The coronavirus crisis has clearly demonstrated that digital technology cannot completely replace physical meetings. There is no substitute for human contact and social interaction. However, virtual events have great advantages; they are more flexible to unpredictable changes, less expensive, more inclusive due to their wider geographical reach and a lower carbon footprint. The digital component brings a new value, complementary to the physical event and an added value that organisers do not want to give up.
The hybrid therefore appears as an alternative type of event, combining the advantages of both approaches.
What is a hybrid event?
The hybrid format combines digital and face-to-face elements. The audience has the opportunity to participate either by physical presence or from home. Most types of events can be organised in a hybrid format, such as meetings, seminars, concerts, openings or conferences, to name but a few.
For a successful hybrid event, here are our 4 recommendations:
1. A tip that may be common sense, but as with any project, it is essential to clarify your objectives carefully. There are all sorts of ways to make a conference hybrid. Depending on your expectations, the organisation of the event can quickly become much more complex and costly than expected. A hybrid conference can take many forms, so it is important to define your objectives in order to create your own event according to your needs and resources.
2. Many event organisers are still unfamiliar with interactive methods for the online format, so hybrid events sometimes tend to be a series of presentations and Q&As with little or no interaction with the audience. For a successful hybrid conference that brings real richness to the audience, we therefore wholeheartedly recommend that you focus on interaction. It is time to be creative and turn to participatory methods such as Liberating structures, many of which can also be applied to the virtual. Participants usually come to an event for networking too, so it is
advisable to include networking activities. Finally, many technological tools such as Mentimeter or Kahoot! allow you to involve your entire audience online and face-to-face at the same time, and in a fun way.
3. Online participants often feel like second-class participants and risk being forgotten, as more energy tends to be devoted to welcoming face-to-face participants. Our third recommendation is to prioritise online participants. It is therefore important not to forget to welcome online participants with the help of dedicated online moderators. If questions are asked of the whole audience, discuss the online participants' questions first. The presenter can sometimes also look directly into the camera when addressing the online audience, or refer to the online audience by saying how many people are present or from which countries they come from.
4. You are not organising one event, but two. Not all participants should receive the same information. If they receive too much irrelevant information, they risk getting lost and not being sure of their role. As a fourth recommendation, we strongly advise you to send different and tailor-made information to the two audiences. Also, it is much harder to maintain attention when following an online event. Clearly write down in a shared document the details of the programme for people online, how they can intervene and ask questions and any relevant technical information.
Hybrid events present some technological challenges to overcome and an undeniable investment for organisers that should not be overlooked. Furthermore, for large conferences, it is best to use specialist agencies or third parties to help you with the technical side of things, so that you can really focus on the methods and content. These recommendations are intended to guide you in making your hybrid stand out and really enrich the participants!