Years ago, if someone mentioned the word “hybrid” it could have easily been your grandmother talking about her prize-winning orchids. Today, not only has the term become synonymous with fuel-efficient cars and lorries, but it has also made its way into the world of corporate conferences, other live events and of course event planning.
In fact, the hybrid meeting is something that is becoming more and more common as we continue to blur the lines between live events and online communications.
For anyone still unsure about what a hybrid meeting is, try to look at it this way. Take a typical live event such as a conference, seminar, AGM or a large meeting, add some technology such as iPads, audience response systems and web casting, and top it off with social networking and interactive connectivity and you have the recipe for a text book hybrid event. Keep in mind though that the prospect of marrying technology with live event planning does not have to be overwhelming if we understand some of the great benefits that are to be found in hybrid events.
If you have a potential audience that can’t come to your event due to problems such as travel, timing, budgets and possibly the weather, hybrid meetings can take your event to them. Then there is the cost savings of delegates not having to pay for hotel accommodation, meals and travel expenses. In addition, there are the benefits of having access to a global market. For example, I recently heard that a major UK pharmaceutical business had an event some months ago with 2,500 live attendees with an additional 1,500 joining them from more than 20 countries around the world. That’s an audience increase of almost 60%.
Alternatively, maybe you would like your event to be greener and help keep the environmental impact to a minimum. By reducing travel and hotel requirements, hybrid events can help you accomplish that. Also, if you want to create an event that is entirely geared to the interests of your audience and the technology available, then hybrids are the way to go.
Of course, it is very important to keep in mind that hybrid events are designed to let the online or virtual experience enhance the live experience, not replace it.
Let’s look at some of the strategies and best practises for making your first hybrid event a success one.
If you don’t have the budget or the technical knowhow to hand for staging a full-on hybrid event, take some baby steps first. Perhaps that means streaming only the opening session online. Or maybe you can think about a real-time webinar* (*a service that allows conferences to be shared via internet technologies with remote places) for your online participants whilst your on-site delegates attend a breakout session.
Seek a balance
Try to give the two components equal billing, both in terms of promotion and content. It’s always a good idea to allow interaction between the live and virtual participants. Please do not forget to ensure that all your conference AV and presentation equipment are suitable for both live and broadcast quality.
Make sure the content of your conference is worth paying for, particularly if you intend to charge for online participation. Creating value for your delegates has become absolutely essential in the online world. If you expect people to stay engaged, whether in person or on a web feed, you had better make sure they have a good reason to be there.
Stay on track
We all know that live events have a habit of running behind schedule so, if this becomes a habit with your hybrid events your online participants will not be hanging around long enough to hear and watch the event in full. Start and finish promptly or there will not be a next time.
Once the event is over, make the most of the virtual opportunities for both online and live participants to connect, learn and network by using social media channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, as well as virtual and offline gathering places like Tweetups. Meetups and Google hangouts, here you can keep the conversations going long after the real world event dust has settled.
So, if you have not yet had the opportunity to stage a hybrid meeting for your clients or organisation, its time you started to give these kind of events some serious consideration.
Mercian Event Conference Team