How to Host Hybrid Events and Conferences

Our Top Tips

Following the COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, a fundamental shift has occurred in the events industry. Hybrid events, once novel, unusual occurrences, have now become common - with more and more attendees expecting to have the option of attending remotely. Given this, it’s crucial that you know how to host a hybrid event or conference. 

What is a hybrid event? 

But first, what exactly is a hybrid event or conference?

Put simply, a hybrid event is an event which combines both a live ‘in-person’ audience and speakers, and a virtual audience to make the event open to a wider variety of attendees.

The very best hybrid events are those that successfully integrate the in-person components of the event, with the online audience. 

In other words, the online audience needs to truly feel involved and engaged with the event for you to have the best guest engagement. For example, online and in-person attendees should be able to listen to speakers, ask questions, speak to each other, network, and more. 

Well, that’s the ideal, and that’s what we’ll be telling you how to achieve below. 


What are the benefits of hosting a hybrid event or conference? 

Given the definition above, you may be wondering whether hosting a hybrid event is worth all the additional work and organising. 

The answer is a firm yes.

There are plenty of benefits to hosting hybrid events or conferences, which include but are not limited to: 

  • Larger reach - hybrid events allow people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend to participate. This could be due to accessibility requirements, time constraints, or various other personal situations. By offering hybrid events models, you can reach potentially unlimited numbers of people, with positive results for your bottom line.
  • Reduced costs - if more of your attendees are participating online, then you can potentially reduce your ‘in-person’ costs. For example, you may save money due to fewer catering requirements, being able to hire a smaller venue space etc.
  • Long-term value - a hybrid event, where the speakers and sessions are recorded, allows you to provide long-term value to attendees. It also produces valuable content that you can use on your website or across social media channels in the future.
  • Access to valuable data - when properly set up, a hybrid event allows you to capture valuable data, such as the most engaging speakers and sessions (e.g. the numbers of virtual attendees who drop out vs stay in a session etc).
  • Reduced environmental impact - if you’re running an international conference, offering people the opportunity to attend virtually will reduce the number of flights and overall carbon emissions associated with your event


Top tips for hosting a hybrid event or conference

Now that you’ve read what a hybrid event is, and the benefits of running one, let’s turn our attention to our top tips for hosting a successful hybrid conference.

1. Set a budget

Hybrid events have been hyped up as offering significant cost savings for event organisers - and they can. But, what many people don’t realise is that hybrid events involve different costs across a wide range of areas that you may not have initially recognised. So, it’s vital to think through your event requirements carefully and set an appropriate budget.

For example, to host an effective hybrid event, you’re going to need to set aside budget for: 

  • Hybrid event software.
  • Cameras and tripods.
  • Microphones.
  • General AV support.
  • An appropriate venue.
  • Catering.
  • Expenses for speakers/staff.
  • Music/entertainment.

As you can see, whilst you will potentially save on your venue and catering costs, you’ll have new expenses in relation to hybrid-event specific requirements such as software and cameras.

The point is, you need to make sure you have enough budget to account for all the essential ‘inputs’ that go into creating a successful hybrid event or conference.


2. Select the right venue

When it comes to hosting a hybrid event or conference, the venue is a significant factor. 

To make your life easier, select a venue which has a demonstrated track record in hosting and running hybrid events. 

For example, you’ll want to check that the venue has a solid, robust internet connection. Your chosen venue will also need to have experience of handling audio and visuals for both in-person and virtual audiences, and have people with technical expertise on hand to help you throughout your event.

At ACC Liverpool for example, we have superb Production and IT teams who can help you with a range of technical solutions and bespoke production packages to ensure your hybrid conference or event goes off without a hitch.


3. Build your event team

When you’re running a hybrid event, you’re actually running two events; one that’s in person, and another that’s online. So, we suggest using a dual team model to manage each part of your hybrid event to make sure that all aspects get the proper amount of attention to succeed.

It’s also essential that these two teams are in continual communication with each other throughout the event - for example, if a speaker walks out of shot of a camera, your virtual team needs to be able to let the in-person team know, so they can remedy the situation.


4. Create an agenda that caters to in person and virtual attendees

The trick to pulling off a truly memorable and successful hybrid event is to create a balanced agenda that takes into account the needs of both in person and virtual attendees.

To do this, you need to consider what each of these audiences wants to get out of your event. 


What do in-person attendees expect from an event?

In-person attendees are likely to expect a full-day of sessions, complete with the usual lunch break, coffee breaks and networking opportunities. 

After all, they’ve invested the time and money to actually be at your event in person. So, they’re going to make a day of it.


What do virtual attendees expect from an event? 

On the other hand, virtual attendees will have a different set of expectations for your event. As they’re likely to be sitting at home, they’re going to want short, easy-to-digest sessions. Additionally, virtual attendees tend to want more breaks throughout the day, especially as screen fatigue sets in, and often need more encouragement to join in networking and interactive sessions.


How can you create a hybrid event agenda that works?

With a diverse range of wants and needs, it can be difficult to create a hybrid conference agenda that works well for everyone. So, we’ve pulled together a list of recommendations that can help ensure your attendees are able to make the most of their hybrid event experience. 

  • Allow virtual attendees to attend only the sessions they want to prevent screen fatigue and disengagement. After all, you can always provide them with recordings of all the sessions post-event.
  • Make several of your sessions open to both audiences, and ensure that interaction is a core part of these sessions. For example, include Q&A sections and allow the two audiences to interact with each other as this will help create that cohesive feeling you’re aiming to achieve. 
  • Provide a hashtag for platforms like X (formerly Twitter) so that both in-person and virtual audiences can easily communicate with each other during joint sessions.

In short, balance is key to creating a successful agenda for your hybrid event. Both in-person and virtual audiences must feel as though they are being catered to and engaged with to get the best results for everyone involved.


5. Think about time zones

The beauty of hybrid events and conferences is that people can theoretically attend from anywhere in the world. However, if you are expecting numerous international attendees at your event, then it’s important to factor time zones into your plan.

One of the best ways of handling multiple time zones is to record each session and make them available ‘on demand’ - so if a virtual attendee has missed a session, they can catch up on it straight away.


6. Ensure speakers present in person

Whilst hybrid events offer attendees the option to attend in person or virtually, we’d advise against offering speakers this choice. 

There are two reasons for this. 

Firstly, in-person attendees generally expect speakers to be at the event in person too. Being able to physically see, hear and interact with speakers is part and parcel of the event going experience. 

 Plus, there’s far more energy and interaction when a speaker is physically present, and this creates a much more enjoyable atmosphere than a series of sterile video presentations.

Secondly, having speakers present at an event, interacting with the crowd, will help to create a more engaging experience for virtual attendees. They also won’t feel pressured by potentially being on the corner of a screen or accidentally interrupting the presentation if the speaker is personally at the event.


7. Connect the in person and hybrid audience

This is one of the most difficult, yet essential steps that you should take in order to create the best hybrid event. 

One of the main reasons people attend events is for the networking and social aspects, and to take advantage of the opportunity to make new connections. So, we recommend giving some thought to the ways in which you can connect your two separate audiences. 

  • Hybrid events software - the best examples of this type of software allow for high levels of engagement between audiences. This could include live polling, chat rooms, direct messaging, and even the virtual exchange of business cards.
  • Hashtags - as we mentioned earlier, if you’re happy for exchanges between audiences to be made in the ‘public square’, then create a hashtag which can be used on X (formerly Twitter) and other social media platforms.
  • Meet and greets - an excellent way of combining your two audiences is to have them attend a meet and greet, setting up a screen to display virtual attendees. Video walls are a perfect way of achieving this, as well as apps like Slido. Alternatively, you could arrange a ‘speed dating’ style networking event, where in-person and virtual participants can converse one-on-one. This helps take pressure away from virtual guests appearing on one big screen, and allow for more personal communication.

Note - in order to better facilitate communication between the two audiences, remind your in-person attendees to bring their laptops/mobile phones to any hybrid event.


8. Use a roving camera crew

Related to the above point about connecting your in person and virtual audiences, you should consider having a camera crew roving around your event. They can capture what’s going on in between sessions and explore the exhibition hall (if you have one). 

This footage can be either live-streamed or quickly chopped up and edited into short clips to keep virtual attendees abreast of what’s going on ‘on the ground’.


9. Use social media

The use of hashtags is a powerful way of creating an engaging hybrid event for virtual and in-person attendees alike. 

But, there’s much more you can use social media for during a hybrid event.

For example, one idea you can try out is to encourage attendees (both in person and virtual) to post on their social media throughout the day, sharing which sessions they’ve attended, what they thought of them etc. 

Social media is also a great place to share interactive content such as polls, or to ask questions that provoke debate, and are a great way of getting both of your audiences engaged.


10. Event branding

Just because part of your event or conference is online doesn’t mean you can ignore that all important branding.

In addition to the usual branding that you’d apply to your conference space (e.g. roller banners, lighting, signage etc), you should also ensure that the virtual side of your event is properly branded. 

Consider things like intro and outro video animations, b-roll footage, branded video borders and more to make your virtual attendees feel like they’re just as much a part of the event as your in-person attendees.


11. Virtual exhibition booths

If exhibitors are going to be present at the physical part of your event, then why not incorporate them into a digital exhibition space too? 

This will give virtual attendees the opportunity to explore the exhibition space from the comfort of their desk or sofa. It also means they won’t be missing out on a crucial part of the experience that the in-person attendees are enjoying. 

Should you want to explore this avenue, and create a virtual exhibition space for your event or conference, there are a number of companies dedicated to creating virtual exhibition spaces.


12. Ensure your speakers are fully prepared

Speaking to both an in person and virtual audience is quite a departure for many speakers. 

So, it pays to help them prepare and ensure they are fully equipped. Not only should you ensure they are familiar with the basics - like how to properly use a microphone and slide clicker - but make sure you take the time to work through the things that you’ll only find at hybrid events.

For example, if you’re using multiple cameras to stream a speaker’s talk, make sure the speaker knows the position of these cameras so that they don't accidentally walk out of shot or face away from camera too often. You should also encourage speakers to ‘break the fourth wall’ so to speak, by communicating directly with the online audience to help virtual audiences stay engaged. 

Speakers should also be advised to speak clearly and not too fast. This will help online viewers keep track of what’s been said – and is especially useful if you’re using capture captions on your live videos. It also helps should buffering or streaming issues occur, as virtual participants shouldn’t miss out on too much important information.


13. Test run your event

When you’re running a hybrid event, the last thing you need are technical issues. Best case, you have some issues with buffering or load times; but in the worst case scenario is that your virtual audience could be completely locked out of participation in part or all of your event. So, test run your event in advance!

At least a few days before (if not longer), get together with your fellow event organisers and walk through each aspect of your event - from both an in person and virtual attendee perspective. 

For example, try logging in as a virtual attendee. Does everything go to plan? You should also make sure to try out the AV equipment. Will attendees be able to hear the speaker clearly? By testing aspects in advance, you have time to find a solution before the actual hybrid event.


14. Have a back-up plan

As any experienced event organiser knows - if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong. And that’s particularly the case where lots of technology is involved. So, our top tip: make sure you’ve got a back up plan!

Think about every possible failure point for your event, and make sure you’ve got plans in place to address each one should the worst happen. Obviously, we hope you won’t need them, but it always pays to be prepared when it comes to hybrid event models.


15. Send clear joining instructions to virtual attendees

When it comes to the day of your conference, you don’t want to be inundated with emails and phone calls from virtual attendees who are unable to join. To avoid this, take the time to send out very clear and easy-to-understand joining instructions to virtual attendees. 

The best time to send these would be once they’ve booked to attend your conference – but don’t be afraid to issue a follow-up email closer to the time of your hybrid event. 

Top tip - where possible, include plenty of screenshots - or even better, a video - to take virtual attendees through the steps required to join your conference and/or individual sessions.


ACC Liverpool: the number one choice for hybrid events and conferences

We hope you’ve found our guide to running a hybrid conference or event useful and interesting. 

If you’re thinking about running a hybrid event, and you’re looking for a suitable venue, then speak to the ACC Liverpool team today.

We can offer you a cost-effective hybrid or virtual events package that includes world-class venue facilities, high-spec equipment and a professional in-house production team, for a seamless and memorable event experience. 


Find out more about running a hybrid or virtual event at ACC Liverpool today


For more conference planning and organising advice and information, check out the ACC Liverpool News and Events Hub

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