A business team is holding a hybrid conference meeting in a tiered open seating space. A group of them wave to two female colleagues, who are pictured on large television screen.
Hosting a hybrid event helps you reach a wider audience and saves on some line items, such as catering. However, invest some of those savings in other elements, like marketing. — Getty Images/alvarez

Hybrid events, containing both in-person and remote elements, offer many benefits for small businesses. They can boost brand awareness, reach, and connections — often at a greater scale than those typically accessible to small businesses via in-person events.

Here's everything you need to know about planning and running a professional hybrid event on a budget.

Benefits of planning a hybrid event as a small business

Though hybrid events come with additional logistical considerations for both on-site and off-site attendees, they also offer the "best of both worlds" for small businesses looking to engage their target audience.

With remote attendance options, your audience is no longer limited to your geographic region or even your time zone. With a wider audience comes the potential for more connections for your business, both in terms of customers and event sponsors. Making these connections is one of the greatest draws of hosting a business event, according to Vincent Velasquez, CEO and Co-Founder of event production companies Hurricane Productions and MediaCutlet.

Hybrid events also provide attendees with greater choice and flexibility. While not everyone is interested or available for an in-person event, fully virtual events lack the face-to-face element that some attendees are seeking. Having both allows attendees to participate in the way they are able, driving increased participation and engagement.

[Read more: 5 Smart Ideas For Hosting a Hybrid Event]

Don't make it hard for people to access the content. Pick platforms that are ubiquitous and can take the attendee from registration to the session without using multiple logins.

Vincent Velasquez, CEO and Co-Founder of Hurricane Productions and MediaCutlet

Budget line items you can reduce or eliminate with hybrid or virtual events

Many of the costs associated with business events can be easily lowered (or eliminated altogether) with hybrid or virtual events, Velasquez noted. These include the following:

  • Food and beverage. Depending on your in-person versus virtual attendance, you’ll likely see a lower catering bill.
  • Labor. With fewer attendees on-site, you won't need as many staff members to keep the live event running smoothly. Keep in mind, however, that virtual event components still need to be staffed appropriately.
  • Venue. For hybrid events, you may be able to book a smaller space to accommodate your in-person attendees; for virtual ones, you'll only need enough space for your staff to run the event.

"You should invest some of those savings in digital marketing, production, and adding value to the event," added Velasquez.

When creating a hybrid event budget, make sure to factor in the following line items:

  • Technology, including equipment and support staffing.
  • Promotions, including any physical materials, digital marketing, and/or paid advertising.
  • A contingency fund, specifically to cover any unexpected expenses or emergencies.

Best practices for planning and running a hybrid event

Follow these tips to help your hybrid event go off without a hitch.

Define and consider your audience

Velasquez recommends clearly identifying your audience early in the planning process. This step allows you to target your marketing efforts and sponsorship outreach toward engaging those attendees and rally the necessary teams accordingly.

Once you define your target audience, you want to factor in logistical considerations like time zones and geographic locations. By choosing a date and time that's convenient across multiple regions, you're likely to garner more signups.

Engage both in-person and remote attendees

Capturing the attention of your audience is crucial — and it can be challenging, especially with online guests. Encourage hybrid audience participation through techniques like Q&A sessions and polls, which can be conducted both on-site and virtually and facilitated through technology.

You may also consider connecting live and remote attendees through hybrid breakout sessions, live text chat, and event-specific hashtags for social media engagement.

[Read more: 15 Live Event Polling Tools to Boost Engagement During Your Broadcast]

Make virtual content easily accessible

The more time your remote guests spend trying to access your virtual content, the less time (and willingness) they’ll have to engage with it.

"Don’t make it hard for people to access the content," Velasquez said. "Pick platforms that are ubiquitous and can take the attendee from registration to the session without using multiple logins."

Velasquez advised mapping out the tech stack and associated communications for any remote content, just as you would consider attendee flow for an in-person event.

"Directions need to be clear," Velasquez told CO—. "Message and remind often, and make access seamless."

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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