events company Weekend Dating switched up its traditional in-person speed dating model to host a mix of in-person and online speed dating, game nights, and other small group social events. Not only did singles get the chance to mix ‘n’ mingle however they felt most comfortable, but the hybrid event model opened the doors to even more unique possibilities. For example, one speed dating event called “Love is Blind” required participants to keep their cameras off until the end of the event to encourage singles to focus solely on their conversations and real love connections.  

 

Need some more ideas for your next event? 

We’ve got you covered. Here are even more tips on making your hybrid event a success:

  • Mix it up. Consider a networking or speed dating event where in-person participants rotate between live interactions and virtual ones on a screen. 

  • Use live polls & Q&As. Have live speakers interact with both in-person and virtual attendees via live polls and Q&As.  Make the questions or poll results viewable to both in-person and virtual audiences to bridge the two worlds.

  • Emulate real world social interactions online. Like real world scenarios, allow virtual attendees to move easily from one conversation to another based on interest. 

  • Promote collaboration. Use virtual areas for small group breakout sessions or collaborative project workspaces.

What’s in store for the future of hybrid events? 

Who knows? All we know is that there’s no turning back now. And that’s an exciting place to be. Not only do we get to explore creative ways to host and grow events, but we also get to define where it goes next. The future of the hybrid event is bound only by the limits of our imagination. So, here’s to the future and the wild ride it inevitably has in store.

Have you hosted a mind-blowing hybrid event using Wonder? If so, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below! 

Best hybrid event I ever had: a cooking class lead by an online instructor BUT the team of 20 was able to communicate in real time alongside the chef. We heard the sounds of spoons, dishes, and laughs when our european workforce tried to understand what amount of flour is in a “cup?”. It was so nice being able to communicate digitally but go through an in-person process together.

What was the best (or worst?) hybrid event you went to? Best answer gets a special prize :D


Now, more than ever, the event industry’s focus is on returning to Hybrid or Multi-Channel events that include both onsite and online components.  Now, planners will need to combine everything that they have learned about taking events virtual and combine it with the new realities of what in-person events look like today. 

One of the most in-demand aspects of engagement is networking  We have become quite used to using basic tools in many of our livestreaming services and the events that we hold there.  

But…how does this work now that we are going hybrid?  Your in-person guests may be engaging with other in-person guests   Or, perhaps you are remote and are looking to networking with both the remote and in-person audience.  How can we, as part as an event planning team, support the cross over requirements of audience engagement.

As hybrid and multi-channel events grow in popularity, the cross-over of engagement, content and networking opportunities between the online and onsite audiences will be the next big challenge for event professionals to take on.
 


During the pandemic, we couldn’t go to the cafe or restaurant, so I co-hosted three mothly talks with all educational enthusiasts wanting to have a chat with the other participants. I had a local beer and raised glasses to everyone present. 

I felt the need to have a chat about this massive earthquake covid was to education, so I made a website with a small tutorial (annotated screenshot of a wonder meeting) and made some promotion for the event on LinkedIn and Twitter. The response wasn’t overwhelming, but that made it even more interesting, making it possible to go in-depth with just about everyone present.

This is how I ran ‘the event’:

  • I made room areas based on ice-cream flavors,
  • I had an introductory broadcast at the beginning of the event,
  • I asked everyone to move over to the flavor of ice-cream they loved, since we were all a strangers to each other. (I had a ‘I don’t like ice-cream zone as well’, there are always strange people around :wink:)
  • I asked them to discuss about the topics they wanted to talk about and come to the general wonder bubble after like five minutes
  • we discussed topics and then parted ways again to newly made zones of interest, where everyone interested in the specific topic went over to have a talk.
  • After like half an hour, we all came back and shared new insights in the main group.

It worked very well and instead of having some complaining about how difficult teaching was during pandemic, a positive atmosphere made it a very productive session, where everyone learned from each other and shared best insights.

I held this talks three times and a planning to get them back on track as soon as schools are taking of again in September.


Everybody was so keen to meet everybody else F2F after the lockdown that everybody bar one person turned up in the forseen meeting room.

Naturally the hybrid meeting was soon over as we decided to go to a nearby park instead, where we had our meeting being hybrid in the green in the shade of beautiful trees!

The ‘bar one’ (its his new nick name) also came to join us of course! We were sitting in a cosy yet social distancing check-in circle - and the ice-breaker was?

Switching off our smart phones! Now that broke some ice which had piled-up during lockdown!-))) To be able  to chat in real time and in real space - no mikes, no cameras…….”annihilating all that is made to a green thought in a green shade”!-)))


Best hybrid event I had was organized by a friend: The virtual “New Year's Eve” 2020/2021.

The friend all sent us beforehand packets with an invitation printed on paper, small table fireworks, small bottles as basis for cocktails and so on. We even had a live transmission of real fireworks from another friend :-)

But to be honest - we had the wrong videoconferencing system - we used BBB which was not adequate for >30 people - especially during New Year's Eve - with everybody yelling :-)

We already knew wonder.me but it was too new for us - so we decided to stay with BBB. Wrong decision as I mentioned.

Best regards
cb.


@Blui your NYE party is a great example of a hybrid format: sending out physical pieces of an event prior to the virtual event. If you had the right video-conferencing platform, what types of interactions and structure would you have wished to see?


@erikW - great example of an engaging event that helped people meet each other at the very beginning (even those who don’t like ice cream! :grin:). Do you think you’ll keep this meeting all virtual, or will you try a hybrid approach?


@hssharpe - I’m curious to hear more about your predictions for the future crossover of online and offline. I’m going to start a new group for us labeled “Hybrid Events” and would love to have you join and participate in the discussion.


Hybrid events bring together the best of both worlds, but they also bring together the worst of both worlds. Many of the professional event planners I have talked to said it wasn’t just double the work to plan a hybrid event, it was exponentially more work.

And we also have to be careful about our definition of hybrid. I think people are still fuzzy on the concept. I would say, for example, that sending out physical packages to all participants and meeting online, for example, is still an online event and not a hybrid. Why? Because every person is still meeting each other on a virtual platform. There is no f2f interaction.

Some may also define a hybrid as having people at a physical event, and also people online. And while you could say that it is a hybrid event, it’s not really a new type of hybrid event. For years, events like the Oscars and Golden Globes have had people attending in person, while people watched from the television screen. So that isn’t anything really new. And even before CoVid, these bigger events or TV shows were allowing off-site participants to engage with the event via polls, dialing-in, and voting.

What is new, is having both the people in the physical space AND the online space interacting with each other. This is the the most challenging type of hybrid event because it requires 3 major steps:

  1. Get the people in the room interacting
  2. Get the people online interacting
  3. Get the people in the room and online interacting with each other

While this type of event unlocks a lot of potential for new ways of interacting, and saving lots of money flying people all over the world to get together, it requires a lot of work. You not only need a strong tech team, but a strong facilitation/organizing team.

Anyhow, that’s just my definition. It will be interesting to see how other leaders in the field define it. Most likely everyone will be using the term “hybrid” if they choose to livestream an in-person event. But the reality is, that is what TV production studios have been doing for years.


We have been organizing hybrid events for a few years now. For this we usually use Zoom, although this is not optimal. The events usually consist of individual lectures or panel discussions. These can be displayed well in Zoom. The most important point is that the settings can be chosen in such a way that the audience can't just talk in and interfere.  In addition, it is easy to share screen contents (vieos or slides).

These possibilities are missing with WONDER.  You don't have a room where an admin can free speakers with screen and mute other participants (as viewers).

In addition, and iher hakte also Zoom, it is not possible with both systems to assign individual access codes, so that each of the virtual visitors has his own individual ticket.

It would also be good if it were possible to play live streams in WONDER. We are currently building a system in which we capture images (and sounds) on site and transmit them to our studio near Cologne. In this studio, the speakers are also running via a live stream and are mixed to a complete broadcast. We then play the entire stream via an RMTP server on our own event platform. In this case we don't need Zoom anymore. For networking we want to use WONDER.


@Beixi Did you ever create a “Hybrid events” group?


@Erik Ballhausen “annihilating all that is made to a green thought in a green shade” - love that! 

@Vivian This is a really interesting take on hybrid events and, quite honestly, one I’ve never thought about: are they actually for the worst? Very curious in continuing the conversation. I’m going to create a Hybrid Events Group right after sending this message (I’m looking at you @jchris!) and looking forward to everyone here joining! 

@achimschmiodt, thanks for sharing this! In fact, we’ll be working on a lot of what you mentioned. Check out our ideas section 😉 and feel free to add some of your own!  


Ask and you shall receive!