The learning curve for the events industry has been crazy in the last nine months. It’s not that virtual events and hybrid events didn’t already exist but they certainly were not as a “mainstream” as they are now.
Along with learning new technology we’ve had to get a handle on learning new terminology. Words we used in the live event space are the not the same words used in a virtual world. The word I want to talk about today is HYBRID.
The dictionary definition of hybrid is:
an animal or plant resulting from a cross between genetically unlike individuals. Hybrids between different species are usually sterile
anything of mixed ancestry
a vehicle that is powered by an internal-combustion engine and another source of power such as a battery
A hybrid event is just like a hybrid car, it is a mixture of a live event and a virtual event.
The reason I am talking about hybrid events today is because we are hosting a hybrid event this week. In our case, our event is a hybrid because our ITM Events team, our AV team, our client, our emcee and a few special guests will be live in a conference room in a hotel while our attendees will all be attending the event through a live stream. What that that means is that while we are all working and recording live from the hotel, the guests will be able to watch and interact with the live event on their computers and phones from the safety of their homes or offices.
In the live hotel space we will have a staged area with chairs and a backdrop where our emcee and co-host will be sitting and presenting from. Picture a news broadcast kind of set up. Our AV team will be set up like they would in a live space with lots of fancy equipment that most of us don’t understand along with several tech specialists who know how to work all that fancy equipment.
And then there will be our team. We will be moving about the space getting our guest speakers into place, hovering over the shoulder of our techs making sure our hosts look as great as we need them to and managing our newly learned task, moderating.
In a live event space you can usually find us in the registration area answering questions from the attendees. We still need to answer questions from our attendees but now we will be doing it all on a computer. Our team will be communicating and troubleshooting with our attendees via a chat on the virtual platform and on the social media channels. We call that task, moderating.
What we are realizing is that virtual and hybrid events are much more like a tv production then they are a traditional event.
What do all these changes mean for you, as the client or host of a hybrid event?
It means several things. And quite honestly none of us have the full list just yet because these productions are changing every day and we are far from being anywhere near the extent of what this is going to look like when it’s “finished”. But here is a start to get you thinking and considering your options.
Hosting a hybrid event now means that you will be looking at hosting your event in multiple locations – a live event space (for example, a conference room) where you will have at a minimum your event team, your AV and your emcee. A second location would be your virtual space – a virtual platform (like Zoom or one of the thousands of others that have popped up over night) and your social media platforms. Essentially those are the spaces that your virtual attendees will be watching and interacting from.
Some events are hosting hybrid events using multiple live event spaces. They have multiple conference spaces booked in several cities across the province or country where small groups of people are attending live. But, the live component of the event is only taking place in one of those spaces. And they are live streaming the content into the other rooms across the country.
Capable team to manage the event
Hosting a hybrid event means ensuring that you have a capable team backing you up. In the live event space the average person could “get by” planning their own event because they could lean heavily on the venue staff to pull the pieces together. We are seeing that the venue team is really not of much help right now. Your biggest ally in this virtual and hybrid planning process is going to be the right audio-visual team. They are now the ones who hold all the cards and are going to make or break your event.
As a planner, our suggestion is always going to be to make sure you have someone like us on your side because although the venue team is awesome and the AV team is making you look great, the planners are the ones who pull ALL the pieces together.
All of the individual suppliers are experts in their field, planners are the experts in overseeing all of the pieces and making sure they fit together correctly.
Are hybrid events here to stay?
There has been so much discussion about what the event industry is going to look like after Covid. And the right answer is live, hybrid and virtual are all going to live harmoniously together. Our opinion is that live events are going to come back like the Kool-Aid man, “Oh Yeah”. Crashing back into site the minute we are allowed. But this pandemic has opened the eyes of the industry and its clients to what is possible in a virtual and hybrid world.
Virtual and hybrid events have been more successful then I think most anticipated and as time goes on they will only get better. Much to the surprise of many these events have been hugely successful in bringing people together all around the world – like the Global Pride event we were honoured to be a part of, that was able to broadcast a Pride “parade” of sorts for 24 hours through every time zone around the globe.
Organizations that are not normally able to attend a conference on the east coast because it is too expensive for them to fly their team from the west coast have now been able to attend.
And let’s not forget the fundraisers that have blown their targets because they are able to broadcast their events right to the screens of those sitting at home comfortably with their credit card in hand. Instead of paying money for a ticket, a fancy outfit, and getting their hair and makeup done, attendees were able to donate all of that money directly to the charity.
As Covid gets under control and we are able to move forward we predict that organizations will now be considering all three as possible options for their events. They will be weighing the options of virtual vs live and likely settling most often on hybrid events.