What are hybrid events, and do they hold renewed relevance in the COVID era?

While you might have occasionally heard the term “hybrid events” during pre-pandemic times, you have probably heard it with particular frequency since the onset of the COVID crisis. Basically, a hybrid event is an in-person event where an online audience can also participate – but are they really “having a moment”?

Hybrid eventEven long before the pandemic, hybrid events drew impressive audience figures – largely because the part-online nature of these events did not impose a strict cap on overall attendance numbers. In 2015, hybrid conferences reported attracting over 400% larger audiences than traditional events, a LinkedIn piece notes.

However, as we fast-forward back to 2021, the question remains: should your organisation consider holding hybrid, rather than wholly in-person, events for as long as COVID-19 remains a serious threat? The short answer is yes – and here are some of the most compelling reasons why.

Hybrid events place less strain both environmentally and financially

Naturally (and that could practically be a pun), as many people won’t have to travel by air or car just to attend a hybrid event, they will not only save themselves money but also ease pressure on the planet. As a Business 2 Community article points out, global events can be responsible for huge carbon footprints.

On the subject of saving money, it wouldn’t necessarily be just the expense of fuel or a flight that each attendee could be spared. They might no longer have any attendance fee to worry about, and they wouldn’t have to book any accommodation near the venue even if their usual day-to-day home is quite a lengthy physical distance from it.

It’s easier to keep hybrid-event attendees engaged and entertained

If you regularly attended in-person events and conferences yourself in the years before the pandemic struck, you could have felt yourself tiring of the usual social and networking formats being used again and again. Fortunately, hybrid events give you a great opportunity to tear up (at least some of) the event rulebook.

You could find it helpful to ask potential attendees what they would like to see at your event. Then, you can use the responses to feed into how you put together the event. Still, you should allow the attendees a lot of free rein over what they will see at the event.

So, you should choose a hybrid event platform that would make this possible. One good example is ON24’s Digital Experience Platform, which would let you create separate registration pages for in-person and virtual participants and enable attendees to build custom agendas by choosing from sessions your hybrid event is set to comprise.

Hybrid events are easily adaptable

As COVID-related regulations could quickly change in the geographic area where you intend to hold the in-person component of the event, it’s reassuring that you could easily transition your scheduled hybrid event to an all-virtual format if necessary.

For example, a local surge in COVID cases could suddenly render a hybrid event inadvisable, or freshly-imposed travel bans might prevent too many people from being able to attend in person.