In this article, I will tell you about the first times I took part and worked at hybrid events. As you may have already guessed, the current situation will bring about profound changes in the events and conference industries. Digital platforms and technologies must be further developed to take into account the social distancing currently demanded by society.
The events market as we know it has so far been characterized by hall-filling live seminars, some of which were held by keynote speakers or motivation trainers in front of more than 1,000 participants. These events were only limited by the size of the event locations, their capacities and the amount of time that was available to hold them in.
Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, online seminars and events are already being held via platforms like Zoom in front of an ever-increasing number of participants.
A hybrid event closes the gap between offline and online presentation and combines both to create a forward-looking perspective.
Hybrid events: a symbiosis of offline and online events
Hybrid events can be held in different ways. Basically, there is always a real event held, for example on a stage. The speakers or the presenter are live on site, and other speakers can be added via video. There can be different possibilities for the participants: as is currently the case, they will probably only be present virtually whilst at home or in the office. However, in the future it is quite likely that some of the participants will attend live on site and others at home in front of the screen – online and offline, so to speak. This removes the need for travel, especially for larger events and congresses whose participants have to travel a long way to attend, and can therefore save time… and on top of that it’s good for the environment.
For the organizers of a hybrid event, time and location restrictions are lifted. At events with several trainers, coaches or keynote speakers, one of them can be highly present on stage while another speaker joins the discussion via video call from a location within a different time zone.
Simply put, at a hybrid event we have a very real physical space in which the director sits and the host performs. At the same time, the webinar or congress is attended online by an interactive audience. This combination of off- and online opens up completely new perspectives in terms of number of participants, location and time dependency.
My first hybrid event: PLF Live 2020 by Jeff Walker
A few days ago, I participated in a 3-day event held by Jeff Walker.
Events by Jeff Walker have always been first class when it comes to technology. PLF Live 2020, which for the first time took place exclusively online, went beyond the scope of what I have experienced so far. The events format has been raised to a new, unprecedented level.
There were 2000 participants “present” from every imaginable corner of the globe. The audience was connected live via video. We, as participants of an outstanding web-congress, sat in our living rooms or in our offices. Thanks to the live event production, I always had the best view and was able to follow the course of events. Jeff Walker himself had an even more impressive view. He not only looked into a camera in front of him but also 10 big-screen TVs with 10 big video-calls with more than 200 participants on each. It felt to me as if I was sitting in the middle of a crowd of enthusiastic participants in a really cool congress. It was mega.
However, I would also like to say in advance that the congress was orchestrated with impressive technical finesse. The preparation was excellent. One day before it took place, there was a personal registration, just like at a live event. Here I was connected via Zoom to a nice lady in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. She explained the event platform to me and showed me where I could download my workbook. The whole event was at the highest level of technical sophistication.
The next level of hybrid events: Tony Robbins’ Virtual UPW
What Jeff Walker created Tony Robbins took to another level. This last days I was working as a Trainer for Tony Robbins at his Virtual UPW (Unleash The Power Within) with almost 23,000 participants from 138 countries around the world. Tony Robbins even built a studio for 9 million dollars on which he can simultaneously see 3,000 participants.
Virtual events with that number of participants are currently in the pioneer phase and it won’t be long until this will be a real alternative. Also from the view of someone working at a virtual event this is a very exciting alternative. Through the chat function you have a better interaction with participants than if all of them are sitting in their place. The possibility for them to just go in a breakout room to get personal attention is also very thrilling. Needless to say that you also have to have the necessary staff to make all of this possible.
Why are hybrid events the future?
Hybrid events differ from traditional events in a number of important ways.
The biggest difference is the incredible range. The event organizer is not bound by physical or geographical barriers or time limits. The individual participants can join the event from anywhere in the world.
This advantage also leads to the next plus point: a resulting cost efficiency. Hybrid events optimize the return on investment simply by generating a greater amount of attention and via a larger number of potential customers. They are accurate, efficient and can accommodate large numbers of people.
A single hybrid event can replace several local public-events across the country – assuming, of course, that the theme remains the same.
The limits of a hybrid event
While hybrid events have many advantages, they also have certain limits and therefore not all events will be replaced by such a format. Whilst such events are capable of simulating the networking factor via small groups, they certainly cannot replace it. At a great congress, nothing can replace a dinner or valuable conversations with exciting participants and speakers. In addition, great events often attract enormously interesting people from all over the world, who deem it to be worthwhile to travel there to meet their next business partner or “accountability buddy”. By the way, one of my next posts will be about networking.
While you can of course absorb everything online, the live atmosphere and energy that goes with it cannot be replaced 100%. PLF Live also worked with music, but the experience out of the computer speakers is quite different than listening through the big sound system of an event hall. In short, hybrid events have their justification and future, but also their limits. I can hardly imagine a music festival or concert with this format.
Not every online event is a hybrid event
Now some of you might think… “that’s nothing new”. Webinars, which are streamed in front of an online audience, have been around for a long time. Facebook Live is the best example. Every day, thousands of coaches go live in front of an online audience.
The decisive factor is the technology used. A hybrid event thrives on the interaction with the online audience and the involvement of the individual participants. The viewers sitting at home experience the performance in the same way as the guests sitting in the front row, only with greater convenience. No one has to drive for hours to a venue and then check into a hotel for multi-day seminars. Both those who attend live at the venue and those who are connected via their PCs can interact with the speaker and get in touch with the others who are present.
You want to host a hybrid event? I’ll help you!
Hybrid events are only possible due to ever-faster internet access and ever-better technology.
Anyone can participate in a hybrid event 24/7 via smartphone, Ipad or PC from their home, office or on the road.
For organizers, the technical requirements that have to be created are more difficult to meet. In order for a hybrid event to be as top class as I experienced with PLF Live 2020 or Virtual UPW, first-class and highly-trained staff must be able to direct the event. Cameras and microphones must not only be good, but outstanding. I can explain to you in a personal conversation how this works and what to pay attention to. Based on my many years of events experience and technical know-how, I can certainly support you in creating your hybrid event.
Hybrid events are certainly a format with a lot of potential, which we will experience even more in the future. It makes a lot of sense to experience an event at home in front of the screen without having to travel for days to get to it, and it can also be a lot of fun. At the same time, it will probably never completely replace real face-to-face communication with a goosebump atmosphere and exciting networking opportunities.
What do you think about hybrid events? Have you already been part of one? How do you think events will develop in the future?