Hybrid is happening, here’s what works!


The event world is changing, (once again)! Venues are reopening, the virtual world is blending with the in-person world, and hybrid events are definitely the future. But with so many questions about how hybrid really works, this seemed like a good time to sit down with four event professionals who are creating amazing hybrid events right this minute!

Our guests were: Shakiera Helenic – Dual Director of Sales & Marketing – Sonesta Suites Scottsdale Gainey Ranch, Andréa Lyons – CEO and Executive Producer – All About Presentation, Debra Mategrano – Regional Sales Director – Encore, and Lyndon Stewart – Managing Director – Catalyst Ranch

Ink Factory was there too, creating live visual notes of all the creative concepts that our guests brought up. Check out the cool timelapse below.

GIF of Expo, Inc hybrid webinar ad "How to Hybrid: The mysteries unraveled"

Feel free to stream to the full event — How to Hybrid: The Mysteries Unraveled, and keep reading for our recap.

Hybrid events are so much more than just virtual and in-person events combined!

GIF of virtual speaker talking to attendees at Expo, Inc's "How to Hybrid" webinar

We’re in a post-Zoom world. Virtual is too accessible and convenient to give up, but at the same time, people can’t wait to meet in person again. So how do we bridge those worlds? One word — Hybrid. 

As Montegano pointed out, a hybrid event, at its core, is a “customizable event experience.” From the venue, to virtual elements, everything can be tailored to an organizer’s exact needs. Helenic added to this that, “Hybrid events are what will allow everyone to meet in personal constraints. And give guests a piece of mind so they can safely meet at home or in person.” In other words, Hybrid events are the best way to reach everyone in this rapidly changing event world.  

From a positioning perspective, Lyons explained that hybrid is a “massive opportunity to expand your brand, to expand your engagement, to expand well beyond […] pre corona impact.” Basically, hybrid allows you to double the amount of people you would normally reach.

And Stewart wrapped this part of the conversation up by reminding everyone that, “Hybrid events are not new. It’s just another meeting.” We can’t agree with this more. Presenters have pre-recorded keynotes for years. Televised sporting events are just hybrid events that we watch on TV. These kinds of events are part of the fabric of our life. They are already things we enjoy. 

When potential clients see that hybrid is something familiar, and also a new way to reach tons of people, we think they’ll see that the possibilities are endless!

Venues and organizers are ready with plans to keep people safe.

GIF of virtual speaker talking to attendees at Expo, Inc's "How to Hybrid" webinar

One of the biggest takeaways from all our speakers is that they are ready to keep hybrid events safe, and meet all regional guidelines for meeting in-person. They’ve been practicing, preparing, and many safe and successful hybrid events have happened already. 

On the venue side, Helenic mentioned StaySafe Sonesta as a good example. This program includes cleaning, plexiglass, mask requirements, and the use of outdoor spaces to spread out for sessions and meal functions. Outdoor spaces are going to be essential moving forward, not just for safety reasons, but also as a way to differentiate events, from all the time that people have spent indoors over the last few months. 

In terms of event production, Montegrano added that her company, Encore, designed their safety plan to be specifically inline with various venues — and to match their meeting design, traffic flow, tech, and cleaning guidelines. This ensured a seamless transition from planning, to the actual event day when people would show up in-person. 

The event industry is at the forefront of helping people get together again, and it’s clear everyone is committed to making it a safe and successful experience. If you are looking for some venue ideas, here are 6 unique hybrid event venues worth checking out.

Hybrid technology is available and affordable.

GIF of virtual speaker talking to attendees at Expo, Inc's "How to Hybrid" webinar

The additional tech needed at hybrid events can seem intimidating, but it’s actually more simple and cost effective than you might think.

First off, much of the tech needed is in venues already. The lights, the screens, and in some cases the cameras are all already in hotels and convention centers. Additionally, venues have spent months upgrading their gear just for this moment when hybrid events picked up speed.

Montegrano pointed out there are even new, and relatively inexpensive gadgets, such as cameras that will focus on the speakers in the room automatically. A device like this would not only keep crew costs low, it would also take one more person out of the room — which is now more important than ever. 

Hybrid technology can get expensive, there’s no doubt about it, but if you pick a venue that’s well prepared, and work with an organizer that can get creative, you will definitely be able to stay on budget

There are tried and true strategies for keeping virtual guests engaged.

GIF of virtual speaker talking to attendees at Expo, Inc's "How to Hybrid" webinar

Zoom fatigue is real; and keeping people engaged with more screentime can feel like an uphill battle. The silver lining here is that during all this time spent in Zoom, we’ve learned there are guaranteed ways to keep people listening and interacting.

The easiest, and most affordable technique (which was also approved by all panelists), is the concept of storytelling. Hyper-scripted keynotes just don’t keep everyone listening in the virtual world. People at home respond most to a naturalistic and conversational tone. They are looking to be able to have a back and forth with presenters, or at least get a window into their world, and feel part of the conversation. Coincidently, this style also works with well smaller in-person gatherings (which will be most hybrid events coming up). So storytelling is a win-win! 

Our guests also agreed that an MC is essential for connecting the virtual and in-person world. It’s especially effective if this person is an employee in the company or the community where the event is taking place. It will make the virtual attendees feel more comfortable asking questions, and it will save money.  

Swag is another good option. Stewart brought up sending people things that will spark creativity. This means puzzles, brain teasers, and nostalgic toys and games that make people smile. And besides, who doesn’t like to get sent fun stuff?

Click here to read even more fun and engaging ideas for your next hybrid event.

Hybrid events can help you reach attendance and financial goals.

How can you make money selling tickets when there is a limit for in-person attendance? How much should virtual tickets actually cost? These are big questions, but luckily, there are real answers. 

Montegrano pointed out that hybrid events can actually allow you to have the same event happening in different rooms or spaces in the same hotel, or even different hotels. This allows everyone to maintain social distancing, and gives more people an opportunity to attend in-person. As well as sell more tickets. For an added bonus, you’ll also be able to book more rooms for your hoteliers. 

The next big question is how much to charge for virtual tickets, and if they should be cheaper because it’s virtual. Lyons pointed out that it depends. “If you just want to increase the overall attendance.” Then yes, virtual tickets should cost less money. But, if “the content is just as rich [as your other events]”, then keeping the price on the same level as in-person may actually be a more cost effective strategy. 

Now here’s the magic… How do you ensure great content right now? According to Lyons, many high profile and celebrity presenters have been willing to drop their speaking rates by thousands of dollars for hybrid and virtual events. This allows organizers to book speakers that they may have thought were out of reach. Now that’s next level event planning if you ask us!

But wait, there’s more!

From planning hybrid events internationally to handling the pre-recording of speakers, we discussed all that and so much more during our virtual event; How to Hybrid: The Mysteries Unraveled. Although spoiler alert, it’s all possible at hybrid events! If you happened to miss the live event, you can watch the video at the link here. Enjoy, and we hope to see you soon in the hybrid world!

March 31, 2021

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March 31, 2021

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