Hybrid Events Are the New Norm – What Should Event Planners Know?
As events start to emerge out of the murky waters of the 2020, we are starting to see some new trends take center stage. One of the most prominent events industry trends to dominate 2021 is the concept of hybrid events. Hybrid events—partially in person and partially virtual—have become popular this year, riding on the coattails of the virtual event trend that was forced onto the industry during the pandemic. There are certain elements of virtual events that worked well enough to stick around, even when in-person attendance is an option.
According to CVENT “In a recent PCMA study, 76% of planners said that they are going virtual. For a growing number of attendees, the technology itself has become the new venue.” So, what does this mean for your event planning business? There are going to be certain challenges and advantages to this hybrid event trend, and it’s important that as you head into this new era of event planning, you and your business are prepared.
Advantages of a Hybrid Event
Reach a Wider Audience
With two options of how to attend, you can reach a wider audience. Whether it’s a conference, tradeshow, workshop, training, or even a social event, giving the option to attend virtually removes barriers for people who want to take in the content but maybe don’t want to travel, can’t afford to travel, or have obligations at home. It allows for those that can and want to attend in person to physically be present and take advantage of added event offerings, such as networking; while those that cannot be present—or those who don’t quite feel comfortable being in large gatherings yet— can join remotely. It’s an inclusive way to host an event for any and all that are interested in attending.
Provides a Plan B
Another advantage of the hybrid event model is that it provides a backup option for your event. If something happens to where you can no longer hold the event in person, you already have the tech set up and the means to provide a quality virtual experience for all. Additionally, you aren’t limited by space! The venue size only needs to accommodate the in-person attendees, and you can theoretically (based on the virtual platform you choose) host a larger number of virtual attendees. Another advantage is it will help you avoid the logistics, costs, and communication challenges that will arise if you have to cancel your in-person event.
Challenges of a Hybrid Event
The Learning Curve
An entirely new model comes with its own set of challenges. Though hybrid events have many great advantages, there are some hurdles you may need to get over as you plan these types of events, and a learning curve. Getting people on board may be the first of these hurdles. Companies or event hosts you work with may have reservations when it comes to adding a virtual element to their event simply because it’s a new practice. It will be important to communicate why hybrid events are desirable for many attendees, and you’ll need to make sure you are prepared to answer your client’s questions.
Budgeting for hybrid events may be another challenge. Normal event budgets simply won’t hold up, because there will need to be a unique budget for virtual technology and tech support that simply wasn’t needed before. It’s a push and pull—there could be less need for travel budgets, chairs, space or food and beverage, but you’ll have to pay close attention to where the dollars are going to account for the new virtual elements.
Addressing the Needs of Two Different Audiences
Keeping both types of attendees engaged is another hurdle that will need some comprehensive planning. The programming, including session lengths and break times, will need to accommodate the crowd that sits at their computer for the duration of the event as well as the in-person attendees.
Risks and Insurance
Lastly, with all these moving pieces, new risks can present themselves for your business. It’s important that you make sure your business has the right coverage for event planners. This way, no matter what challenges arise, you are prepared for them.
How to Bring It All Together
So, with all of the advantages and challenges considered, how do you bring a hybrid event together successfully? Below are the key components to a successful hybrid event.
The Right Venue
Hello Endless Events identifies a few important venue aspects for hybrid events. The venue not only needs to fit your in-person capacity levels, but it needs to have the right internet bandwidth and camera and sound system capabilities to accommodate the online attendees. If it doesn’t, a production team would need to be brought in to supplement where it’s lacking, and this tends to get pricey.
Obviously, the tech you need for the virtual aspect of the event needs to be good. And not just good, but reliable. This means you’ll need to budget for technology and the associated tech professionals to run the livestreams and be on call in case any issues arise. Additional technology could include chatrooms or even virtual reality. According to Meeting Tomorrow, in the past VR has been used at events for immersive demonstrations or training, games or branded experiences, and interactive tours. Now, with the option to attend virtually, this kind of technology, along with 360-degree cameras, can be used to make the online attendee feel like they are actually in the room.
This has a lot to do with the engagement piece. In order to keep both audiences engaged, you’ll need to make sure the actual programming of the event works for the physical attendees and the virtual ones. One hybrid event venue in London suggests implementing more breaks to help with screen fatigue. Shorter sessions, session options, and virtual chat rooms during breaks could also help make the event flexible enough to keep those online and in person engaged.
Time and effort will need to go into imagining what your hybrid event will look like and how it will operate, but once you are able to strike the perfect balance with all of the necessary aspects, you are sure to have a memorable and effective event on your hands.
Comprehensive Event Coverage
This new event trend comes with its own set of risks. Rather than just the risk of accidents, personal injury or damage onsite, the virtual element of hybrid events can pose cyber threats, completely new other risks you may not have considered yet, as well as professional mistakes from trying something completely new. In order to cover your business, you’ll want to have insurance for your event planning business. Additionally, specific kinds of event liability coverage, such as special event insurance can help protect your business from things like event cancellations or theft of high-cost items. Remember to add on cyber liability insurance to cover cyber security risks.
NOW Insurance provides coverage that’s simple, fast and affordable for event planners and events of all sizes. Fill out our quick application today for a quote in under 3 minutes. You can secure the right kind of insurance for your business today, without ever speaking to someone on the phone.
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