What Are The Benefits & Challenges Of Hybrid Events And Virtual Events?
As technology advances, so do our methods to connect with others. With virtual events and hybrid events on the rise, businesses have more opportunities than ever to connect with their target audiences in new and innovative ways.
However, there are also a number of challenges associated with these types of events that business owners need to be aware of. Let’s take a look at how eight industry experts recommend overcoming the challenges of virtual and hybrid events to deliver the best experience for your audience today!
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Principal, Mitchell Partnership Alliances | Integrated communications and event strategy consultant
According to Bob, organizations need an integrated strategy and plan to maximize virtual and hybrid event experiences. Events just like blogs, podcasts, whitepapers, and e-newsletters are content that need aligned touch points across the customer journey. Enhanced engagement requires quality content that connects with audiences through high-touch storytelling that includes strong narrative, design, video/ image assets, and overall great production value.
What Is Your Virtual Event Strategy?
I think a lot of folks still don’t quite understand what their event strategy is. Understandably, emphasis has been traditionally placed on registration and attendance. With the pandemic’s acceleration of digital event experiences, the opportunity to create a “connective tissue” for content pre-event, event day(s), and post-event across channels that is both quantitatively and qualitatively measured provides new rigorous performance-driven KPIs.
The days of time-locked one-off events not only do not provide maximum reach or measurable engagement but do not create a very sustainable business model. We need to think differently.
Know How To Produce Great Virtual Events
The world has changed and event marketers should approach events with a content producer mindset and not only about operations, set-up/take down, sourcing and logistics. Whether virtual, hybrid or in-person well before the “features and functions” are considered, decision-makers must determine “What kind of experience are we trying to create?”, “How do we want the audience to feel?” “What are we trying to achieve?”, “What do we want to say?” “Who do we want to be?.” “What are our business outcomes?” This will be your North Star for all future development, creation, and production.
As the events industry (and for that matter all industries) go through accelerated transformational changes, in order for greater growth to occur new ideas and innovative solutions must be found at unconventional intersections such as “bringing in the TV people” for high-touch production, storytelling, design, and content strategy.
Event Industry Advocate and VP Senior Corporate Relations
According to Chloe, terminology matters when we describe different types of events, and we need to be careful how to communicate with potential participants.
I just want to preface that I think terminology here is important. “Hybrid Events” have been happening for years, just with less emphasis on that live virtual engagement part. Broadcasting is a great example.
The key thing around the terminology in the business world in particular is now making a real effort to making the experiences of an in-person or virtual attendee as exact as possible, whether that’s right or wrong.
What Does A “Hybrid Event” Mean?
So when I refer to this term “Hybrid Events,” I’m talking about this new business in making the event experience equally as engaging as the in-person experience and leveraging various platforms, tools, and channels to enhance the audience experience.
I think the biggest perceived challenge was really all around technology. Sourcing the right technology to enable this human-centered, engage with our teams as they work, and communicate and collaborate.
But, looking back, the biggest challenge has really been around people - looking at culture, change management, adapting the way we give and receive energy, how we remain stimulated and how we navigate this cultural change.
Think About Your Customer Behaviors & Expectations
I also think an ongoing challenge is keeping up with customer behaviors and expectations and not becoming stagnant as event providers and as an industry. It’s really time to accept and drive this mindset that we need to constantly be changing to appeal to our audiences.
I think the term “hybrid” will continue to evolve, and our responsibility as event leaders is to ensure that our events transform alongside the needs of our target audience.
I don’t think we are going to settle on the word “hybrid,” I think it’s just going to become a part of the event experience, and we need to do better as an industry to support that narrative.
Three Main Benefits Of Hybrid Events
There are three huge benefits to virtual and hybrid events:
I think the most significant benefit is the environmental impact. It generates a significant carbon reduction. Less travel, less waste, less land and water usage - and that’s critical as we look into the future.
Hybrid Events are also beneficial in the interest of time and resources. For all of us who have not been able to attend an event due to previous commitments, we are still now able to have that opportunity to engage.
You cannot underplay the benefits that hybrid and virtual events have to the inclusivity of our industry. It’s easy to forget that not everyone is an extrovert, not everyone thrives in face-to-face communication.
And as people who run events, we think that everybody is like us - but they’re not. Not everyone is able to physically or mentally be in the live event environment. And that’s the key benefit for why they’re critical to the event industry. Whether we like them or not, we need to make sure that our online events are as engaging as possible.
I think hybrid working is the future. Whether we like it or not, we need a hybrid element to everything we do in the events world to ensure we’re not excluding those who otherwise want to be engaged.
Technical Producer, Consultant, and Educator for the Meeting and Events Industry
According to Brandt, we need to be careful with how we describe “hybrid events” since we could confuse our audience if we don’t use the right messaging.
What A Hybrid Event Is & Is Not Matters
I’ve struggled a lot with how people define hybrid events. Sticking a camera in the back of the room and letting remote attendees ask questions via some kind of chat doesn’t make it hybrid- that’s more like “Livestreamed with limited feedback opportunities.”
In a true hybrid event, both audiences have equally positive experiences (not the same experience, but equal), have opportunities to interact with each other, and at the end of it feel like they attended the event.
I’ve heard some people actually describe sporting events as hybrid events, but if I told you I attended the World Series when I actually watched it on TV, you’d think I was nuts (or a liar). Creating a true hybrid event is hard because it requires you to think through both experiences with equal weight.
Hybrid Events = More Benefits
While truly hybrid events may feel like double the work, they also have double the benefits, if not more, as they inherit all the benefits of meeting in-person, as well as all the benefits of meeting online.
Remote attendees are offered a low barrier of entry, can connect from wherever they are in the world and, if provided a positive experience, may convert to in-person attendees at some point.
Get The Most Out Of Your Hybrid Events
Your event can increase its exposure to new and diverse audiences, including people with disabilities that would be unable to travel to your in-person event.
The caliber of presenters can be dramatically increased while not blowing the budget on travel and hotel, and they don’t have to take as much time out of their offices as homes.
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Social Media Connoisseur & Digital Marketing Strategist | Speaker | Content Marketing Evangelist
According to Marissa, you need to be careful with your online events because it’s easy to overwhelm your audience.
Content Overload Is A Reality
I’ve found recently that many of the events I’ve attended have either way too much content and I’m easily overwhelmed, or there’s not enough, and I lose attention and tune out. I love when the event schedules take into consideration session changes, lunch, and comfort breaks.
Many of us are feeling digitally fatigued, and often we tune in to events and sessions, no different than people sneaking out for a phone call break.
Those planning virtual or hybrid events must consider how to enable attendees to get the most value as they’re evaluating whether they want to invest the time to participate.
Extend The Life OF Your Content After Your Event
I love when event content goes on-demand and becomes available to stream and enjoy after the event since time for many of us has become the biggest challenge and barrier to fully focusing on enjoying an event.
As life is seemingly becoming “more normal” again, many of us are back to commuting to work, and we’re now facing a time barrier and fatigue sets in. Event organizers must enact the latest technology to maximize the user experience, so people continue to tune in.
Virtual Events & Hybrid Events Are Here To Stay
I’ve enjoyed being able to go to events over the past year and a half or so without any barriers with travel, cost, and time out. Often, I join events for specific sessions and enjoy networking during breaks or smaller round table breakout discussions.
I love the ability to pick and choose when I want to go and block my calendar to focus on the content being presented. The ability to customize the virtual event experience has been a real treat for those of us who are busy.
I’ve also found that the best virtual events I’ve attended or spoken at have a virtual host to keep things running on track and on time. A virtual host can walk attendees through an event platform and demonstrate how the technology works to optimize their experience.
When a virtual or hybrid event considers questions, polling, and leverages the audience to the fullest, I find the most value as an attendee. As a speaker, I try to leverage comments as much as possible to facilitate audience interaction to ensure attendees are getting the most out of my presentation.
Communications Expert at TellPeople.ca | Co-Leading Curation & Coaching at TEDxToronto | Storyteller-in-Residence
According to Chris, virtual and hybrid events have drawbacks, but meeting professionals can overcome the challenges with the right strategy.
Make Your Online Events As Engaging As Possible
What I’ve found most challenging about virtual and hybrid events so far is that webcam is lonely. Normally I would look out at the audience and see everyone’s dishes in their sinks (haha).
What I find most beneficial, however, is that a virtual audience drastically expands the reach of my work. There’s no question that more people from more places can access virtual and hybrid events compared to live events.
In practical terms, it’s also nice to present to an audience in, say, Philadelphia and then immediately go for dinner with my partner in Toronto (where we live).
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Award-Winning Journalist for Trade Shows | Content Creator | Omnichannel Media Professional
According to Danica, replicating face-to-face meetings is difficult but not impossible.
Identify The Challenges Of Virtual & Hybrid Events
Exhibits at Exhibit Halls and Trade Shows are the most challenging. You can’t just pick up a show floor and post it virtually - that is not working at all. Replicating that experience online has been difficult.
Another challenge is pricing and knowing how to charge for virtual experiences. In 2020 and even somewhat into this year, a lot of people made things free. Now there is the challenge of charging people for these online experiences as well as making money.
For many, the point of events is to generate revenue, and we need to figure out the pricing structure for event platforms and how much to charge our end-users.
The Main Benefits Of Hybrid & Virtual Events
I see four main benefits with going virtual & hybrid:
Expanded, global reach to new audiences for a lot of organizations. For example, the Mobile World Congress had 50% new names this past year - people that hadn’t come to their event before or been in their database were now attending their virtual event.
Virtual is a great vehicle for delivering content. People are really using it. It has been a great way to deliver content when people weren’t able to get together.
Great Data - we can track details of what users and attendees want out of their experience and their behaviors during the event.
Sponsorships are really working. Whether putting exhibitors on the program, playing commercials, or adding branding throughout content delivery, sending out a box beforehand with branded sway, or a sponsored drink - sponsorship packages are working. It makes an impact creating an experience for your audience to open and experience together - like a virtual happy hour.
Meetings Technology Speaker | Consultant and Writer | Helping Clients Use Technology to Improve Events and Trade Shows
According to Corbin, your organization can use virtual events to improve content delivery and reach like never before!
Unlock The Power Of Virtual Events
Virtual Events are great for content delivery. The most challenging component is networking and business exchange - especially for tradeshows.
The most challenging component of hybrid meetings is that you are planning for two completely different audiences with different expectations and attention spans. Running these two events simultaneously can be substantially more costly and complex to accomplish. However, there are many benefits to virtual events compared to face-to-face (F2F). They are less expensive, environmentally friendly, can reach a broader audience, and have great analytics (every click is trackable).
Hybrid events have similar benefits, a key benefit being they can provide a bridge back to F2F. People unwilling or unable to travel can still attend. It can provide a broader, more inclusive audience as well.
Co-Creator of Emerging Stronger | Continually Curious About Learning Innovation and Business Impact
According to Laura, the biggest obstacle for virtual events is the lack of vision and knowledge for meeting professionals.
Understand Your Biggest Challenges
The biggest challenge so far for applying technology to events is lack of vision. Of what the new tools can give us that’s different from those tools available in a face to face environment. People miss looking at each other and networking.
Technology allows us to make connections with participants and create ideas and synthesize and reflect as we go. And none of that is really being offered with video recording or live sessions.
There is no connection with the audience. There is a lack of imagination. We box ourselves in with a sense of loss with the past that virtual can never be as good and therefore, it isn’t.
The Benefits Of Virtual Events
The positives of going virtual have been the connectivity, urgency, immediacy and global nature. We ran a master class with people from every single continent. We were working to solve problems together, reflecting together, creating community together - all with people we would have never met, even at a conference.
When a cohort has people coming together and sharing concepts from across the globe, there is a richness in that diverse thinking. You cannot replace it, it was beyond my imagination.
These people were not just attending, and they were contributing - across time zones and industries - for greater connectivity and an enriching experience.
Make Your Virtual Events & Hybrid Events Amazing!
No matter what stage your organization is in, hybrid events offer all the possible advantages of an online event without the negatives of face-to-face meetings. This can be incredibly valuable as well as rewarding if managed and hosted right!
All that's needed for a successful experience is setting expectations with your guests then following through on them so they don't get disappointed when things go wrong or miss out because there was no availability at their time frame, which would've stopped me from coming altogether.
Our team of experts is standing by if you’re interested in bringing your organization to the next level with amazing virtual events and online events. Let’s chat about your options and how we can help you reach your goals today!
Learn how BeaconLive can amplify your virtual events & hybrid events today!