Insights

The Pros and Cons of Hybrid Meetings

Socially distanced crowd2

Organizations around the world are optimistic about the return of face-to-face interactions that are on the horizon. But we would be foolish not to take with us the learnings of the past year as we move forward. A new but crucial part of your meeting or event strategy needs to include first determining what sort of event best fits your goals, audience and content.

While we are beginning to see advancements in getting back to meeting in person, a full live event may not make the most sense-at least not yet. And these types of events may be a smart option for long-term strategy as well. Hybrid meetings integrate the in-person experience and the virtual one, using technology, production and engagement tools to deliver a brand's message. But how do you know when and how to incorporate hybrid events? Here, we look at what you need to know about these types of meetings.

What you Need to Know About Hybrid Events

Hybrid solutions create unique experiences for attendees, regardless of their location, and provide multi-faceted options for interacting with content. These types of events come with their own unique benefits–and new challenges–but as we get back to safe travel both domestically and internationally, they are a great option.

When deciding how and when to get back to meeting in person, remember:

  • Hybrid events are seldom going to be less expensive. Because you are building two attendee journeys, you will need technology, planning time, production time and other resources to do this well for both audiences. Consider what mix of hybrid and face-to-face works for you to achieve your event goals within budget.
  • With hybrid events, time zones for face-to-face and virtual attendees may not match up. Build agendas that put the core content blocks in the most universally user-friendly spot possible.
  • Contingency planning is a must. Until Covid-19 is truly not a threat, surges and outbreaks may change your ability to hold your event as planned. Have a robust Plan B ready to implement and build checkpoints into your timelines to minimize potential risk that will impact your event.
  • For the time being, hybrid events are space hogs (think: social distancing, broadcast-ready staging and live-streaming-ready equipment require elbow room). This may change the types of venues you consider and may have higher rental fees than you might typically expect for your event.
  • Anticipate an increase in the number of “onsite” staff required during your event. You will need both face-to-face and virtual teams tailored to those specific agendas, both from vendors and from your internal team.
  • Acknowledge how the past year has changed your attendees’ perception of necessary travel. Now that we are used to virtual events, our threshold of what needs to be in person may have changed, and your event will be viewed through this new lens. Going forward, some events will be better in a hybrid format, some may need face-to-face to be most successful, and others may be good options to remain totally virtual-both now and in the future. By aligning your event strategy to this new way of thinking, you will drive engagement across your entire event portfolio.

Socially distanced meeting with masks

Learn more key considerations for your hybrid event

Produced meetings 

There’s an energy and excitement that comes from gathering together, and it’s possible to harness this for your attendees without actually bringing them into the same room. Studio sets built to purpose and designed to reflect your brand can bring key presenters to the same space and deliver interaction to virtual audiences.

Advantages

-One production set, built for safe social distancing

-Endless branding and message opportunities

-Onsite energy and interaction

-Easy collaboration and encourages spontaneous interaction

Challenges

-Changes in global and/or local recommendations can require a quick pivot

Adding a live audience

While we want to meet in person, the large gatherings of the pre-pandemic may not be possible as we transition from the virtual world. Hybrid events allow you to gather in smaller groups in different locations and offer live streaming between gatherings and to remote attendees.

  • Add a studio audience to your main stage
  • Group attendees in regional “pods”, using offices and event spaces that allow for social distancing
  • Add stages to the regional events, sharing collaborative content

Advantages

-A true face-to-face experience for your attendees

-Social distancing is easier to manage

-Less likely to be impacted by changes in local recommendations

-There are many ways to create dynamic content leveraging the diverse locations of your attendees

-Attendees may not require airfare and other travel expenses to attend a regional event

Challenges

-You’ll need more space that usual to keep the space socially distant

-You’ll be planning multiple events that should have a similar attendee experience, increasing planning time and making the events more complex

-Engaging live and virtual audiences equally requires planning and investment

What does the attendee experience at a hybrid event look like?

Now that we've covered what to know when designing your virtual event, our next article will look at what you need to know for your face-to-face experience. To receive this post and our latest thought leadership straight to your inbox each week, sign up for The Point.

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