People sitting at a business conference watching someone present.
While hybrid events take more planning than a typical in-person-only event, research shows they are the preferred style of events by attendees. — Getty Images/skynesher

A hybrid event is one that hosts both in-person and virtual attendees. Since the pandemic, this event format has become more popular: Metrigy Research reports that nearly 50% of corporate event attendees consider hybrid events the ideal format for the future, compared to exclusively in-person or virtual-only events.

Hybrid events require more thought than simply adding a video stream to your in-person event, though. To engage audiences online and IRL, hybrid events need digital platforms, opportunities to network, and a live component. As a result, hybrid events can take a bit more planning — but the payoff can be great. Here’s what you need to know as you approach hosting a hybrid event.

[Read more: Business Conferences Return IRL with New Learnings From Virtual Events]

Prepare an events plan

Start by getting organized around the vision and goal of your hybrid event. Hybrid events can serve internal and external purposes, such as employee training, a product launch, an industry conference, or a networking event. Work with your team or events planner to answer these questions:

  • Who is the event for?
  • What will they learn?
  • Why will they find the event appealing?
  • When will it happen?
  • Who will be featured in the event?

The answers to these questions will help you guide your decision-making moving forward. As you design your hybrid event, include elements such as speakers’ details (if applicable), timings of the sessions, tech details, and session topics.

Choose your venue

Hybrid events always have a live, in-person element. Therefore, you’ll need to find a physical location at which to host your event. As you look for a venue, consider how many registrants are likely to attend in-person versus online. Think about how the event will unfold: if you have breakout sessions, for instance, you may need to find space with smaller rooms in addition to a stage.

Consider if you’ll have sponsors that will want to use the space to advertise or engage with attendees. Look for a space with good acoustics, if you plan on having presenters. And make sure there’s space for audio and video equipment (along with plenty of outlets) to keep your online attendees engaged.

A hybrid event requires audio and video equipment, a strong internet connection for streaming, tech support, and on-site signage, branding, and presentation materials.

Use a hybrid events platform

There are tools designed specifically to help plan, manage, and execute hybrid events. Vendors such as Webex Events, Cvent, SpotMe and Airmeet each offer hybrid events software that can make it easy to execute your next conference or product launch. These platforms include features to bridge the online/offline experience, such as flexible registration and ticketing, video streaming and recording tools, mobile event apps, QR codes, and messaging/chat rooms. Plus, each software will help guide you through the process of setting up your event, with resources and guidelines to make your event successful.

Get the right equipment

A hybrid event requires audio and video equipment, a strong internet connection for streaming, tech support, and on-site signage, branding, and presentation materials. Hybrid events can quickly get expensive, so look for equipment you can rent and make sure you can record everything for later marketing use and video replays. Cut down on printing costs by using QR codes — this will also create the hybrid digital experience linking in-person and digital audiences.

[Read more: Returning to Live Events: How to Get Started Planning One]

Prepare your speakers

Hybrid event speakers have the difficult task of engaging two audiences at once — one of whom isn’t even in the room. Give your speakers plenty of time to rehearse, and make sure that each speaker acknowledges the online attendees at the beginning of their session.

“On-site [at Winter Workshop 2021], you’ll notice a lot of the speakers spoke directly to the camera, even though they were with a live audience, they still addressed the people at home. But they also pulled reactions from people in the room, which helped to bring the energy up, so it was kind of the best of both worlds,” Rhette Baughman, chief revenue officer at the National Speaker Association, told Webex Events.

The value of hybrid events is that you’re capturing plenty of content to edit and reuse later in your marketing campaigns. If it doesn’t go perfectly day-of, there are still ways to use footage and increase engagement with your online audiences.

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Published April 15, 2022