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Go Beyond Virtual – 2021 Guide to Hybrid Events

The year 2020 saw an unprecedented change in the way events were held. All pre-planned events had to either be pushed ahead indefinitely, or canceled. Many organizations, businesses, and content creators shifted their events to online platforms where they could take place virtually. While we may slowly be coming back to the traditional way of hosting in-person events, it is safe to say that virtual events won’t be completely done away with. Rather, a new theme is emerging across the globe – hybrid events. 

Let’s understand hybrid events in detail. A simple google search will tell you that the term ‘hybrid event’ refers to a mix of a live, in-person event and a virtual event. Does that mean that the live Premier league or NFL or IPL broadcast is a hybrid event? To a certain extent, yes! A hybrid event involves a small in-person audience, integrated with a large remote audience watching or streaming the event live. Post-Covid hybrid events have gone beyond simply live streaming the event to incorporate on-demand experiences, two-way interactions, and more. It goes a step further in making sure that both sets of audiences are equipped to participate and derive maximum value out of  the event. 

Hybrid events makes sure that both in-person & remote audiences are equipped to participate and derive maximum value out of  the event.

An event will only be a hybrid event when there is a seamless integration of technology that allows virtual attendees to engage with the live physical event. There are a lot of features that are now offered by event platforms which clearly distinguish hybrid events from the rest. 

How are virtual events different from hybrid events? 

To put it simply, virtual events occur solely on an online platform and only have a remote audience. One can conduct a virtual event on specialized event platforms. These offer a number of features, for interaction, engagement & gamification, designed to keep the virtual attendees engaged with the session.

A hybrid event is an integrated production that involves in-person and virtual attendance. Hybrid events marry a physical event with a virtual component, thereby giving it a significant advantage over physical events. Specific activities and integrations are incorporated on the virtual platform and hosted on a mobile app that is used by in-person attendees. This offers a seamless event experience for all attendees.

if you watched the Oscars online, or the most recent F1 race, you’ve participated in a hybrid event.

As you might already know, hybrid events have been around for some time. In fact, everyone has probably been a part of a hybrid event without knowing it! For example, if you watched the Oscars online, or the most recent F1 race, you’ve participated in a hybrid event. Thanks to technological advancements and the growth and emergence of new technology platforms, hybrid events have transformed into a new entity with increased engagement and sponsorship opportunities for the event organizers.

With a well-planned strategy, hybrid events can be implemented as a year-long marketing property for brands. The content generated during hybrid events can be leveraged even after their completion, which is a great benefit for your brand’s content strategy.

The 4 Pillars of Hybrid Events

Events have always been a source of community-building, lead generation, and knowledge sharing for brands and individuals who have organized them. Hybrid events are no different. We, at Nunify, have put together our years of experience in event organization to formulate the following 4 key pillars of hybrid events. These pillars not only represent our forte, but also are the most essential aspects of hosting a hybrid event.

1. Registration & Check-In

i. Attendees can check-in remotely, or at the event venue via the event app

ii. Attendees can check-in at specific event areas, or for specific sessions

iii. Detailed attendee check-in analytics are made available to organizers

2. Video Streaming

i. Livestream from the venue using RTMP – a video protocol for HD+ live streaming

ii. Upload & display pre-recorded videos for sessions

iii. Live projection of remote attendees for on-screen inclusivity & engagement

3. Community-Building & Networking

i. Attendee lounge, booking meetings, and other features enabled pre-event for attendee convenience

ii. Event page stays live post-event for attendees to access event-data from a ‘virtual briefcase’

iii. Speed networking feature to connect in-person attendees with remote attendees via networking kiosks

iv. Take advantage of 1:1 personal meeting rooms, pre-session speaker lounge interactions for hosts, and more

4. Exhibitor Offerings

i. Video meeting rooms live in exhibitor booths to connect virtual attendees with the exhibitor before, during, and after the event

ii. Capture leads digitally & via in-person QR-coded lead scans at exhibitor booths

iii. Provide digital reading material for prospects

iv. Take advantage of CRM integration for seamless lead exporting

In addition to these 4 key pillars of a hybrid event strategy & event offerings, it is essential for event organizers to be able to track attendee interactions, user journeys through the event, and session engagement. Nunify offers in-depth sentiment analysis and other event analytics for your benefit, to help you improve your hybrid event experience with every iteration.

Why opt for a hybrid event?

Now that businesses and event organizers have seen the benefits of virtual events, it does not seem prudent to give up those advantages only because physical events can take place again. There are still certain restrictions on physical events, and a hybrid event format offers the advantages of physical events & virtual events. Hybrid events open many new avenues for businesses and event organizers, offering various advantages such as:

1. Engaging a Higher Number of Attendees:

Event organizers and businesses are no longer limited by the restrictions of physical event venues & their capacities. Hybrid events enable engagement with an in-person audience, as well as a virtual audience. This offers almost limitless participation from across the globe, and enables businesses and event organizers to reach a bigger target group to enable a higher number of attendees. Nunify can support up to 1 million remote attendees for your hybrid event needs.

The higher the number of attendees, the higher the reach you experience during the event. Event attendees will participate in word-of-mouth promotions for a successful and engaging event, which further boosts your business and event’s reach.

2. Community Building:

Building and fostering a community is at the heart of any event strategy. It creates a lasting benefit for any business or event organizer. The key to building a thriving community via events is to have an effective, year-long, two-way communication strategy. That is exactly where a hybrid event can deliver best. From pre-event activities to a well-hosted event that offers a seamless experience for the in-person audience and remote audience, and on-demand content once the event comes to a conclusion – all of this comes together as the perfect plan to help you build a community. 

3. Increased Scope of Sponsorship:

Hybrid events enable terrific sponsorship opportunities. Sponsors are quite interested in online events, and see the benefits of investing their money there for brand visibility. According to a survey about corporate sponsors, 72% of sponsors showed interest in sponsoring hybrid events if the event would let them directly connect with the audience.

72% of sponsors show interest in sponsoring hybrid events if the event would let them directly connect with the audience

4. Valuable Data & Insights:

Hybrid events offer a plethora of insights from an in-person event perspective, as well as a virtual event perspective. In-person attendee experience & engagement insights can be captured via the event app. Hybrid event platforms offer detailed, in-depth insights of all aspects of the event – from attendee behaviour to content performance. A lot of valuable insights can be derived from such data, which is useful in improving the event experience in the next edition of the event. One can also offer sponsors digital data with respect to audience engagement, interactions, as well as details of potential leads for the sponsors. 

5. Safer Event Format in a Post-Covid Scenario:

Hybrid events are a safe alternative to physical events, as they allow organizers to implement COVID-related safety measures such as social distancing, and adequate pre-event screening, owing to the smaller size of the in-person audience at the physical event venue.

How can one plan & create a successful hybrid event?

To create and host a successful hybrid event, it is important to keep some basic guidelines in mind! Hosting a hybrid event is not a daunting task, yet there are certain things one needs to be mindful of. Here’s a quick guide on the key areas to consider when you plan to create a hybrid event –

1. Offer Value-Based Content

The content of the event should be relevant for your audience, and should have a certain informational or use-based value for them. Speakers and hosts should ensure that the content being delivered is crisp and engaging. They should promote two-way communication with the attendees at regular intervals to understand how the content is being received by attendees.

2. Leverage a Hybrid Event App

A hybrid event app is at the core of one’s hybrid event strategy. An event app is a powerful channel that drives attendee engagement at your hybrid event. There are a wide range of functionalities in these apps, supporting you with requirements ranging from event marketing to event attendance on-the-go, and even event gamification!

Here are some key benefits & uses of event apps, that assist you in executing a successful hybrid event:

  1. Event promotion & marketing
  2. Sale of event tickets
  3. Targeted event marketing to users
  4. Leverage push notifications for engagement
  5. Establish and attendee network
  6. Manage multiple events
  7. Enable personalized event-schedule creation for attendees
  8. Monetize hosted events
  9. Leverage gamification for attendee interaction

3. Simplify Registration 

While most hybrid event organizers pick one platform for ticketing and another platform to host the hybrid event online, they can simplify this process by opting for Nunify’s offering of integrated registration and ticketing on the event page, or the hybrid event app. Avail the advantage of a single branded URL for all event-related requirements – from event & sponsor information to event registration and more. In-person attendees can complete the registration process by accessing QR codes at the event venue using the event app, while remote attendees can register & sign-in virtually.

4. Keep the Audience Engaged

Managing an event that has two different sets of attendees is not an easy task. Today, short attention spans cause a high attrition of audiences, unless their attention is captivated for the entire duration of the event. It is imperative to plan engagement activities, and also require your hybrid event platform to have virtual engagement features so that you can keep both sets of audiences occupied through the course of the event.

For in-person audiences, speed-networking activities, food breaks & other small icebreaker activities can serve to keep them occupied during lull-periods between sessions, for a day-long event. You can opt to engage remote attendees through live polls, Q&A sessions, breakout room interactions, and gamified session experiences.

5. Employ a Comprehensive Marketing Strategy

Pre-event marketing is an essential component that defines your event’s success. It is essential to engage in marketing activities online & offline well in advance to your event date, so as to maximize your reach & ROI. Various platforms that you can leverage to make the most of your marketing efforts include:

  • Your custom event app
  • Social Media Channels (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)
  • Google Search
  • Emails
  • SMS

As important as a pre-event marketing strategy is, it is also important to engage with attendees post-event. Share periodic mails with value-based content & offerings to maintain top-of-mind recall. This ensures that the user registers again for another event that you may host in the future.  

How to host a hybrid event?

When deciding on which type of event to host, it’s good to consider a few factors before you zero-in on a decision. Factors such as event type, event budget, target audience attributes, and the overall objective of the event will help you determine whether you wish to opt for a virtual event, or a hybrid event.

So far, we’ve covered the benefits of planning a hybrid event, the manner in which you can plan your event, and the various factors to be aware of when planning a hybrid event. When it comes to hosting the hybrid event, the following aspects need to be considered and implemented:

  1. Select a venue to host the event
  2. Select a hybrid event platform with integrated registration and ticketing
  3. Use a custom-branded event app for marketing & event engagement
  4. Plan your event’s theme and content
  5. Identify and invite speakers for your event
  6. Initiate pre-event marketing campaigns
  7. Host a dry run prior to the event, to test all features
  8. Ensure that there is a live support team available on the day of the event
  9. Engage in post-event marketing campaigns

With these salient points, you can plan, create, and host a successful hybrid event that will immensely benefit your organization or business. The success of a hybrid event majorly depends on the experience of the attendees, a hybrid event platform or service with quality industry experience, and a robust strategy that helps you achieve all your goals and targets. 

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