Throughout the last 18 months, as the events industry has been forced to adapt to life during COVID-19, virtual events have become massive. Two years ago, so many people would have believed virtual events to be unusual, but now they're commonplace and highly acceptable among all industries and niches.
However, now that we appear to be on the backend of the pandemic and things are starting to return to normal, it seems as though virtual events, now starting to be referred to as "hybrid events", might stick around, at least for the time being.
In-person activities will return, albeit on a smaller scale, when the impact of COVID-19 vaccination programs is seen, and lockdown restrictions are gradually eased. This means hybrid events may well indeed become the new norm since more people can attend physically and virtually, allowing a higher cap on overall attendance numbers. This, of course, creates many wonderful opportunities for events and their impact.
This is exactly why there's so much hype surrounding hybrid events right now throughout the business industry.
However, despite the massive success of these events throughout the year and the expanding interest in them, according to new research from Eventsforce, 70% of event planners do not plan to include hybrid technology in their 2021 event strategy.
This raises the question of why. In this article, we aim to look at some of the most essential advantages and disadvantages of hybrid events so you can make the important decision of whether or not you’re going to include hybrid events into your own strategy.
Let us begin with the advantages.
Advantages of Hybrid Events
“Since people can attend both physically and online, this means that so many more people, many of whom may not have been able to otherwise attend, can now engage whichever way they like. Say someone wanted to attend, but life got in the way, and they had to work or fell ill, now attending the event is not a problem, and they don’t need to miss out,” explains Nicole Harper, an event blogger at Stateofwriting.com and Boomessays.com.
Note, you’re also uncapped with how many people you can have attended virtually. Sure, if you’re emphasizing interactivity and chat, you may want to limit your numbers, but if you have a speech or talk where people are simply listening, you could have tens of thousands of people tuning in simultaneously.
Since events can be held online or recorded, there’s no longer any need to be constrained by actual venue space. All barriers have been broken down by the virtual opportunity.
This means that a company can pick how many delegates it wants to invite to an in-person event (for example, VIP clients) rather than trying to find the largest location feasible to accommodate everyone.
There are many companies out there are experimenting with a hybrid hub model, which connects virtual delegates with in-person event hubs. Everyone is connected by a digital experience, but delegates have a unique experience.
Hybrid events undoubtedly give attendees a variety of options.
Disadvantages of Hybrid Events
While the advantages are clear, there are reasons why many event organizers are having difficulty adopting a hybrid strategy for their future events.
Difficult to deliver successfully
“Some of the main drawbacks of hybrid events are that they are difficult to deliver and can be pricey. Essentially, delivering a hybrid event entails producing two events, one physical and one online, which basically means you’re going to need to invest in additional resources,” shares Sarah Coombes, a writer at Essayroo.com and Paperfellows.com.
You also can't provide an identical experience to both audiences. You may need to treat each version of the event as its own separate entity to ensure that they are both pulled off successfully.
The virtual attendance experience must be distinct from the in-person experience; otherwise, why bother?
Entails more work than many expect
If you don't create programs that address the different types of attendees, you risk disappointing both groups of delegates. The days of streaming a plenary session to a virtual audience by placing a camera in the rear of the room are long gone. Your audience is far savvier and expects more.
The virtual component must be a complete production in and of itself, apart from the in-person experience.
Hosting hybrid events may take a little bit of trial and error for you to get right, but with strategy, planning, effort, and making sure you’re spending your resources in the right places as best you can, then you know you’re maximizing your chances that your event is going to pay off. Get the first event right, and you’ll be able to build a ton of momentum towards future events.