Feb 8, 2020 | 9 min read
Hybrid events to attract additional participants that could not join the event in person. What is the cost, and what are the risks? How to upgrade an in-person event to a hybrid event, and what are the vital feature to look for in a hybrid event platform?
Hybrid events enable remote participants to join an event when they cannot travel to the event venue or commit the time required to participate in person. Hybrid events' have grown in popularity after the holding of one on one online meetings became common practice in business worldwide, replacing many face-to-face meetings. As time moves on, more hybrid events will take place in the business world.
Some event organizers fear that enabling remote participants in their event will lead to fewer in-person participants and decrease revenues from sponsors, exhibitors, and in-person participants. Organizers also fear the added cost of broadcasting. Those are the leading reasons that hybrid events are still infrequent.
Most proponents of virtual and hybrid events admit that some in-person participants will likely prefer the remote version of the event; thus, the organizer revenues could decrease. But, they also argue that more remote participants can now join the event, increasing the virtual attendance of the event.
For event organizers that measure success based on ticket revenues, a hybrid event makes sense if the hybrid format will increase the total number of participants. In other words, the event has to gain more remote participants than the number of lost in-person participants.
The organizers should expand their marketing efforts to reach potential attendees from remote locations to compensate for the decreased in-person attendance. Using digital marketing is an effective way to do that.
A live event is a fun and uplifting experience and is a great break from the daily workplace.
Creating an experience that can deliver the same value for remote participants who are not fully immersed in the event can be challenging.
Keeping attendees interested for a long time is a serious challenge. The shortening attention span of people is subject to debate.
A Microsoft study in 2015 claimed average attention span dropped below that of a goldfish to an 8-second time frame. Yet, the consensus is that when attending a lecture, people can keep their attention for at least 10 to 20 minutes. In both cases, remote attendees are less of a "captive audience," making the challenge even bigger.
Remote participants access the event from their own office or home with many potential distractions. In addition, having access to social media platforms, news sites, emails, and instant messaging apps on the same device that the participant is using to access the event, is a tough competition for the participant's attention.
There are claims that the offering of so many virtual events has become oversaturated. As a result, registered attendees don't show up, and those who show up make less effort to engage with other participants. In this case, the quality of virtual events reigns over the number of events happening. If the events engage with the audience, more people are likely to attend.
Live events are key to engagement. The hybrid event platform has to provide the tools to create a live, engaging, and dynamic experience. There is little reason to watch a lecture, mainly if it is not live. Actually, it is impossible to truly attend an event that is not happening live. So while you can watch a recorded live event later, it doesn't have the same benefit of attending a live event.
Watching a live lecture is a prime motivation for the participants to come together at the same time to the same place. Having people together at the same place and experiencing something together serves as a good base for live interactions between participants.
That is one of the main reasons why attending a live event is more exciting than watching a VOD.
The event platform has to provide the means to deliver a part-of-crowd experience. Crowd engagement is a significant cornerstone of a successful event. Participants, like most people, are social beings; they feel good being part of a group or a crowd that is doing something together.
According to Émile Durkheim, one of the principal architects of modern social science, when a group of people has an experience together, it causes collective effervescence, which excites individuals and serves to unify the group.
To keep people engaged, interested, and overcome local distractions, the event organizers should allow remote participants to simultaneously participate in multiple event activities.
For example, while attending a lecture, the remote participant can also chat with other participants, check other attendee profiles, schedule meetings, browse the agenda and check speakers' bio.
RTMP ingest is probably an essential feature every hybrid event platform should support. RTMP ingest support is required so the hybrid platform can ingest video/audio from the onsite Audio / Video equipment and broadcast it to remote participants.
Unlike virtual events, hybrid events take place at a venue. Therefore, the essential requirement of a hybrid event platform is to enable remote participants to watch live lectures taking place in the event venue halls.
Avoid Webcams Webcams are built to capture a speaker sitting in front of the camera a few feet away or a group of people sitting in a room. The typical field of view of webcams is too wide for capturing speakers from the back of a conference room. The video, as a result, would be too dull for professional events.
A professional conference videographer uses two or more cameras, several microphones, and additional inputs to capture onstage happenings and presentations. All the media sources are fed to a video mixer (dedicated device for video mixing) or a computer running live video editing software, which composes them to an attractive layout.
The hybrid event platform must interface with the videographer's video mixer or video editing software and broadcast the video to remote participants. Usually, the onsite video mixer will transmit the video from each event hall in RTMP protocol to the event platform for broadcasting to remote participants worldwide.
The event platform has to support live broadcasting from multiple concurrent halls and allow participants to move from hall to hall easily. Remote participants are not a captive audience, so giving them the option to choose the live lecture that they are most interested in helps keep them engaged and in the event platform.
Having world experts speak at a conference is a major attraction and common practice. Technology that allows speakers to join the event from a remote location enables the organizers to choose the most appropriate speakers from a diverse pool of potential speakers.
Unlike full virtual events, in a hybrid event, we need to route the speaker to the local AV system so that local participants will also see the same lecture.
Simulated-live content playing is a feature that allows event organizers to stream pre-recorded lectures as live lectures.
Pre-recorded lectures are sometimes necessary, and a live-like broadcast is essential for participants to share the experience and be motivated to watch it at the designated time. In addition, simulating a live broadcast experience creates a shared experience that participants can relate to. That is why a simulated live video broadcast is critical for pre-recorded lectures.
The chat feature is vital in virtual and hybrid events for providing participants a sense of a group. Using the chat, participants in the hall can have discussions involving multiple participants. Participants can choose to actively bring a new subject up, respond, passively "listen," or give feedback on things other participants said using gestures such as like and dislike.
Crowd engagement is key for any hybrid event. The opportunity participants have to ask questions or receive relevant remarks from speakers, including influential industry leaders and other key figures, makes a conference or hybrid event different from a TV broadcast.
Breakout rooms allow people to meet other people in small groups. Organizers can set up different types of breakout rooms, for example, random breakout rooms and subject-based breakout rooms.
Live polls help organizers engage participants, get instant feedback, and learn about the interests of participants. The organizer or speakers must be able to invite local and remote participants to participate in the same polls.
Academic posters are an essential part of medical and engineering conferences. In a traditional conference, the organizers have a dedicated space for posters where participating researchers display their posters and accompany them with in-person commentary and discussions with visitors.
In hybrid events, posters need to be accessible to remote participants from live discussions with the authors of the poster together with other local and remote participants.
Meeting other participants is one of the main reasons people attend events. Therefore, a networking app for hybrid events must support onsite meeting scheduling as well as off-site and virtual meetings.
Supporting virtual and in-person meetings is especially important for trade shows and business conferences.
Learning and education are other leading reasons for participants to attend events, as indicated by various surveys. Local and remote participants will appreciate the opportunity to replay event lectures after the event. Seminars and workshops are among the most educational types of events.
Organizers can choose to restrict participants to access the event or check-in from one device simultaneously. This gives the organizer control of the tickets for the event — only one device can access the event at a time for one ticket purchased, preventing the one ticket from being used by multiple people.
The attendee benefits from this because it gives them the option to operate their link on any device they choose, thus allowing a colleague to attend a lecture if they can't make it.
To encourage attendees with different motivations and budgets to participate, event organizers offer different ticket types or ticket levels. Common examples include student tickets, association members' tickets, daily tickets, multi-day tickets, exhibition area only tickets, workshop tickets, and so on.
To facilitate multiple tickets in a hybrid event, the hybrid event software has to allow ticket-based, in-person, and remote access to event halls.
Real-time monitoring can help the event's support team identify and resolve problems quickly. With real-time monitoring, you can act and not react.
Understanding what participants find interesting can be used to improve future events.
Selling tickets to a hybrid event includes selling in-person and virtual or remote participants tickets.
Upgrading a traditional event to a hybrid format is an opportunity for event organizers to draw additional participants to their events.
To compensate for the potential loss of some in-person participants, the organizers can use digital marketing to draw a bigger number of remote participants interested in the event's subject from vast geographical areas across the globe. Hybrid event software has to support hybrid events with the necessary features to make the experience for remote participants rich and engaging.
Overall, for hybrid events to be successful, you'll need trusted hybrid event software that can make the entire process seamless.