Hybrid Events: They Don’t Need to ‘Be Parallel’

One myth about hybrid events is that they need to connect two live audiences at the same time.

Author: Michelle Russell       

hybrid events

A major misconception is that a hybrid event means that digital and in-person audiences experience the same content at the same time.

More than one-third of 8,000-plus marketers responding to a Statistica survey last fall said they expected to hold hybrid events. Now, as the rate of COVID infections goes down and planners gear up for in-person events, including a digital component may seem even more appealing, as a way to offset lower than pre-pandemic attendance.

Organizers have options here: There is no one-size-fits-all hybrid model. “What hybrid means to you and what hybrid means to me may be different,” said Panos Tzivanidis, director, corporate events and services, International Olympic Committee.

While broadcasting the content at an event is “a way to merge the physical presence with a digital audience,” Tzivanidis said, a major misconception is that a hybrid event means that digital and in-person audiences both experience the same content at the same time. “For me, hybrid doesn’t mean, first of all, parallel,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be parallel. We have an opportunity for the first time in our entire existence as events industry to merge time zones without needing to consider time zones.”

In addition, Tzivanidis thinks that just streaming sessions “at the same time, or in the next hour from the physical event, cannot be the solution.” The shortfall with that approach, he said, is that broadcasting sessions alone cannot replicate for the remote audience “the emotions and the networking aspect that is happening at the physical event.”

The idea that hybrid events can or need to connect two live audiences is one of the “5 Greatest Myths About Virtual and Hybrid Events,” a new PCMA e-book available for download.

The e-book points out that there are a number of benefits of hosting an asynchronous hybrid event, where the in-person and virtual components happen at separate times. Chief among them is cost reduction — the main challenge cited by Convene COVID-19 Recovery Dashboard Survey respondents in planning hybrid events is their added expense.

Asynchronous hybrid events also can lighten your logistical production burden, according to the e-book. If both events are happening at different times, you can use the same team to manage your live in-person and virtual sessions. “You can cut out massive on-site costs for AV and streaming during the in-person event,” said Bob Vaez, CEO of event management platform company EventMobi. “Most of the virtual content can be created before the in-person event happens, making the event execution less chaotic.”

You can also create a very different experience for each audience.

Industrial Supply Association’s (ISA) president Brendan Breen shared the “unique hybrid approach” it is taking at its annual convention in April in Houston in an Industrial Distribution article. Learnings from ISA’s 2021 virtual event led to a reimagination of the in-person trade show as a leadership retreat for business execs, with mini-summits of related workshops held online in the weeks following for the rest of their staff. “What this does is allow companies to easily identify the employees that should engage in the appropriate content on a staggered schedule,” Breen said, “putting less of a resource drain on the company.”


Download PCMA’s “5 Greatest Myths About Virtual and Hybrid Events” e-book.