Have you ever heard an attendee say, “I just attended this great hybrid event?” You probably have not. And you never will.
Why? Because attendees view an event through the lens of their own experience. Face-to-face attendees don’t care about who’s online at the same show. Their participation in an event is grounded in the face-to-face experience they get. Likewise, online attendees aren’t that interested in who’s attending the event in person – with the possible exception of the speakers and exhibitors. The online attendees are having their own experience, and while they may wonder somewhat about what is happening onsite, it’s only if it relates to their online experience.
The term “hybrid” (in terms of events) is a marketing expression employed by technology companies to describe software that allows event organizers to gain efficiencies and expand their reach by delivering content to multiple channels (both in-person and online) simultaneously. But it’s not something which you should use if you plan to present an event to an attendee-they only care about the channel they choose to experience.
A “hybrid” event, however, still requires the organizer to create a unique experience for each kind of audience. It’s two projects, with the easy one being the creation of an experience for face-to-face attendees. More difficult, with the requirement for additional, specialized staff with expertise in delivering an online experience, is the virtual event.
As you should realize, despite the single term “hybrid”, two different events are happening within the same timeframe, albeit with some similar types of content (aided online by streaming, etc.). But a shared use of content does not change the fact that attendees get a different experience. Why are we projecting otherwise?
A further challenge is how exhibitors must organize themselves for a hybrid event. They need two different staffs to support both their onsite and online presence. What does an exhibitor do if they can only staff an onsite booth, yet want to connect with an online audience? Who are the best attendees with whom to connect, those online or onsite? What if an exhibitor can’t manage both effectively in those critical initial stages of prospect engagement?
The only way to do a true “hybrid” event is to treat each event uniquely, with each requiring its distinct strategy, staff, and execution plan, and market them to the audience the individual channel is intended to serve. You can use the economies available from shared content between the onsite and online sessions, but the timeframes, engagement expectations, and pricing are going to be different.
I might further argue, you should consider doing either an online event or a face-to-face event, but not attempt both in a single effort. Attempting to do both risks creating winners or losers, especially on the exhibitor side. And the style of an event should not be the arbiter of which exhibitor wins or loses – the exhibitor and their offerings should be the determining factors.
So, my advice is to tread lightly before embarking on a “hybrid” event and start in the shoes of your attendees to map out the best experience for them.