Hey folks! Rob from Tailored Virtual here. We get a lot of questions about virtual and hybrid events, so we’ve put together this handy Q&A to help break it down for you. If you’re looking for info on throwing a first-rate event this year, this is for you.
Q: Okay, so… COVID wrecked my event plans. What options do I have?
A: Well, the good news is that you have some great options! Depending on your goals and local health guidelines, you can host a virtual or a hybrid event. Either of these are a great way to connect with your donors, co-workers, fellow alumni, or family members.
Q: What’s the difference?
A: At an all-virtual event, everyone is remote. For a hybrid event, you have some choices*:
- You can have guests, in person, at a live venue AND guests online
- You can have presenters at a live venue/studio and guests ONLY online
*Obviously, these will depend on your local / state government’s guidelines on live gatherings as we still navigate through COVID.
Q: How are hybrid events structured?
A: Hybrid events can often be structured similarly to a live, in-person event. With the added virtual aspect though, the remote audience can have the option enjoy things live or at their own pace, if applicable. For example: if holding a hybrid conference, online guests can have real time access to what the in-person audience is experiencing, but they can also have bonus elements like these:
- Pre-recorded content, e.g. a produced presentation from a speaker who wasn’t able to present live on event day
- Behind the scenes interviews—You can treat your online guests to exclusive content that is only seen virtually, making the digital experience of your event still a desirable option for guests
- Special entertainment, like celebrity appearances (whether it’s only for the online guests or a broadcast of the performance live from the venue for the online guests to enjoy with the in-person guests)
By having a simultaneously-run hybrid event, both the in-person and the virtual guests get to have a similar experience and can even interact with each other or with the same presenter during sessions such as panels.
Q: How do I know which one is right for me?
A: It really depends on your goal for the event! An all-virtual event is going to be more cost-effective because you’re not paying for a venue and everything that goes along with that. This allows you to direct more of your budget into the production, which means you can add in additional games / entertainment / etc. to make your event more interactive.
A hybrid event will feel more like a traditional in-person event, so if you have a venue and can have a live audience, you’ll essentially be getting the best of both worlds: the energy of a live audience combined with the reach of a virtual event.
The good news is that whether your event is virtual or hybrid, it will have a much broader reach than that of just an in-person event. Guests can join from anywhere, which means that no matter what you’re hosting—conference, fundraising gala, alumni event, donor party, etc—anyone around the world can be part of it.
This is great news if you’re hosting a conference or training for your team. A virtual or hybrid format means that you can bring in special guests, add in custom games or trivia, and keep everyone connected without the travel expenses usually associated with off-site training.
Q: My annual event is usually a big deal. Should I keep the same format as I have in the past?
A: Again, it depends on your goals. One thing we’ve seen a lot of our clients do is continue to hold one large hybrid event while also adding in smaller virtual, hybrid, or live events to get their message out.
Let’s say you’re part of an alumni organization. You may not be able to get everyone together for homecoming weekend, but you could hold one large virtual event that includes everyone while also holding smaller hybrid events throughout the year that are based on chapter or region.
The same goes for just about any non-profit organization. You can hold one large event while scheduling several smaller, more informal meetings throughout the year to keep everyone connected.
In many ways, diversifying your event strategy leads to improved relationships with your audience and relieves some of the pressure associated with that one “big” night.
Q: OK. But pretty soon, we’ll move back to live events, right?
A: Well, the short answer here is no. From the trends we’re seeing, virtual and hybrid events will have a place at the table for quite a while, even once restrictions for live gatherings have been completely lifted. The reality is that this “new normal” is quickly becoming just “normal,” and the event industry is adjusting just like everyone else.
If you can find a way to host incredible gatherings in a virtual or hybrid format, you’re going to be able to keep your organization on track, no matter what!
Q: I have more questions!
A: No problem. We have some great resources on our blog, including:
- What Is a Virtual Event, and Why Should I Have One?
- Present Like a Pro: Tips & Tricks for Virtual Event Presenters