Choose Your Battles When Budgeting for Virtual and Hybrid Events

Every great event starts with a good plan…and a budget. Then things change. And change again. How do you accurately budget for virtual and hybrid events with so many moving parts? We asked Chantel Megaffin, Director of Program Management at Endless Events, for her insight on how to effectively budget for digital events.

Managing your Budget Expectations

Looking at 2022, we’re now able to host hybrid events with a mix of in-person and virtual participants. Back in 2020 we were solely limited to virtual events, and companies shifted their onsite event budgets to work virtually. Now that we’re hosting both virtual and hybrid events, it’s important to set appropriate expectations for your event budget.

Unfortunately, your virtual event budget can’t be directly translated into what a hybrid event will cost. There are several new things to consider when it comes to hybrid. Chantel reminds us that we can do something pretty basic with $1,000, “You can get a zoom license and you can do a little webinar, but that’s not a virtual event. And that’s definitely not going to be enough for your hybrid event.

If you’re hosting a high-quality hybrid event, take into account a large portion of your budget will go towards production and your choice of platform.

What are your event’s “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves?”

Start by brainstorming what your event’s “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves” are.

Is it attendee interaction? One-to-one meeting scheduling? Do you need the ability to bring an attendee on-screen and actively ask a question to presenters?

Your platform costs can range from $2,000 to $100,000 depending on extra features, scale, and complexity. So we recommend choosing your platform wisely since it’ll end up being a large portion of your budget.

Stretching Your Production Budget

Beyond platform choice, you also have to consider your production methods and the budget that comes along with them. Before the pandemic, companies were able to set up a lock shot camera and easily stream their session onto a platform like Facebook Live. And this worked for a while.

But expectations have definitely changed where people are looking for much higher quality production now. “They’re looking for more engagement and particularly for your virtual audience, they don’t want to feel like they’re getting the short end of the stick,” says Chantel.

When it comes to hybrid events, it’s important to consider both audiences. People want to receive the same value sitting in front of their computer screen as they would sitting in a live audience. And that is dependent on your production capabilities and your platform support.

To stretch your production budget, see how you can make use of the equipment that you’re already using for your in-person audience. Michael Judeh, Senior Director of Audiovisual Technology for Convene says, “the learning curve for hybrids, with all the technical terms and equipment plus the costs that they have not encountered before, is significant.

Plan accordingly and make sure you’re practicing ahead of time.

How do other additions impact your budget?

Little things add up. Thinking about these additions beforehand can help you tweak and adjust your hybrid event budget proactively.

  • Are you charging a registration fee?
  • Do you want to use your video content afterward?
  • Have you considered your branding — both digital and physical?

If you’re reusing video content, add a post-production budget. This will account for editing services needed to make your event videos look professional, and to extend their stand-alone shelf life online.

Virtual and hybrid events have very different forms of branding. In the virtual space, you have digital branding condensed on your screen. In your hybrid event space, you have to think about making a cohesive in-person branded experience. It’s important to make sure you’re taking advantage of your branding opportunities across both audiences.

In summary, prioritize your virtual and in-person attendee experience with your “must-haves” and nice-to-haves”. Check these against your event’s core goals. Have you covered what your leaders, partners, and sponsors expect from your event? And finally, build a buffer in your budget for uncertainties, which almost always pop up in the last few weeks leading up to your virtual and hybrid events.

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