At one point in time, we were used to in-person events … then COVID-19 hit. This left many businesses and creators floundering to reconfigure their events online.
While virtual events have a lot of benefits, many attendees still feel like they’re missing a critical component of in-person interactions. Let’s face it, trying to recreate each and every element of a physical event in the digital space just doesn’t work all that well.
The solution? HYBRID EVENTS!
Hybrid events combine both in-person and virtual experiences, offer creators and attendees flexible solutions, and can easily be repurposed into different types of content. How cool is that?
Let’s dive into how to create an incredible hybrid event.
In this article…
What is a hybrid event?
First things first. A hybrid event allows people to attend your event either in-person or virtually, or some combination of both. It truly offers the best of both worlds.
Benefits of hybrid events
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of a hybrid event and why it might be the perfect option for you and your attendees!
Now more than ever, it’s easy to host a hybrid event thanks to modern technology. Hybrid event platforms give creators the ability to design and launch amazing events that are connected through software. The best hybrid event platforms will come with intuitive features for designing an interactive event that connects in-person and virtual experiences seamlessly.
When you host a hybrid event, you have room for customization. You can give attendees a whole new experience, customized to your liking. Many hybrid event platforms offer various ways attendees can engage and give them more freedom for how they choose to interact, including through online communication, such as voice chat, Q&As, surveys, polls, and more.
Hybrid events are convenient for everyone because they give your attendees options for how they show up. For example, even for attendees who show up in person, a hybrid event allows them to leave the venue for a while and still interact online.
For those who travel a lot, have extremely busy schedules, or can’t afford to attend the event in person, it gives them the opportunity to attend virtually.
Speaking of flexibility, hybrid events also give you the opportunity to be flexible with your pricing. For example, you can charge $100 for in-person attendees and $20 for virtual attendees. Obviously, there will be a cap for how many tickets you can sell to a physical event because of capacity limits at the venue, but you can still sell unlimited tickets for the online portion.
Essentially, you can sell two products for the same event! You could even offer packages and bundles (e.g. purchase four tickets for the price of three, or if attendees purchase a digital product and a ticket to the event, they get access to your community for free), giving you unlimited options!
Keep the connection alive
The connections and energy don’t have to stop after the event is over. You brought together like-minded people who were excited about attending the amazing event you created.
Why not keep those connections alive with an online community? A community can help members maintain connections and form new ones, and it can provide them with new opportunities (both professional and personal). Your members can interact with one another, your content, and with you. On top of that, they’ll be the first to know about your next event and have a place to share their excitement!
Can be recorded
Even if registrants can’t attend your event because they’re sick, had to work late, or they decided to take it easy after a long work week, you can still give them a way to experience your event.
Thanks to powerful hybrid event platforms, you can easily record your event and give your members access to it. That way, they can rewatch the event on their own time.
11 tips for creating amazing hybrid events
Now that we’ve gone over why hybrid events are beneficial, let’s go through how to actually create one!
1. Decide on your mix
The first decision you have to make is how to actually blend the virtual and in-person components. You need to make each experience great separately but also mix it together, giving everyone the best experience. For example, you can effectively combine virtual and in-person attendees during breakout sessions. Or, at the beginning of the event, you can have all attendees (virtual and in-person) answer a poll.
You’ll want to also think about how virtual attendees can access, say, an in-person keynote speaker after they’ve given a talk.
Make connection and engagement easy for everyone. You don’t want anyone feeling like they got the short end of the stick or feeling like the event wasn’t catering to their needs.
2. Use virtual to promote in-person
If you want to get the word out about your event, you’re going to have to promote it. Why not use your virtual presence to promote not only the online side of the event but also the in-person aspect? Use social media to your advantage. Create content about your event through writing, images, or video for promotional purposes. Use social media or even start a blog or YouTube channel to share your story, build your following, and promote your event to as many people as you can.
Whether you’re selling a course, an ebook, a webinar, or an event, if people like you and your perspective, they’re more likely to purchase whatever it is you’re selling to them.
But remember, you don’t need to spend ALL your time and energy on social media or have millions (or even thousands) of followers to market your hybrid event. You don’t have to be a celebrity like Oprah to gain traction. You just need to build some hype and get your followers amped up!
Another way you can promote online is through a community. There’s great power in being a part of a community because people are wired for it — we’re social creatures who crave connections.
Community is about the joy, purpose, and energy of being a part of something bigger than yourself, working towards a common goal, building skills and getting better, and a safe place where members can be vulnerable, face challenges, and find solutions together. Communities are a great space to advertise your hybrid event because your members TRUST you (plus they’re your number one supporters who will be excited about what you have to offer).
3. Bring your live members virtual
Remember how we talked about blending the in-person aspect with the online component? Now is the time to think about how you can get your live members virtually engaged.
Maybe in between speakers, you get your in-person attendees to answer questions using a live polling platform (e.g. Slido). You can use questions as an icebreaker (getting everyone warmed up for the event), present them with some fun quizzes throughout the event, or collect feedback after the event. The goal is to create engagement and conversation between you and your audience.
While the event is taking place, you can also direct in-person attendees to an online chat. That way, they can share their thoughts, connect with one another and virtual attendees, and ask any questions they might have in the chat.
Remember, you can also have part of your event hosted online. Perhaps some of your guest speakers couldn’t make it in person, so they present online — you could do a guest interview, presentation, lecture, and more all virtually!
4. Bring your virtual members live
Just as you want to get your in-person attendees online, you also want to do the opposite — get your virtual members live. We don’t mean getting them in-person (because that would defeat the purpose), but get them to engage with content in real-time, so they really feel like they’re part of the action!
How? Use live streaming to your advantage — whether it’s for main stage events like presentations, keynotes, or lectures given by someone recognizable. Livestreaming can also be used for small-scale events, like virtual workshops, conversations, breakout sessions, and webinars.
As with your in-person attendees, your virtual members can also answer engaging questions in real-time with open Q&A sessions which offer an opportunity to broaden discussions and interactions. As an event creator, it’s also important to ensure that virtual attendees’ questions are given as much weight and attention during the session as questions from in-person attendees.
Consider having an emcee or host for your virtual audience that can recap key moments and alert virtual attendees to what’s coming up next. You can even capture and stream the excitement of what’s happening in person so that online attendees feel like they’re actually there.
5. Create lots of space/networking time
Give virtual attendees an opportunity to connect with keynote speakers by ensuring that there’s sufficient time in your speakers’ schedules to engage with everyone.
Consider blocking off time throughout the event (and even add in time after) reserved for networking. To do this, you can have dedicated rooms (both in person and online) for networking. You can even ask attendees to drop their name, job title, social media handles, and something interesting about themselves into an online chat to get the connections rolling.
6. Create discussion questions in the community
Speaking of having dedicated spaces where live and online members can interact, a great space to do this is within your online community! This is great for all attendees, whether they’re at home or there in person.
Here are some engaging questions you can ask your members:
- What’s a challenge you’re currently facing?
- What constitutes an awesome result for you?
- What’s your one-word theme for 2022?
- What inspires you most?
- If you could wave a magic wand and add one extra hour to your day, what would you do with it?
- Where’s the most beautiful place you’ve ever been?
- What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Based on members’ interests you could also create various subgroups in your online community. You can also use different types of content to engage members in these groups, like:
- Polls (e.g. “What % of your day do you spend on getting organized and reviewing your goals?”)
- Fill-in-the-blank questions (e.g. “The reason I network is to_,” or “I never leave the house without_”)
- Ask questions with word limits (e.g. “What’s the first word you want people to think of when they see your brand?”)
- Ask questions with time constraints (e.g. “Based on what you learned so far today at this event, what’s one thing you’re going to implement today?”)
The main thing here is to post questions that will get your members thinking and engaged.
You can get this guide to 1,000 discussion questions for free in our Mighty Community!
7. Keep the spirit alive after
After the event ends, you can still keep the spirit alive! The excitement, the knowledge sharing, the energy, and the fun can keep going. There’s so much you can do to maintain a thriving community.
Here are some examples to keep up the momentum:
- Host a member spotlight event — this could be in the form of a live interview of a few members (panel discussion). For example, if they’re a group of coaches, you could ask them, ”What’s the most effective way to attract new clients?”
- Have members write about their experiences — invite one new member each week to write about themselves and their accomplishments. Of course, your members love hearing from you, but they’ll also love to read stories about one another.
- Host a live event — this could be a talk, webinar, workshop, demo, or thought leadership.
- Provide a weekly challenge.
- Host a book or podcast discussion day related to your community’s interests.
One benefit of maintaining the hype is that you get to build excitement up for your next virtual and hybrid events!
8. Provide more content options
Another way to keep your members engaged is to provide different types of content. Since attendees are already familiar with your brand, it will be that much easier to offer them additional services and products down the line.
Here are some ideas of what you can charge for:
- Memberships (great way to foster community and a central network for members to interact with one another)
- Recorded videos
- Discussion boards, posts, polls, and surveys
- Digital downloads (PDFs, ebooks, audio files, customizable templates)
You can also expand your hybrid event into online courses, mastermind groups, and more. You can use recordings of sessions (e.g. speakers) or even recordings of the stories and experiences of other attendees as well and turn it into powerful content that you can charge separately for.
There’s a range of possibilities for diversifying your content and charging for it. You can even offer members who attended your hybrid event a discounted rate on an online course or ebook. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. As you learn about your members, you can tailor the content even more for them.
9. Figure out your tech needs
You want your hybrid event to go off without a hitch. That means you need to get the tech side of things in order (like video and audio streaming).
Here’s a list of things to consider:
- Audio recording: make sure that your audio recording is crystal clear. You also want your audio and video recordings to be synced up.
- Mics: your attendees don’t want to be straining to hear what your guests are saying, so make sure you have proper microphones that are connected (whether they’re standalone or individually hooked up).
- Video quality: use equipment that has high resolution. You don’t want poor video quality that’s hard to make out while you’re streaming and recording for your attendees.
- Engagement apps (e.g. Slido): make sure to integrate intuitive apps (this is important for those who are less tech-savvy) that have rich interaction and engagement features.
- Community app (e.g. Mighty Networks): ensure you have a dedicated community space where attendees can go to interact with each other, share their stories, and network (before, during, and after the event).
- Ticketing: to track sign-ups you can use a registration or ticketing software. This ensures that everything is all in one place.
10. Test, test, test
Once you figure out what technical equipment and apps you need for your event, it’s time to actually test them out! The last thing you want at your event is for something (on the tech side) to go wrong that could have easily been prevented.
We suggest that you do a trial run of your hybrid event a few days before to make sure everything is running smoothly and to give you peace of mind. Get two test attendees — someone virtually and someone in person. That way you’ll be sure the video quality is up to standards, the PowerPoint presentation you created actually works, attendees can easily access any apps, and the audio quality is clear — you don’t want speakers to be muffled or worse, inaudible.
Whatever equipment you’re using, just make sure you and your guests are comfortable with it. That way, if something does go wrong during the event, you can easily troubleshoot. Since you’ll be pulled in so many different directions during the hybrid event, you might want to consider enlisting help — either friends or hiring professionals (e.g. a videographer) to ensure everything runs smoothly and you can focus on what matters most … your attendees.
11. Choose your platform
The next step is to choose the platform you'll use. Let's look at 4 options quick.
Mighty Networks is an all-in-one platform that gives creators a robust set of native features and tools to design engaging content. It offers great online course options that fully integrate with communities, paid memberships, and even hybrid and virtual events.
Here are some other benefits to choosing Mighty Networks for your hybrid event:
- Create easy-to-use RSVP announcements.
- Create interactive discussion boards, polls, and Q&As.
- Post articles, live stream from your Mighty Network, and post recorded videos.
- Send direct messages to attendees and set up reminders so no one misses anything.
- Accessibility is always possible with a robust native mobile app (available on Android and iOS). Great for attendees who are using the app as a companion to their in-person experience or as their main way to interact in a total virtual experience, there won’t be any compromises in quality.
A Mighty Network offers the best of both worlds by combining content and connections for your hybrid event with the option to expand your event into a thriving membership site, community, series of online courses, and more!
Accelevents is an event platform with robust features where you can host your hybrid events. It’s an affordable-ish solution (their starter pack for a one-time event is $500/event or you can purchase unlimited events for $125/month billed annually) aimed at mid-to-large-sized companies.
Accelevents allows businesses to integrate live streaming, add immersive live polling and Q&As, and create interactive expo booths — perfect for auctions.
While this event platform promotes its ability to build connections among attendees with fancy features like AI-based matching, unfortunately there’s actually no way for attendees to maintain connections once the event is finished.
Although this hybrid event platform was developed recently, it’s a good option for the new and/or cost-conscious organizer who wants more of a traditional conference experience. With Hopin, organizers can create multiple ticket types, use the platform’s centralized registration for both in-person and online attendees, and take advantage of their email marketing tools. Hopin also provides lots of opportunities for attendees to connect during an event (connection discovery tool, virtual roundtables, group breakout sessions, and more).
Hopin does focus on replicating the experience of an in-person event, so it’s missing out on some of the things that make the virtual experience unique. Also, while this platform is affordable, they do still take a portion of ticket commissions (even on their “starter” pack they take 7% commission on top of charging $99/month billed annually).
If you want to test out hosting a hybrid event, they offer a free trial (although it should be noted that the event length is only up to two hours, you get 100 registrants, and they take 15% of ticket commission).
vFairs is a fairly powerful hybrid event platform catered for large businesses and universities to host conferences, workshops, trade shows, and more. This platform allows you to live stream footage of event sessions to your online audience, has immersive virtual venues, and allows you to connect in-person and virtual attendees with text chat and audio/video meetings. vFairs does have a mobile app where attendees can check-in to the event, network with other attendees, and engage with exhibitor booths.
Where vFairs seems to be lacking is in their user experience. Users report that this platform offers limited customization, and the integration isn’t seamless.
Overall, this hybrid event platform is good for supersized companies.
Hybrid event examples
Now that we’ve covered the ins and outs of running a hybrid event, let's take a look at a few examples! Both of these examples originally focused on in-person events pre-pandemic, shifted to online events during and now are offering a hybrid experience.
The Outwild Hub
The Outwild Hub is a community with a paid membership and event series for individuals who want to make the outdoors a bigger part of their lives. They have an online community and virtual and in-person events.
- What they offer: The Outwild Hub members get access to an online community, a monthly speaker, workshop series, and early access to in-person events. They also host online events (community gatherings, workshops, keynote presentations). They seamlessly connect in-person events online by offering recordings of the presentation.
- Who should join: anyone interested in spending more time outside, but just not sure how to do it. It’s for individuals who want to take steps and make big shifts in their lifestyle. This community even helps people who moved during the pandemic to make new friends and enjoy the great outdoors together.
In the Cut
In the Cut is a community for BIPOC creatives who want to break into the television and film industry (just as the host, Rae Benjamin, had gone from full-time graphic designer to being a script coordinator on “The Witcher”).
-What they offer: a free online community where aspiring screenwriters can network, learn about jobs, mentorships, and get filmmaking tips and tricks. It’s a space where creatives come together to make virtual mock writers’ rooms. There’s also the option for members to get lifetime access to webinar replays (for a fee), online courses, and even in-person writing retreats.
-Who should join: BIPOC creatives who want to be a screenwriter in Hollywood. Those who have found entry-level work but are not sure how to make the transition into a more lucrative career. These events are honest and unfiltered to help demystify the entertainment industry.
We hope you’re feeling inspired and ready to run a hybrid event that WORKS, now that you know the benefits of hybrid events, how to actually run one, and what you’ll need in order to succeed.
Speaking of what you need … although we covered several event platforms, Mighty Networks offers the ideal balance of cost, customization, and features for in-person and virtual attendees. Come try it out for free!
Start building your event community today!