Learn how to host a hybrid event that combines the best of virtual & in-person experiences. Featuring examples from brands like Adobe, HubSpot, and Apple.
Have you ever considered hosting a hybrid event? In light of recent developments regarding the coronavirus-caused COVID-19 pandemic, many event organizers have decided to explore new ways to bring people together.
Luckily, this isn’t uncharted territory. Many event organizers have been embracing hybrid events for some time. To help guide you through (and beyond) these difficult times, we’ve compiled some best practices from successful hybrid events and conferences.
Keep reading to learn what hybrid events are, why they're valuable, and 18 ideas you can use to help you host them effectively in 2020 and beyond.
You might also be interested in:
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What is a Hybrid Event?
A hybrid event is any event — conference, training seminar, trade expo, etc. — that combines live, in-person elements with digital, online components. For example, a business conference that hosts an in-person gathering in San Francisco, CA and live-streams its keynotes and sessions to a worldwide virtual audience would be considered a hybrid event.
There are plenty of ways to host a hybrid event. Later in this article, we'll outline 18 different ideas you can use to make sure you capitalize on these event types. But first...
Why Hybrid Events Are Valuable
Hybrid events have grown in popularity over the past decade or so because they allow event organizers to reach a wider audience, improve event ROI, and give companies access to valuable data points they otherwise wouldn't have.
Let's take a closer look at each of these reasons:
- Better Reach: Not everyone in your target market will be able to attend your events due to scheduling conflicts and/or budgetary restrictions. By making your event available online, you'll remove these barriers and reach more people with your content.
- Improved ROI: Just because someone can't afford to attend your in-person gathering doesn't mean they expect to pay $0 for the content you've prepared. You can sell virtual access to your conferences for a discounted price, boosting event ROI along the way. You can also use keynote and session recordings as promotional pieces in the future, which has the potential to significantly lower your marketing costs.
- Valuable Data: Lastly, it's much easier to track event engagement through virtual conferences because every move an attendee makes is automatically archived. This information can then be used to improve event details in the future.
As you can see, hybrid events can be incredibly valuable when used correctly. Take a look at these corporate event ideas and examples from leading brands that will help you effectively host your own digital gathering.
Hybrid Event Ideas
Now that we know what hybrid events are and why they're valuable, here’s how to actually host them. Explore 18 hybrid event ideas demonstrated by a variety of different companies who have successfully used this strategy plus some actionable tips you can directly apply to your own strategy.
LiveWorx is the "definitive event for digital transformation." PTC has hosted this annual event since 1989 and has a strong annual attendance of more than 7,000 people from a wide range of industries and backgrounds. The event is usually held in Boston, MA. But due to COVID-19, event coordinators have decided to do away with the in-person gathering and stream the entire four days’ worth of keynotes and sessions online.
If you don't feel comfortable hosting a large gathering in 2020 like you originally planned, we completely understand! But before you cancel your event, ask yourself if it makes sense to simply stream your sessions online instead.
INBOUND is an annual event hosted by HubSpot, a recognized leader in the world of marketing. Folks attend this conference every year to learn from top-notch speakers like Rand Fishkin and former professional baseball player, Alex Rodrigeuz. They also enjoy getting to network with their peers and see "uproarious entertainment" provided by world-class stand up comedians.
INBOUND hasn't announced any changes to its 2020 gathering yet. But its commitment to recording its sessions and using them as marketing pieces in the future is a great idea that can help make a mandatory online event even more beneficial for your company.
Webinar World, the annual conference hosted by ON24, is "two days filled with best practices and tactics for experiential marketing." ON24 has been hosting hybrid events for a few years now so there's a lot to be learned from studying its strategies — especially when it comes to event sponsors.
Remember, just because your event has changed from an in-person gathering to a hybrid or even fully virtual one, doesn't mean you can't still offer sponsorship opportunities and partner with companies in a way that benefits both of you.
In the past, ON24 has done this by offering sponsors the chance to host their own event sessions, and place their logos on the Webinar World website conference keynote slides, and within the conference's promotional emails.
Forward Digital Summit provides inspiration, education, and connection to its attendees via engaging speeches on topics related to the Rubrik platform. Some of the speakers at the 2020 gathering include John Thompson, a chairman of Microsoft, and Hasan Minhaj, an award-winning comedian and talk show host.
Are you worried that the A-List speakers you booked won't be as effective in a hybrid event setting? Don't be! Great speakers are still impressive through an online medium.
Unbounce hosts this annual "no fluff" conference that's always filled with actionable takeaways that attendees can implement immediately. The slate of speakers in 2020 includes Rand Fishkin and Joanna Wiebe, the CEO of Copyhackers. Those who can't make the live show can watch the recorded sessions at a later date.
Even though the Call-to-Action conference doesn't start until September 29th, 2020, you can already buy your ticket to the event. Make early-access tickets part of your hybrid event strategy too.
The Yellow Conference motto is "a community of women creating meaningful work." It's a hybrid conference, but not in the traditional sense. Rather than host a single event that both a remote attendee and an in-person one can attend, Yellow Conference in 2020 will have two separate gatherings for each group.
One of the reasons that Yellow Conference is successful is because it knows its audience and focuses on them. Consider creating segment-specific experiences for your attendees as well and your event will be more engaging.
DigiMarCon West is a combination of "expert speakers, unrivaled networking, and leading content." The 2020 conference is planned to take place in Santa Monica, CA in June. DigiMarCon West is also selling a virtual pass which can be purchased for a significantly lower price than any in-person ticket type.
Ideally, your hybrid event will have at least two different ticket types: one that grants attendees access to the complete in-person gathering, and one that allows them to view the conference content and festivities via their computer screens.
Source: Calendar Tribe
If all goes according to plan, coronavirus will be well behind us before the Growth Marketing Conference takes place in December. But if not, event organizers have covered their bases by offering a "Virtual Access Pass." It gets better: those who purchase virtual access also get bonus content in the form of 200+ actionable webinars.
By offering your virtual attendees special content, you'll enhance their event experience and increase the likelihood that they'll return to your events in the future.
Since 2013, Gainsight's Pulse Conference has inspired and educated thousands of attendees on an annual basis. But because of the coronavirus pandemic we're currently dealing with, Gainsight has changed the game. In 2020, the company will be hosting Pulse Everywhere, a completely digital event that can be attended for free!
A free virtual conference is definitely a strategy worth considering. Event marketing is a cinch when tickets cost $0 and you'll build up a lot of goodwill with your target audience.
For technology enthusiasts, Apple Special Events are some of the biggest happenings of the year. Watching Apple's CEO Tim Cook take the stage and announce a slate of sleek new products is exciting. Luckily, the events are live-streamed so that folks who aren't at the in-person gathering can still participate.
Apple doesn't live stream its Special Events just to please customers - it does it to extend its reach and sell more products. Take a page out of Apple's book and turn your product announcements into hybrid events that anyone can view.
Source: PM Studio
While this event isn't an example of stellar B2B event marketing like our previous list items, it has a lot to teach about the power of live video on social media.
In 2017, talented guitarist and singer/songwriter, John Mayer, embarked on his Dive Bar Tour. One of the dates was live-streamed on Facebook and, as a result, catapulted the musician to the top of the Facebook live video charts. If it fits your goals and strategy, you may want to explore streaming your events on Facebook (or another social media platform) to reach more of your audience.
Source: Agents of Change
The Agents of Change Digital Marketing Conference is for any one — social media manager, marketing director, business owner, etc. — who's in charge of generating more business online. The event is hosted in Maine but also live-streamed everywhere.
After the conference concludes, on-demand videos can be viewed for a limited time. The limited availability of these content pieces helps drive excitement and encourages immediate action. Use this strategy for your own events to create a buzz around your conference before, during, and even after it's over.
Source: Social media Examiner
When it comes to social media conferences, Social Media Marketing World is the cream of the crop. The event welcomes thousands of attendees every year and always delivers great content from some of the most respected names in social marketing.
The 2020 conference has already taken place. But all of the conference sessions can be watched now. Those who buy a virtual ticket also get access to a private networking group to meet and communicate with their peers.
Networking is an important part of most professional conferences. Successful hybrid events not only provide great content but also give virtual attendees the chance to connect with colleagues near and far.
The Self Publishing Show Live was specifically created for authors who wish to self publish their books and grow large followings without the help of a traditional publishing house. It welcomed nearly 1,000 attendees in its first year. But there were still plenty more people who wanted to come but were unable to make those dates. Fortunately, The Self Publishing Show Live has made all of its recorded sessions available for a small fee of $25.
There's even a money-back guarantee, just in case you feel like the content didn't live up to your expectations. Add this reassuring policy to your own online event to help attendees with decision-making and showcase your own confidence in what you have to offer.
Even if you don’t give your attendees an outright money back guarantee, you may want to review your refund and registration transfer policy for any in-person elements of your hybrid event.
Moz has been leading the digital marketing charge for over a decade. MozCon is another avenue the company uses to reach its target audience with top-notch content on topics such as SEO, data, and how to build winning marketing strategies. While MozCon doesn't live stream its sessions, recorded versions can be viewed after the event concludes for a discounted rate.
One thing Moz does really well is leverage its recorded content, which entices future attendees to buy conference tickets. The website is full of past sessions videos that folks can watch for free. This strategy helps Moz prove the quality of its content.
Source: StatePoint Media
At Content Marketing World, the go-to conference for content marketing professionals, attendees learn from amazing speakers about how to up their content games. They also have the chance to network with peers and enjoy fun entertainment.
Similar to MozCon (mentioned above), virtual access to Content Marketing World is only available post-event. But anyone who purchases an "All-Access Pass" will get access to the recordings for free. Those who purchased a different event pass will have to pay for the videos.
This is an interesting tactic that could help boost sales of higher-priced tickets. After all, access to every session recording your conference hosts should be extremely valuable!
Twitch is "the world's leading live streaming platform for gamers" and others who want to reach their audiences in real time. Every year the company hosts an in-person gathering called TwitchCon which allows popular streamers to meet fans and engage in fun esport tournaments.
The purpose of TwitchCon is to bring people together — people who normally only connect with each other through a television or computer screen. But TwitchCon wouldn't be true to its brand if it didn't live-stream the festivities to an online audience as well.
Even if your brand isn’t all about streaming, consider how you can double-down on bringing your brand front and center through the hybrid experience.
ABM Innovation Summit was forced to postpone its gathering because of the coronavirus. But Demandbase, the Summit's parent company, still had big news to share. So it recorded and published its keynote address, which features Demandbase executives talking about the future of its industry.
If the virus has affected your live events schedule, find a way to revise your message and reach your audience with the important details you need them to hear.
Key Takeaways: Hybrid Events
Hybrid events can help organizations extend their reach, improve event ROI, and glean valuable data. The 18 virtual event ideas listed above will ensure your combo gatherings are successful. Here are some main takeaways you can directly apply to your own hybrid events now and in the future:
- Get Creative: Uncertain times call for outside-the-box thinking. COVID-19 has thrown a giant wrench into everyone's plans. How your company deals with it will determine how successful it will be this year. So think of ways to serve your target audience via a unique hybrid event in this new reality.
- Put Your Attendees First: Your attendees should always come first. This maxim is more important today than ever before. How can you help your attendees with your events during these hard times? How can you create engaging virtual experiences that simulate in-person interaction?
- Build For the Future: We'll be honest, 2020 will probably be a tough year for the live events industry. But the coronavirus will peter out eventually and life will go back to normal. It's important that you use this time to build for the future by building hybrid events into your strategy the current moment and beyond.
A hybrid event might be the perfect business solution to the COVID-19 pandemic we're currently facing. But no matter what decision you make regarding your company's planned conferences and trade shows in 2020, stay safe out there!
If you’re interested in learning more about how Bizzabo supports hybrid events, check out our Virtual Experience Solution.