How Hybrid Events Will Define the Future of Virtual Events

The new year has brought with it a sense of optimism for the end of the coronavirus pandemic. Along with this view, the event industry is working to rebound and bring back in-person event models.

That said, the future of virtual events is bright, and we don’t expect those to go away any time soon. In fact, a Northstar Group survey released earlier this month showed that 73% of event professionals are either actively planning or considering planning a hybrid event.

The emergence of the hybrid event model will be changing the game in 2021, and event professionals are again looking to shift their event strategy to include hybrid this year.

Why are hybrid events on the rise?

Hybrid events incorporate both in-person and online elements to create a unified event experience. One of the biggest benefits to planning a hybrid event is that an ideal hybrid event allows the attendee to choose how they want to attend, making the attendee experience the focus. Attendee experience is an important part of building brand loyalty.

Hybrid events also feature an in-person element and in 2021, we are seeing smaller gatherings in multiple locations as opposed to a single destination with thousands of attendees. It will be interesting to watch this trend in the future as well, and whether event professionals will go back to large conferences or if satellite locations will stay for several years.

Is building a hybrid event as simple as adding a livestream to my in-person event?

No. A hybrid event is actually two separate but distinct events that coincide simultaneously. This is often where people confuse the meaning of a hybrid event. For example, there may be opportunities during a keynote session to provide a live stream, but each part of a hybrid event needs to be planned separately by format with the attendee experience in mind. As we all know, the experience is vastly different whether you attend in person or online, so we need to use that knowledge to craft experiences that each type of audience will enjoy.

Hybrid events are a great opportunity to leverage the convenience of pre-recorded sessions to provide your virtual event attendees with more granular topics of interest to them than you can typically do at a live conference. When you factor in the added benefit of being able to measure and track engagement on virtual events, you have incredible insight to gain and learn from for future topic and event planning.

How do I book a speaker or celebrity for my hybrid event?

When booking a hybrid event speaker or celebrity, the first thing to ask yourself is what your budget might be for this. Then, decide your event format – whether you want them to attend virtually, in person, or both. As we’ve seen here at AAE, virtual fees are hovering around 70% of in-person fees, although that is not consistent for all speakers, who set their own fees. If you want your speaker or celebrity to attend both in person and virtually, you should expect the fee to reflect this.

Once you have determined your budget, confirmed your format, and contacted our agents here at AAE to find you the best speaker or celebrity, then you will want to make sure to clearly communicate your format and your expectations to the speaker; and agree on them as part of your contract. Don’t assume, for example, that your talent may be ok with recording their session and playing it virtually later for attendees. It is always better to have all of these requests detailed and agreed upon in advance. 

What is the future of virtual events?

The future of virtual events is definitely bright. The key to understanding the potential of virtual events is not thinking that a virtual event is the same as an in-person event. Both types of events should have different formats, goals, metrics, and content. 

Ideal virtual events include engaging visual experiences, shorter-format content, flexible viewing options, and access to content without needing the added cost, time, or risk of travel. It is still possible and strongly encouraged to find ways to build connections between attendees, regardless of whether they attend in person or online. A great way to do this is by using virtual breakout rooms to bring smaller groups together to discuss trends. While this can’t replace the organic networking that happens at an in-person event, it can allow remote attendees to feel more connected during a virtual event.

The year ahead will further reshape our industry. Similar to how many event professionals had a learning curve last year with virtual events, they will again find themselves up against a learning curve as we see more hybrid events in the mix. This is why it’s best to do two things. First, over-communicate your expectations when it comes to talent. Second, partner with a company like AAE that is staying ahead of this trend for you. 

We expect both the hybrid and virtual event formats to stay around for a very long time. As we are all evolving with the times, event professionals are thinking of new ways to build innovative events that focus on attendee experience. 

Making the decision of whether to go ahead with hybrid or stay virtual only for events in 2021 is a decision many event professionals are making right now. Regardless of the event format they choose, it is always a good move to put attendee experience first. 

Considering a hybrid or virtual event in 2021? Contact us to book a great celebrity or speaker. 

Jennifer Best: Jennifer Best is the Head of Marketing for All American Entertainment. Jen has been featured in print and digital publications, including, on digital marketing trending topics. She is a former SBA award-winning entrepreneur for her digital marketing work with small businesses. When she's not geeking out on Google Analytics and marketing automation, you'll find Jen cooking for her growing family or enjoying a great book.
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