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!