How Planners Are Customizing Hybrid Events

Responses to our COVID-19 Recovery Dashboard surveys show how models for hybrid events continue to evolve while one thing remains the same: One size does not fit all.

Author: Barbara Palmer       

Marina Bay Sands Hybrid

A hybrid meeting takes place at Marina Bay Sands’ Hybrid Broadcast Studio in Singapore. The overall number of COVID-19 Recovery Dashboard respondents who said they were planning to hold simultaneous events for digital and in-person audiences dropped over the last six months. (Courtesy Marina Bay Sands)

Let’s call it a micro-trend: In the six months since Convene began collecting data about how planners are designing hybrid events, there has been a slow-but-steady decrease in the number of COVID-19 Recovery Dashboard respondents following a model in which in-person and digital participants experience the program simultaneously.

In late March, 28 percent of respondents said that their plans called for combining in-person events with “streaming video and separate online program for a virtual audience, with ability for both audiences to interact via the event platform.” In the latest survey, only 19 percent chose that option.

The percentage of those planning streamlined versions of hybrid events — with livestreaming but without interaction between digital and in-person participants — held steady over the last six months at approximately a quarter of the respondents who said they were planning hybrid events. But the overall number of respondents who said they were planning to hold simultaneous events for digital and in-person audiences dropped from 65 to 48 percent.

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It’s impossible to draw absolute conclusions about what these numbers mean, since our respondents change from survey to survey, and the pandemic landscape keeps changing. But one trend is clear: Planners continue to be flexible and creative in designing hybrid meetings that fit the needs of their particular audiences and clients — as they adjust to a fluid COVID environment.

As Digital Editor Curt Wagner observed in March: One size does not fit all. And for some of our respondents, the answer to the question about whether they are planning combined digital and in-person, separate, or hub-and-spoke events is “all of the above.”

Here are some write-in responses describing hybrid models from the August COVID-19 Recovery Dashboard:

  • Sequential events (digital first, in-person second) with in-person registrants getting access to all of both, and digital participants getting all of digital and some recordings of in-person.
  • Full in-person events and a separate virtual. Not hybrid as the incentive is needed to be there for the in-person.
  • A variety of the above for several events. Everyone has a different plan for what they want to do.
  • Live event will happen as is, with recording some of the sessions with an on-demand option post-conference.
  • In person, with about 60 to 75 percent of normal attendance, with live broadcast recorded to sell at later date. Pricing structure is the same live as virtual.
  • Depends on the type of event. Some will be small and in person, with streaming at the same time, some will be larger with a replay available after the event for folks who couldn’t attend to watch, or it will be two different experiences.
  • Offset model with the separate virtual experience taking place three weeks after the live conference. Separate agendas. Much content will be recorded from the live event, edited, then posted on the virtual platform for online consumption. The live attendees will not have access to the digital experience.
  • Currently a larger internal audience (may reduce the number) onsite and will likely live webcast the executive sessions to the virtual attendees. Breakout content will be recorded and published after the onsite event — and we may turn this into a separate/second virtual event as well.
  • Registrations are separate for our in-person event and our virtual event. They are also on different dates. Attendees can choose which way to participate, and participants can opt to do both. If we have to cancel the in-person event, everyone will be moved to virtual. Sessions will be recorded at the in-person event and then available to view on demand during the virtual.

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