Hybrid Events: Should they Stay or Go, Post-COVID?
When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, the future of events looked grim. In the early days of quarantines and lockdowns, it was unclear how or when people would come together for concerts, parties, and corporate events. However, this industry is adaptable, and one solution was born out of necessity - the hybrid event.
Even as the pandemic enters its final stage, hybrid events are poised to stick around for a while. Let’s look at the value of hybrid events and their future in a post-COVID world.
What are Hybrid Events?
Simply put, a hybrid event is a blend of in-person and virtual activities.
Attendees on site can maintain social distancing or mask-wearing, while others can visit through virtual platforms like Zoom. The goal of a hybrid event is to bring everyone together safely while replicating an in-person experience virtually.
For example, if a company is hosting a casino night, some of the tables can be open to players at the event, while others can be used for virtual participants.
Stats on Hybrid Events
Here are some numbers to illustrate how the industry has adapted to the hybrid event model.
Up to 63 percent of companies with 2000 to 5000 employees hosted hybrid events. Around 70 percent of enterprise-level companies (5000+) hosted them.
Most event organizers (81 percent) said that networking was the primary value for attendees of hybrid events.
About half of organizers (47 percent) said that hybrid events work well for internationally dispersed audiences and teams.
Eighty-six percent of B2B organizations saw a positive ROI within seven months of hosting a hybrid event.
A third of event organizers (34 percent) said they plan to invest more in hybrid events in the next few years.
Finally, a slim majority of respondents (57 percent) said they prefer to attend hybrid events in-person rather than virtually. This statistic shows that there is still a decent demand for virtual platforms.
Top benefits of hosting a hybrid event - Post COVID-19
We’re lucky that the pandemic hit in the modern era, where technology has already been developing to bring people together seamlessly. If COVID had struck in the late 90s or early 2000s, for example, hybrid events would be much more challenging.
Because high-tech solutions are bridging the gap between in-person and virtual experiences, there are a few tangible benefits of going hybrid beyond keeping everyone healthy.
The top reasons to keep hybrid events going include, but are not limited to:
Cost Savings - Let’s say that you usually host a 1000-person event. In a hybrid situation, you might cut the number of attendees in half, with the rest participating virtually. This reduction means lower venue costs, travel expenses, catering, event sustainability and more.
Audience Expansion - While networking is a valuable part of any event, people don’t have to be standing in front of each other to do it. Hybrid events allow groups to come together from different parts of the country and the world. Attendees no longer have to worry about travel logistics and lodging since they can just hop on their computers and join in on the fun from home. Now, your 1000-person event could expand to 1,500 with no additional costs.
Extended Event Lifecycle - Hybrid events aren’t just cocktail parties and networking opportunities. Conferences and seminars can easily be converted to a hybrid model, making them far more valuable in the long run. Now, you can have a video package of informative content to show to clients, employees, and prospects. Individuals who couldn’t attend live can now watch the highlights afterward. Events are no longer a onetime affair.
Lead Generation and Data Tracking - Hybrid events also have the potential of being excellent lead generation tools. If you’re trying to entice prospective clients, it’s much easier for them to attend a hybrid event to see what you have to offer. From there, it’s easy to gather attendance data, including contact information for follow-ups and nurturing.
Events that work best for hybrid
If you’re still new to the hybrid event model, it's hard to wrap your brain around at first. Here are some potential event options that work well with a hybrid solution:
Corporate Conferences - Events with keynote speakers, seminars, and informative content are perfect for hybridization. Since the audience is engaging and watching anyway, they can do so from a venue or at home.
International Events - Companies or brands with a global reach can connect people worldwide for a single or multi-day event. Instead of hosting multiple parties in different venues, the brand can simultaneously deliver the same experience to audiences in various countries (provided that time differences aren’t an issue).
Book Tours and Press Junkets - Authors and entertainers can host hybrid Q&A Events to promote their new projects and offer snippets both in-person and virtually.
Bottom Line: Hybrid events are here to stay which is a good thing.
As event technology continues to progress, hybrid events will become even more seamless. For example, Empower 21 hosted a hybrid event in February 2021 that used a single platform for both in-person and virtual attendees instead of a patchwork of different programs.
This kind of innovation will allow organizers to make these events more interactive and further blur the line.
Still not convinced? See what the experts are saying and how they've been incorporating hybrid experiences into their own events. Quotes have been pulled from real discussions on the EventBuzz podcast by Purplepass.