Without a doubt — the COVID-19 crisis has pushed the world to reimagine processes and rethink priorities. It brought economies and businesses to a standstill initially, but soon after, the adoption of newer (and digitized) trends took precedence across different industries.
The event industry, precisely, has navigated through the storm with their technology-driven virtual events, and that gave rise to online event trends. From seminars and trade shows to conferences and exhibitions — all were conducted over the internet using advanced tools.
According to a report by Grand View Research, the global virtual events market grew exponentially in 2020. The report predicts a CAGR of 23.2% from 2020 to 2027.
Offering a mammoth of possibilities, events can be categorized as hybrid events or virtual events. With a wide variety of applications and benefits, these seem to be the new normal in the events industry for 2021 and beyond.
But what exactly do the two terms mean? Which of the two are ideal for businesses and why? This article attempts to answer these questions in detail. Let us begin:
Hybrid events blend live in-person experience with virtual online proceedings. It is organized at a physical venue and connects your physical and virtual audience in real-time. The event offers an immersive experience where the gap between on-site and online attendees is bridged through technology. Combining the traditional event practices with technology allows you to engage members through a wide range of options.
When is it best to host it?
A hybrid event can be hosted in critical situations. Like in the current times, when we must exercise social constraints and follow travel restrictions. To reap the benefits of both in-person catch-ups and online meetings simultaneously, you must opt for a hybrid event.
Types of hybrid events
- Digital summits
- Community meet-ups
- Social media live streams
- Networking events
DigiMarCon, INBOUND by HubSpot, Apple’s larger-than-life product launches, and Social Media Week are prime examples of hybrid events.
The goal of hybrid events is to maximize the participation and engagement of the audience. It is focused on facilitating the exchange of ideas among diverse groups located in varied locations.
Hybrid events enable event organizers to reach a wider audience, access data items in large volumes and capitalize on higher ROIs. They also:
- Offer safety to those not comfortable with physical venues.
- Allow spectators to participate and contribute in real-time.
- Save traveling and stay expenses of speakers and delegates.
- Invite participants irrespective of their location.
- Offer a more immersive experience to the participants.
Key factors to consider while hosting a hybrid event
- Define meeting objectives
The duration of the meeting should be suitable for both on-site and virtual attendees. Besides, ensure your meeting objectives are clear and well communicated to all attendees.
- Decide a budget
The cost for hybrid events will include more components than a virtual event. Factor expenses for the internet, streaming platforms, Internet of Things Product solutions, digital connectivity platform, video recordings, physical venue rents, venue audio/video, and lighting setup.
- Consider time zones
Your hybrid event may have participants from across the world. It would be best if you considered the different time zones for on-site and digital participants. Coordinate the streaming to make it convenient for all participants — irrespective of where they are based.
- Schedule your content
To keep your on-site and remote audience engaged throughout the event, you must schedule the content to match their needs. As in most cases, the audience at the location will be more focused and will engage with your content in a better way. You will have to put in extra effort to keep the digital audience engaged and remote participants interested throughout the event.
- Maintain the ambiance
There will be a lot of recording and streaming equipment at the physical venue. It must not impact the experience of in-person attendees. Also, you will have to follow social distancing norms by making distant seating arrangements. It would be best if you planned all of it properly to keep the setup from becoming monotonous.
Virtual events connect people (attendees, speakers, delegates, and organizers) from across the world as they happen over the internet. They are remote participation-centric and leverage technology to bridge the gap in time zones and devices. Virtual events can be conducted using digital platforms and do not require any venue or on-site arrangements.
When is it best to host it?
A virtual event is hosted to deliver an engaging experience to a greater audience. Like other forms of events, it is also focused on generating leads and nurturing connections, but on a larger scale and globally. It can also be hosted in times of crisis.
An example is the current pandemic situation, as we are not allowed to travel and are operating remotely. Or only when you want to minimize your expenses.
Types of Virtual events
- Online training or workshops
- Digital conferences
- Virtual product launch
- Ask me anything (AMAs)
Workshops by Google Digital Garage, Ad World, Cvent CONNECT Virtual, and Growth Hackers are prime examples of virtual events.
The goal of virtual events is to enhance the interaction and participation of people from remote locations. It is focused on increasing flexibility and achieving trackable objectives at a low cost.
In the past year, virtual events have grown in popularity because of not only the pandemic but also they:
- Make your content accessible to the audience beyond geographical barriers.
- Reduce costs and unnecessary travel.
- Save time and plan easily compared to an in-person event.
- Obtain a record of attendees and make connections with ease.
- Collect feedback and track analytics to measure the response for future planning.
Key factors to consider while hosting a virtual event
- Participant orientation
All those involved with the virtual event, including the speaker, organizer, and attendees, must be tech-savvy. Make sure everyone is comfortable with your setup. They should not hesitate to use the recommended tools throughout the event.
Since everything is online, you could send a string of emails onboarding them about what they can expect from the virtual event, creating their schedule, and logging in to the event.
- Right equipment
Virtual events require compatible technical devices for all those involved, i.e., organizers, speakers, and attendees. You need to plan for online event promotions, registration, video streaming platform, live-streaming apps, and a reliable internet connection.
- Schedule for different time zones
As you will be organizing the event for a global audience, you should consider planning it as per different time zones. To get a proper interaction from all participants, focus on making it convenient for all of them.
- Arrange for backup
Network and connectivity issues can hamper the overall experience for your attendees. You must ensure you have proper internet connections and a backup for uninterrupted contribution.
- Keeping your audience engaged
Your attendees may not be 100% focused during the event as they are remotely located. You must plan your content tactically. Try using interactive features such as gamification, online Q&A, live event polling. It will help cut down distractions.
Hybrid vs virtual events — Which one should you pick?
We would agree that nothing can beat the face-to-face interaction at physical events. But with the Coronavirus still roiling across the globe, we must adopt newer methods to perform.
The concept of hybrid and virtual events for business purposes is still in its early stages. You can explore the diverse uses of the video recordings from your event and capitalize them in the years to come. Among hybrid and virtual events, the better event type depends on how well it fulfills your requirement.
The hybrid events might perform well if you aim at creating stronger personal connections. But virtual events are the best choice if your priority is cost-effectively engaging a large audience. A comprehensive study of your objectives will give you a clearer idea of the event you must organize. So, research, plan and execute wisely!