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5 steps to create successful Hybrid events!

“Hybrid” events are here to stay! In the post-covid era the event market went into deep transformation.

On one side, participants learned better how to use digital solutions, videoconferencing, engagement solutions to attend events remotely. They also perceived the advantages of remote participation in terms of lower costs, more flexibility and less transport. 

On the other side, event organizers understood the demand shift, perceived the unlimited scalability potential of virtual events and are seeking to generate additional revenues from the online setting!

But how can we clearly define hybrid events and how can we make them succesful?

Hybrid events are not physical events with a digital interface, a website or a social media communication! According to Puccinelli & al (2022) Hybrid conferences are in-person events that have an online component, content & agenda. Hybrid events disrupt the common understanding of events as being limited in time and space by offering a wide range of parallel content and multi-level participation possiblilities.

“Hybrid” events are here to stay! In the post-covid era the event market went into deep transformation. « 

Research findings by Simon (2018) identify at least three questions to define hybrid events (1) What type of online practices can be identified before, during and after the event? (2) How do online and offline event practices and rituals influence each other? (3) How do combinations of online and offline practices contribute to the creation and maintenance of hybrid event communities?

Here are the 5 steps that you should understand to succeed in your hybrid event.

Step 1: Elaborate a Hybrid Concept

Hybrid events are not “only” a digital add-on to physical events. They are much more. The event concept defines to what extent the online attendees participate in the conference and whether there will be multiple locations or one single location. The hybrid concept should identify also whether online participants can be presenters or not? How can they interact with in-person and other online attendees? According to Puccinelli & al (2022) “while informal interactions tend to form naturally among onsite attendees during coffee breaks and meals, these interactions are lacking for online attendees who usually need a screen break during these times”

Hybrid event planning must be dual with an in-person agenda and an online agenda. Some of the components can be exclusively physical or virtual and other components can build hybrid experiences. You can use the following Hybrid Event Template developed by Evey’s Team to successfully build your hybrid event agenda.

One of the building blocks of any event is the content preparation. Hybrid and virtual events offer unlimited possibilities of collaboration and content creation. Especially, in the concept phase participants and co-organizers can be engaged to elaborate and co-create collectively the event content and agenda. This will result in acts of solidarity, community engagement and attachement. 

Step 2: Book the venue

Like any event the serious organization kick-off starts after the venue is booked for a specific date. When it comes to hybrid settings, the venue selection should be careful and should take into account in-person event needs and virtual event needs.

Whereas the needs of in-person events include the logistics of plenaries, workshop spaces, coffee-break spaces, lunch,… the needs of virtual events are related to live streaming, audiovisual settings and materials, language interpretation… The venue infrastructure must support all technical requirements. In particular,  the following items should be verified:

  • How is the quality and the stability of internet connection? A minimum of 8 Mega is needed to make fluent video conferencing and streaming. To test internet quality, you can use speedtest.net or Google Speedtest
  • Are there built-in cameras and sound systems? Or do you need an external company (an extra room would be needed for the filming crew); You can also look for innovative audiovisual companies like RoCamRoll that automatically streams and mixes live videos or high service quality companies with personalized support like Associa Media Prod
  • Are there venue firewalls that could block external event platforms like Zoom or any other videoconferencing or streaming platform ? Check this aspect with the venue IT team as soon as you can. It risks being a showstopper that cannot be addressed when the event starts.

 

Step 3: Launch Registrations & communicate on your event

The pre-event process is crucial. It is composed of managing registrations, communication, invitations, speakers management, and sponsors confirmations.

There are many options for the registration. In fact, depending on the event nature and objectives, the registration could be public, restricted or private. It can be free or paid. It is usually interesting to develop different offerings for the in-person and the virtual event. In fact, many organizers propose a private, paid access for the in-person event and a free public access to the online event. Other organizers develop specific packages for booths, sponsors and participants that include a physical only access, a virtual only access or a combination of both. This increases the sources of event monetization.

Some events require an application and a selection phase. In the international event Innovate4Cities organized by the United Nations-Habitat in October 2021, a submission phase for speakers and sessions has been launched 3 months before the event. After a selection process, more than 800 speakers have been selected to perform in more than 200 live sessions. For more details you can download the I4C case study here. 

The emailing and invitation phase are usually very sensitive. It is highly recommended to use email marketing platforms such as MailChimpZoho or Hubspot . Although these platforms have a big capacity to handle thousands of emails and invitations, they pose two major challenges. First, as email providers’ filters are getting more and more powerful, your speaker email invitation may fall into the spam or promotion folder. Second, the data decentralization between your excel files, your emails, the e-mailing provider and the registration platform could cause losses of time and information. It is therefore recommended to use an event platform that integrates an emailing solution and centralizes all your data. Evey.live for instance offers an all in one platform integrating the whole value chain (CRM, Ticketing, Badging, Videoconferencing, Streaming…)

Step 4: The D-Day :Manage your physical & virtual attendees flow

It is the D-Day, event venue doors will open physically and virtually in a few minutes! Your imminent challenge: participants’ flow management.

The event organizing team should be ready to manage the badging smoothly and nicely. At the same time the event virtual platform infrastructure should be able to absorb the masses of users connecting simultaneously to attend your first plenary! It is a “truth moment” and no risk should be left to this moment. Tests, checks, all details must have been addressed already and your team should be well briefed. 

Our Evey Team has built significant experience and knowledge to successfully manage big events. In the Tunisia Cybersecurity and Cloud Expo the badging team has managed more than 3000 attendees over 2 days with an average waiting time of less than 2min/ participant. In the Forum des métiers organized by ATUGE the platform hosted +7000 registered participants with a load capacity of 3000 simultaneous online participants simultaneously.

Step 5: Your event remains live after the event

Simon (2018) states that it is clear that the hybrid event offers a real time interaction ritual chain that can move from bodily co-presence to virtual co-presence and vice versa. However, what event platform offers is perpetuity: in fact, the event never ends. It is actually the start of a community of connections, opportunities and knowledge. Sustaining, cultivating and nurturing this community is a MUST to every event organizer. The event platform will maintain content online with possibilities to review replays, access to event contact list, give feedback and suggest innovative ideas for the next edition. 

Takeaways

Organizing a hybrid event offers many advantages of scalability, monetization and reach for the event organizer and participants. At the same time, it increases the organization complexity. 

The multiplication of softwares and solutions complicates data management and causes major risks. Research conducted by Puccinelli & al (2022) recommends to aim for a single platform to access live and on-demand talks, live streaming, ask questions to speakers, and more generally interact with other online attendees via chats or videoconferences, as well as to receive information from and communicate with the organizing committee for potential issues. Evey Technologies is building solutions in this spirit: simplify hybrid event organization. Feel free to contact our team for more information, book a free meeting here .

Finally here are the major takeaways to make your hybrid event successful:

  1. Define clearly the conference format and the extent of online participation;
  2. Maximize inclusivity
  3. Simplify access and communication
  4. Maximize interaction opportunities between online and onsite attendees

References:

Puccinelli & al (2022) Hybrid conferences: opportunities, challenges and ways forward

bioRxiv 2022.03.18.484941; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2022.03.18.484941

Ilja Simons (2019) Events and online interaction: the construction of hybrid event communities, Leisure Studies, 38:2, 145-159, DOI: 10.1080/02614367.2018.1553994

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