As the pandemic drove us from IRL to online-only experiences, the world of virtual has soared. The biggest challenge? Developing events that are optimised for a digital experience and ensuring that the virtual is just as engaging as the IRL, if not more.
Enter the hybrid model.
According to Swapcard, an overwhelming majority of event and experiential pros — 75%, in fact — are planning hybrid happenings… but only 30% of said pros know what hybrid XP actually is.*
For CEO of global video production company Dreamtek, Victoria Neeson, and CEO of experiential strategy & creative agency Liberty & Co., Erica Boeke, hybrid is their love language. Having joined forces in an exclusive partnership back in March 2021, these two leaders are no strangers to the power of hybrid events — with Victoria’s pedigree built at Dresdner Bank (now CommerzBank),and Erica’s built at Condé Nast and Fast Company, plus years of experience under their belts working with clients like Google and Facebook to the Project Management Institute and CBS.
With an overwhelming 93% of organisers planning to invest in virtual events moving forward and with two thirds of event marketers believing a hybrid solution will play a key role in their 2021 event strategy,** Victoria and Erica have developed their own ‘New Rules of Mastering the Hybrid Model‘ — a collection of guidelines and tips to help businesses and today’s event creators bring out the real magic of a hybrid approach.
- Keep It Cohesive. Connecting the physical with the digital is the secret sauce of hybrid. Your concept needs to translate across both worlds, visually and in terms of execution. The design elements should be synched, the content should draw people together and the interface should allow for interaction between your audiences, as well as with the content itself.
- Consider The Differing Value Props And The Impact On Your UX. While you want to tell one cohesive story with your XP, that doesn’t mean that the in-person and virtual experiences are going to be exactly the same. There is no one-size-fits-all solution that is viable for every hybrid event, so it’s important that you build in the ability to dial one of them up or back at your discretion. Working together, we (Dreamtek and Liberty & Co.) brought together kids at the Boys and Girls Club of America for our client, YouTube, who wanted to create an educational event in the fall when gathering restrictions related to the pandemic were in place. We were able to bring a small group of kids to their local club IRL for our origami event, and also bring a number of kids in virtually who watched (and folded!) from home. We were able to show that the hybrid route enables you to deliver a meaningful experience no matter the challenge.
- The Tech Has Never Been More Important. The tech element is bigger than it’s ever been, and you need someone who is 100% devoted to it. Lockdown saw an unprecedented increase in virtual platforms, which has helped businesses with the tools to develop hybrid events. Try to keep up to date with the latest platforms and industry trends as our team does, or sign up for our newsletter here). Once you’ve got your tech sorted, practise and practise again. Here at Dreamtek, we’ve been producing virtual & hybrid events for decades, but we still allow plenty of time to rehearse so there are no slip ups on the day. After more than a year in, the patience for tech mishaps has grown thin!
- Set Success Metrics For Your Audiences. We encourage our clients to measure engagement in as many ways as possible. Not only within the event itself — but also looking to the next event. Do you want your virtual attendees to upgrade to IRL next time? Is it the IRL event or the virtual experience that is getting the engagement you want? Which is contributing the most to your ultimate goal? And in some cases, which is more profitable? Plan to take this data and adapt your event and grow both of your audiences accordingly. Hybrid allows you to take whatever challenges that might be coming at you (yes, global pandemics, but also things like transit strikes or weather issues) and dial one up and the other down, depending on current circumstances. That’s a good thing.
- Assemble A Truly Hybrid Team. How you staff your project will vary hugely depending on the event you’re creating but having one vision and one lead to oversee both the IRL producer and the virtual producer will ensure that both audiences are equally advocated for and looked after. If your hybrid event feels like two completely different experiences, we think you’re missing an opportunity to create connection (see Rule #1) between your mission and your guests — whether they are in-person, on their laptops or on their phones. You’re meeting people where they are and providing live content in a way they want to experience it. Having a team that lives in both of those worlds is crucial.
As the world emerges from the global pandemic, we are re-evaluating everything we did pre-COVID. This holistic approach to experiences is part of that process. There is an Experiential Renaissance afoot — and creating thoughtful, meaningful hybrid experiences is part of this new mindset. We’re thrilled to be at the centre of it!
*Statistic source – Swapcard
**Statistic source – Bizzabo