How to Plan and Produce Hybrid Events
by Clarity Experiences, on Jan 24, 2022
Hybrid Event Tips from the Experts
Hybrid events were starting to trend upward before the pandemic. But the widespread effects of lockdowns and increased safety catapulted the hybrid format to new heights. It’s been nearly two years since the event industry was turned on its head. Now, we’re dissecting all the things we learned “in the moment” through experimentation and handling a multitude of events for our clients.
We picked the brains of a few experts here at Clarity Experiences to see what new lessons they’ve learned about planning and producing successful hybrid events — and how you can, too! Here’s what they shared:
Hybrid Events Take an Entirely Different Approach
When companies first started exploring the idea of hybrid events, many thought that they could use a virtual platform and build the “hybrid” piece onto their event. This was an attractive idea because all the technology was already in place to take an event virtual. But it doesn’t quite work that way.
“When you have virtual presenters and live presenters, it’s a lot more difficult to create an actual hybrid event,” shares Craig Putnam, Regional General Manager. “A lot of virtual platforms are not made to incorporate the live portion of events, and trying to make it work in a way that it wasn’t intended to work is just one more obstacle for companies to overcome.”
Craig believes that the platform itself is key in launching a successful hybrid event. “Finding a viable workaround is going to take some flexibility and open-mindedness from the event planning team to adapt.”
The Clarity Experiences team has spent a lot of time thinking about all the little nuances that go into a successful hybrid event. Chad Johnson, Producer, says, "For example, during a live event, a speaker might enter the stage and step up to the mic. But on the virtual side, should the speaker just appear on screen? Should there be some form of visual entrance and introduction? Should the audience see the speaker talking or just the slides they’re presenting? Does the look and feel of the room and live audience matter?"
Derek Mitchell, Producer, reminds us that “hybrid” isn’t just taking a virtual event and putting it into a room. “You also need to consider what the live attendees see, what the virtual attendees see, and how they interact during the event. There are two separate audiences receiving the same content but digesting it in different ways.”
Working Backwards from a Goal Creates a Clearer Path to Success
Clarity Experiences uses a powerful platform to execute hybrid events. And most of the time, our clients want to leverage it for their own event. But we also have clients that prefer to use their own platform or event software — and that’s fine, IF it can help them achieve their goals.
“We think about what we need the end product to be, and then work backward,” says Derek. “There’s just so much that we can do. But at the end of the day, how does the client want us to tell their story? That’s the question we always start with.”
Choosing a platform is a big part of this process. There are hundreds of event platforms that companies can use. So when clients are married to the idea of using a specific tool, we first put the software through a goal-oriented checklist to make sure their platform can stand up to the job.
“We can always hop into a project and work alongside our clients’ event teams,” says Derek. “But reaching the desired end goal is more important to us than the name of a platform or tool. And as their hybrid event production company, we feel it’s our job to be the experts and help them connect those dots.”
Experience and Exploration Carve a Faster Route to Hybrid Event Planning
Event platform options have grown rapidly in the past couple of years. Each one is a little different in terms of features and functions. And while companies executing hybrid events may have played around with a few different tools, that experience doesn’t compare to the massive exploration missions of a purpose-first event company like Clarity Experiences.
“Using a dedicated event planner and producer like Clarity Experiences also means tapping into our expertise,” says Derek. “And that adds a lot of value to our clients. We’ve done all that hard work for them because we’re producing events of all sorts and sizes every day for our clients. It’s been very exploratory for us because there are so many different ways you can get to an end result. We’ve dissected what doesn’t work so our clients aren’t wasting time playing in the sandbox with different pieces of software.”
There’s also the matter of applying expertise to budgeting decisions. Companies not only have end goals in mind, but also budgets to stick to. And sometimes, the platforms or tools they want to use aren’t going to achieve those end goals based on the current budget.
“Craig and I recently executed a $300,000 event for a client that was prepared to spend 50/50 on the live/virtual split. But rarely do we ever see an even split that will work successfully. In this case, our client needed to spend more on the live portion and use about $80K for the virtual piece. We help clients connect all of these pieces to produce the desired outcome that’s also on budget. It’s not just about having the ability to add all the bells and whistles. It’s also about feasibility.”
Starting with the Right Agenda Means Everything
Craig notes that when companies are planning the event content, they try to stretch their content as far as it will go to appeal to both sides of the hybrid audience. But tailoring the content to fit both formats isn’t easy, and presenters need to choose a side.
According to Craig, it’s usually better to plan the content for a live audience and then adapt it for remote access. “You really need to prioritize what’s most important for the event and its outcomes. In our experience, the live audience has a lot more skin in the game because they’ve paid to be there in person. They’re taking time out of their schedules to be present and network and soak in what the speakers are saying without the distractions of remote attendance.”
Craig urges companies to have a priority list in mind when it comes to planning and producing hybrid conferences. “When planning the agenda, take stock of the content and the sessions that will make up the event, then think about how to present these things live first. If I were attending an in-person event, I wouldn’t want to watch a pre-recorded session shown on a screen. As an in-person attendee, I want the full experience.”
The Value of a Hybrid Event Production Company is Clearer than Ever
Hybrid meetings and conferences are still very new territory for many companies, and Clarity Experiences is helping to shorten the learning curve with ongoing exploration and expertise. To see how you can benefit from a turnkey hybrid planning experience, reach out to our team today.