Best Practices

The 8 questions to ask before you go hybrid for your next event

“Hybrid” has become a hot topic among event planners and marketers looking to figure out how they shape their 2021 event strategy. But it’s not always clear just what hybrid is, or what it means for the future of events. That’s why we want to help clear up any confusion and help you get ready to set a hybrid event strategy that sets you up for success in the coming months.

What is a hybrid event?

Hybrid is a term that has been defined as an event including both live in-person and live virtual components. As we know, it’s all about convening an audience for a shared purpose, creating the most meaningful interactions at the event, and continuing to build community and connection after the event.

We just need to be thoughtful about using the right medium to achieve our goals. There are new challenges to be solved when it comes to hybrid — largely around finding the right mix and reminding ourselves to always start with strategy.

When you’re approaching your hybrid event strategy, it can be helpful to stop and consider the following questions before you start creating plans and making decisions.

1. Before considering hybrid, first establish event goals and objectives.

Are you focusing on:

  • Community building
  • Brand awareness
  • Lead generation
  • Pipeline acceleration
  • Customer engagement
  • Education & training

2. What format does your audience want? Are they ready to meet in-person?

Don’t know? Ask them! Now more than ever, it’s important to get an idea of your audience’s preferences and concerns. Only then can you deliver an experience that they’ll want to engage in — and you won’t be left standing in an empty venue.

2020 was a crazy year for all of us, and it’s important to lead with empathy and understanding. You’ll want to ask questions like:

  • Would you consider attending this event in person?
  • What safety measures would need to be in place to make you feel comfortable?
  • Do you currently have any employer-based travel restrictions?
  • Would you get the most value out of a virtual or in-person event?
  • What concerns do you have that we can help answer?

Separately, you will want to understand local crowd restrictions and how those may or may not change leading up to the date of your event so you can scale up or down appropriately.

3. Build a clear value proposition — what value can you offer both audiences? Will having a hybrid experience take anything away from either audience?

Think through key questions like:

  • Who are they?
  • What are their needs, desires, and concerns?
  • Why would they want to attend in person?
  • Why would they want to attend remotely?
  • Where are they located?
  • What value will I offer each audience?
  • How can they get what they want out of each medium? What will they miss out on?
  • How do they define success? Will the medium meet their needs?
  • How can I ensure a great experience for both audiences?
  • How can I create a safe environment?
  • Do I have the right resources in place? What gaps do I need to fill?
  • Is my organization risk-averse? How can I mitigate risks?

4. If sponsors are important, what do they want? How can you best deliver on those needs — with both in-person and virtual audiences?

Some questions you may want to ask your exhibitors or sponsors:

  • What are your goals and what are you looking to get in exchange for your sponsorship?
  • Which audience is the most important for you to reach? Consider how this relates to the audience you may be able to curate in person vs. reach online more broadly
  • What sponsorship benefits are most important to them?
  • Give them an idea of the different options you’re looking into and ask for their input. Bring them into the process.

5. Who would you invite to each experience? How can you qualify the audience for your in-person event?

Most likely, you’re considering a hybrid experience with a smaller in-person component and a larger virtual audience. It’s important to think about how these two audiences will differ.

And when it comes to how you can best curate your in-person audience, think quality, over quantity. Who are my core influencers or top prospects? How can I target them? Where are they located? This will help you evaluate if you can ensure maximum return on your efforts.

6. What health and safety considerations will be important to your in-person attendees? Where can you go for resources?

From contactless registration and physical distancing to masks and hand sanitizer stations, it will be more important than ever to make safety a top priority. While you probably already have this on your radar, it’s especially important to figure out what will make your audience feel the most comfortable.

Make sure you can deliver a venue and experience that covers the bases. And then it’s communicate, communicate, communicate. For the latest on Freeman’s health and safety promises and protocols, as well as some tools to help you at your next event, go here.

7. What measures can you put in place to keep your plans flexible, knowing you might need to shift along the way? What would the financial impacts be if you need to cancel?

Flexibility will be everything in 2021. It’s important to line out all of the potential financial impacts of your plans, should you need to cancel the in-person component for any reason.

You’ll need to keep hotel attrition and venue cancellation dates front of mind. What’s great about a hybrid experience is that you’ll already have a virtual venue lined up as a backup.

8. Will planning a hybrid event take additional resources or budget? How can you plan for that?

Planning a hybrid event doesn’t have to be stressful, but it does flex new muscles. There are lots of new considerations, and your team structure is probably evolving to figure out how to plan and manage all the new virtual elements. Make sure you’re evaluating what internal resources you have — and where there are gaps.

  • How can you offset the costs of additional bells and whistles?
  • What are must-haves vs nice-to-haves? Identifying what’s not necessary in a hybrid environment can help free up funds for more high-impact elements.

Look for partners who you can lean on to supplement your team. Determine what those needs are up front, rather than later in the planning process. And of course, we’re always here to help!

Ready to dive into a hybrid event?

Our hybrid event planning checklist can help you get started!

Our hybrid event planning checklist can help you get started!

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