Explore the possibilities of hybrid events & how to run them

The following information is a sneak peek from our upcoming Hybrid Work Guide. 

Stay home, go back to the office, or combine both for a hybrid work environment? This is the loaded question currently floating around the business world. Hybridity is the hottest topic–a flexible workplace model that combines in-person and virtual work by allowing workplace flexibility and prioritizing connection.

As companies adjust to the possibility of being back in person again, the possibilities of a hybrid workplace have also opened the exploration of hybrid meetings and hybrid events. It’s important to note that “hybrid” has several distinctions: there is a hybrid workplace–where workers spend their time doing work (remote or in the office); hybrid meetings–how we design meetings that occur with a blended audience (some people in person, some participating remotely); and hybrid events–when meetings become large and specialized, the needs from a standard hybrid meeting shift. Also, note that the hybrid landscape is still evolving. It’s an ongoing and dynamic situation. Therefore, there is no single way to approach it because there are copious factors that influence different variations of what it can look like (and even those can change). 

In this article, we will talk specifically about the possibilities of hybrid events. Experimenting with running hybrid events is a great way to dip your toes into returning to in-person work. You don’t have to take a stance on hybrid permanently; you can use hybrid events as a transition if you so choose. They can also be their own type of event post-transition back to the office.

Let’s take a look at the benefits of hybrid events and how to prepare for them, so you can decide if they’re the right fit for your organization. 

Benefits of Hybrid Events

Just like virtual events, hybrid events have the expanded possibility to bring more people together than the restrictions of in-person alone. Remote work has shown us the power of connecting with people from around the world with a single click of a button. People who may not be able to make an event in-person or who want to save time and money traveling can still attend a hybrid event as a remote attendee. It is also a more comfortable option for people who do not yet feel ready to be back with others in person. 

How to Prepare for Hybrid Events

Planning hybrid events will require much more prep work than remote or in-person events to get everyone organized and set up all necessary tools; there is must more to consider. First, you must decide on the appropriate virtual event platform that supports your specific event’s needs. This includes:

  • Live streaming support
  • Integrations that offer the highest production quality
  • Networking capabilities that allow easy attendee engagement
  • Management capacity to run the event smoothly behind the scenes

Then, consider the setting from which you’ll run the event:

  • Will you be on a stage with cameras to capture the experience?
  • Will you be in an office and operate more like a typical video conferencing call?
  • Decide the best scenario that supports the event–from the background to the props that will appear in the frame–then gather the materials you need to bring it to life. 

It’s vitally important to properly set up all attendees (in-person and remote) beforehand so that everyone is equally prepared. This may include:

  • In-person walkthroughs to set the scene and ready cameras
  • Lighting and other production gear
  • Virtual walkthroughs on the virtual event platform to teach remote attendees how to navigate the space

Will the event require attendees to have certain materials? If so, send event packages to distributed attendees beforehand. Make sure everyone is on the same page and has what they need to participate before the event begins.

Keep in mind that hybrid events will have many different models: 1-to-1, 1-to-many, and many-to-many. Therefore, they will require variances in the structure around how they are clustered and organized.

  • Are there cohorts that are together and how does that impact design?
  • How many facilitators are needed and how will they work together? (More on this in Hybrid Facilitation).
  • Similar to hybrid meetings, how will you bring people together when some are together and some are dispersed? 

Map out your event so you can consider the attendee experience. As you experiment with different event structure variations, be mindful of the trap to cater events to the in-person experience and unwittingly neglect the remote experience. We have to custom-design events for the type of collective interactions and equanimity we want to create. To do this, we must keep social norms top of mind. For example, we can’t throw all in-person attendees in a bar and expect them to go across the room to the camera in the corner and engage with remote people. It just doesn’t work. If we design against social norms, we fight against them. Instead, use them to your advantage.

Consider offering different tiers for your event with different expectations. What is your version of “exit through the giftshop”– a practice used by museums to force all guests through the gift shop?  Here are some examples:

  • Implement a fun game that requires in-person attendees to find answers or engage with other attendees upon arrival in order to make it past registration. Some of these people might be online, some may be in person. Individuals must interact with one another and the tools–think finding the person’s video on Zoom + their designated spot in the event MURAL board (or some other point of engagement)–to find the answers to unlock access.
  • Pair each event attendee with someone, or multiple people, that they have to locate and connect with throughout the event. Pair folks who might have things in common, or might be well suited to work together or learn from one another. Design in moments of interaction where they might discuss prompts or share experiences and reflections.  

Start Experimenting

If a hybrid event speaks to you and your organization, give it a try! Remember, there is no one size fits all way to do it. Even within an organization, different teams work differently. This article is merely meant to offer suggestions about things you can do to run your own hybrid event. Choose what works best for you. 

Hybrid is always changing, it’s about exploring options that exist now and even the ones that don’t exist yet. Stay curious and keep the needs of your organization top of mind. Hybrid events could end up being an asset in a permanent hybrid work environment or as their own entity within your organization. 

Want to learn more about hybrid?

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