Hybrid events have grown in popularity since the Covid-19 pandemic and have become a necessary way of reaching both in-person and virtual audiences.
Running a successful hybrid event adds an extra layer of complexity to a ‘normal’ in-person event, but advances in technology, live streaming and video conferencing platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams have made it far easier to achieve.
What are Hybrid Events?
Hybrid Events consist of a virtual audience as well as in-person participants. The challenge for hybrid events is to make sure that all attendees have the same experience, no matter where they are physically located.
On a basic level, a Hybrid Event experience will include:
• An in-person event, usually in a speaker/audience/panel set up
• At least one camera which streams the event
• Sound from the speakers connected to the live stream via microphones
• Participants joining via a video conferencing or streaming service
• It may include the ability for online participants to interact with the in-person audiences, by displaying them on a screen at the event and allowing them to speak.
Successfully-run Hybrid Events are much more than just setting a webcam up at the back of the room and asking anyone who isn’t able to attend in person to join through Zoom.
What makes a truly hybrid event is when attendees are able to engage
and connect with other attendees, speakers, and sponsors regardless of the method they are attending.
Advantages of Hybrid Events
The main advantage of Hybrid Events is allowing people who may not be able to attend in person to join the event, resulting in larger audiences. It also cuts down on the need to travel, creating a much lower carbon footprint.
Another advantage of hybrid events is having all the material available to be rewatched if certain people weren’t able to attend the event. You can also take those recordings and use it as potential content for your marketing.
Since helping companies run Hybrid Events we have created multiple pieces of content from the recordings of events. Beyond the full length presentations, this content can be split up into short clips for social. You can also use the audio and turn it into podcast segments.
You can even use some form of automatic transcription software to create articles and find stand-out quotes that can be used as tweets or graphics.
How do you Plan a Hybrid Event
The most important part of running these events is to have a plan. Without a plan your hybrid event is doomed to fail! Your plan needs to include the following:
Decide on the format for the online element first
What type of event are you looking to run? Are you simply hosting speakers and nothing else? Or are you looking to incorporate interaction with the audience, such as Q&As, videos, polls and presentations. All of these elements can work across the in-person and virtual audiences, but you’ll need to plan for how you’re going to achieve it.
Choose your venue with Hybrid Events in mind
We find it easier to think about how we will set up for the virtual side of the event first and work the in-person elements around it. This includes thinking about aspects such as layout, lighting, cabling and potential hazards (particularly trip hazards) that will impact the in-person event.
First things first you’ll want to make sure your venue has a stable, strong and reliable internet connection with good wifi.
This will make your life much easier and it’s best to check using a service such as ookla.com. If you have the option, try to connect to a closed wifi network.
The issue with connecting to a venue’s open wifi, is that it works perfectly when testing, but on the day it doesn’t work as all the attendees are also connected to the same network.
Make sure there is a lectern and plenty of room for microphones and a screen.
Plan around the Platform
Do you want to host your event privately or are you looking to put it out to all your social media followers on a certain platform?
If you’re looking to host your event privately, Zoom and Microsoft Teams are your best options. Both enable you to connect a camera, or multiple cameras running through a mixer, to the feed.
Alternatively, you can host your event on social media using the same principle – Facebook, YouTube and Linkedin all offer strong live streaming services that are simple to connect to.
Collate presentations well in advance
Make sure you let all the speakers know well in advance that you need a copy of their presentation. You’ll not only need this for the in person presentations, you’ll also need a version for the virtual event.
One thing we learnt early on is that hybrid events work much better when you have a separate version of the presentations available for online viewers.
Trying to film the speaker as well as their presentations will mean it’s difficult for the online audience to view. It’s better to focus the camera on the speaker, while sharing the presentation to the online audience directly while the speaker talks.
Appoint a Virtual Host
A common mistake people make when running Hybrid Events is in seeing the virtual audience as an afterthought. The in-person event may include a host, but this doesn’t always transfer digitally.
If you can, always have someone who can host the virtual side of the event, this is especially important before and after the event and answer any questions.
This person is also very useful as a go between for the virtual audiences and the presenters. Any questions that are asked online can be filtered by the virtual host and then given to the relevant presenter.
They are also highly useful for flagging and helping resolve any issues around sound and vision.
What Equipment Do You Need for a Hybrid Event?
The equipment you’ll need really depends on the type of event you want to run. At a bare minimum you’ll need a computer, a decent camera and a microphone for the camera.
The most important aspect of running these events is sound. If you are working to a tight budget, focus on getting the best sound quality you can. People will forgive you if the picture isn’t perfect, but they won’t forgive you if they can’t hear what’s going on.
If you can afford it, purchase or hire a PA system with an output feed connection. This way you’ll not only have good sound at the venue, you’ll also have a single input to your computer and all the sound is controlled directly from the PA.
If you’re looking to run a Q & A at any of your events, make sure to purchase a separate wireless microphone that can be handed to audience members, so people speaking in the audience can also be heard by the virtual audience.
Choosing a camera for your event really comes down to whatever you can get your hands on or is within your budget. Make sure your camera can record at 1080p and also has an output connection (usually some variation of HDMI). And if you can afford it, use a camera with a zoom lens, this gives you the flexibility to zoom in or out, depending on the height of the speakers.
Other items to add to your shopping basket are a tripod, HDMI cable (or whatever your connection from your camera and computer are) and a 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio lead for your PA (this is a headphone size jack on both ends).
Finally, you need to consider the issue of feedback. If you have speakers on a screen talking to the in-person audience, you need to be careful of this sound being picked up by the microphones in the room for the benefit of the in person audience. Being able to mute the right microphones at the right time will offset this, but it’s well worth engaging with a professional who has access to mixing equipment to do this.
The very fact that you’re reading this and taking the time to research how to run a successful hybrid event puts you far ahead of the people who think they can run these events by opening up Zoom and Teams and turning the camera on the presenters.
Spend the time to plan out how your event is going to run and make sure you add in time to practice everything before the event. The biggest advantage you can give yourself is a rehearsal, with members of your organisation joining both in person and online to test all functionality. Raising and resolving problems through your rehearsal and with your venue gives you a much better chance of success on the day.
The video team at pbmedia provide businesses and organisations with Hybrid Event support in the South West and beyond. If your team needs help or advice, get in touch.