It seems that everywhere you look, people are talking about the value of hybrid events.
The combination of live online communication with streaming via the Internet has provided event organizers with a great way to extend their audience reach and contain travel costs. As a result, hybrid events are becoming so common some believe the term won’t even be necessary in the not-so-distant future; all face to face events will have a virtual component.
Over the last year, I was fortunate to be part of MPI's research into hybrid events. One thing we learned right off the bat is that in most cases, adding remote participation as an afterthought is no longer acceptable. Your best chance to satisfy all participants lies in planning two separate yet concurrent experiences.
But do you really need to include every bell and whistle to ensure a quality hybrid event experience? Absolutely not.
High-End Production Costs
A highly produced hybrid event can include such higher ticket items as:
- multiple video cameras and operators, video switching, graphics, etc.
- a virtual emcee and virtual emcee set
- interactive virtual event platforms
These can certainly be mixed and matched, depending on your needs and budget.
But consider that the strict definition of a hybrid event includes such low-cost options as conference tweeting and Ustream.
For a modest fee, you can hire someone to summarize your sessions and tweet them via real-time news tweets, which can be viewed and commented on by people following the hashtag on Twitter.
You can also choose to live-stream portions of your conference using the video camera in your computer or mobile phone and such free tools as Ustream. Ensure your content is accessible by only broadcasting if the audio can be easily deciphered. Also, you'll want to keep these video offerings to less than 20 minutes (10 minutes is even better) and provide some way to interact with the content (a la text chat or Twitter) if possible.
More Ways to Save $$
If live-streaming portions of your event, you might consider eliminating the video of your speaker entirely and providing the PowerPoint slides alone as your visual. Or you could reach a widely dispersed audience and cut down on your food & beverage costs by having your speakers present from a studio to small pods in many different locations.
Again, as long as you plan this remote participation with the needs of your remote audience in mind you can add quality remote participation at a modest cost.
Consider the Savings in Lowered F2F Event Costs
If you’re planning an internal meeting for your organization and believe a higher end remote hybrid experience is the best choice, you might justify the added expense by taking a look at the amount of money that can be saved in food and beverage and travel costs when the number of face to face attendees is lower. Also not to be overlooked, consider the costs saved in time away from the office.
Charging for Online Content & Sponsorship
Finally, consider ways that you might recoup your production costs.
It’s been shown that attendees are willing to pay for remote content but consider pricing that reflects the disadvantages of remote attendance, e.i. fewer networking opportunities, etc. Again, it's often easier to provide a quality remote experience in bite-sized chunks. You might consider making short session videos or written summaries available for viewing afterward for a fee.
And don't forget about the new sponsorship opportunities that emerge from posting content online. Such content has the potential to exponentially increase the number of eyes you can reach. Why not give sponsors the opportunity to tag along?
It may take a little more creativity to produce a quality hybrid event on a limited budget, but it is certainly possible. Just remember that the needs of both audiences in a hybrid event will differ. Keeping these separate but concurrent objectives in mind will allow you to create a quality experience that is satisfying for all of your attendees.
(Photo by drothamel)