“Hybrid events are boring!” A common complaint made by those who attended the online version of a real-life event. And guess what? In many cases, they’re right! This is not due to hybrid events as such, but a result of the wrong implementation of the online aspect by the event organiser. Because hybrid events can be made as exciting as offline or real-life events.
Hybrid is more relevant than ever
Because of the 1,5 meter distance, huge venues (like Passenger Terminal Amsterdam or RAI) are needed for relatively small audiences (100-150 persons). Not only is the rental cost for these venues higher, keep in mind you need technique and decoration too! The prices per participant rapidly increase for 1,5 meter event. Therefore, offering an online version and spreading the costs over more participants becomes more attractive.
What is a hybrid event?
The definition of a hybrid event, is that you offer both an online and an offline experience to your audience. This does not mean: let’s put a camera in the back of the room, and live stream the full program. Still, this is what happens in many cases. The organisation thinks they can kill two birds with one stone, but this is not how it works. Online participants need to be treated differently from you real-life audience. They have different needs.
The difference between online and real-life participation
The most important starting points for online events are:
- Online viewers have a maximum attention span of 45 - 60 minutes.
- Online viewers are used to television quality, when it comes to presentation, pace and representation.
- It is necessary to involve online viewers by means of audience interaction.
For real-life events, other rules apply:
- Real-life events have a lower pace, with more time for introduction and breaks.
- Discussions and networking are important elements of real-life events.
- Audience interaction has a less prominent role in real-life events, and it mainly occurs in breakouts.
Our own experience in hybrid events
Momice organised a series of 5 events – of which several were offered in a ‘hybrid’ form. The most important reason was taping the keynotes for future use. We decided we wanted to offer the possibility to view the event online, to those who were unable to attend. To give a more dynamic representation, we chose for a setting with multiple cameras and included a director. Still, this solution did not feel like a full hybrid solution. The reason was that much of the added value of these events were in the breakouts and networking moments, which were not included in the online version.
Skip the bullshit
When I was viewing the recordings of the second event, it was very confronting. The introduction alone took 8 minutes! It made me impatient, and I wanted to skip the talking and move on to the ‘interesting content’. This showed me how important it is to skip the bullshit and cut to the chase. Welcome your online viewers in 30 seconds and move to the keynote speaker or expert.
Limit each sub session to 15 - 20 minutes, and then move to the next topic or integrate a moment for audience interaction. Designing such an online program requires a clear understanding of the key message for your audience. In other words: too much bla bla diminish your audience. Nobody likes to watch the numbers drop!
Hybrid events require 2 programs
In order to engage both your online and offline audience, you need two different strategies, i.e. two different programs. Many event professionals are used to perfect every detail of their real-life events. But the online part requires a different approach, and often remains a black box. Remember: in hybrid events you are dealing with two target audiences with a different set of needs.
Of course, your topic or theme can be the same, but the form is different. Use different formats like a live interview with the keynote speaker once he finishes his talk, and make sure you include frequent (online) audience interaction throughout the program. Also, online breakout sessions are different from offline. And how will you facilitate networking?
It’s true: designing two parallel programs for hybrid events is inevitable. A hybrid form requires a lot of (extra) work. Keep in mind that you’re asking all of your participants to invest time or money in your event. Make sure you give both audiences the attention they deserve. So don’t be tempted to make an ad-hoc decision to organise a hybrid event – this is impossible. Take the time to determine your event strategy, plan your event calendar and design both programs before inviting your valuable relations.
If you do this right, you can make a huge impact with your hybrid event. Think about the amount of (video) content your online program generates. And all the extra participants you can host in your online event.
If you choose to organise a hybrid event, in fact you’re organising two events: a real-life event and an online event. Although the two events might involve the same theme, keynote speaker and general content, they require a different approach. Online should be compact and interactive, offline more extensive with room for discussion and integration. It all comes down to good preparation and carefully designed programs. The relationship between your organisation and the contacts is valuable – and maintaining these relationships is the only way to make your organisation grow. Make sure you give your events the added value they deserve!