Many events that used to take place in venues with many guests have had to move to a digital space this year. But what about tomorrow? Many are currently asking what events will look like in the near future? Will they stay online? Will they return to offline? Or will there be something new? The hybrid event.

I have to say that this format is actually not new at all. Some, mostly globally active organisations have been using this event format for many years and very successfully. Therefore, I would like to give you a look at this form of event and show you a few tips and tricks.

What is a hybrid event?

Hybrid means that the event takes place partly in a virtual and partly in a physical venue. This creates a mix of participants on site and participants who are there virtually. This creates a completely new experience for all participants, but also some new challenges for organisers, moderators and participants. I would like to go into this in more detail.

Advantages of a hybrid event

One big advantage is obvious. Participants can decide for themselves whether they prefer to participate on-site or from another location. Travel and accommodation are then not necessary. So it doesn’t matter where the participants are and I can bring together groups of participants from all over the world with little time investment. Teams can work together or messages can be passed on to large groups. I can bring the benefits of both concepts together. Let me give two examples: A meeting across several large locations. Coming together locally creates a kind of commitment and participants focus on the here and now, of their event. At the main location, someone announces his message, which can be heard in all rooms simultaneously via video conference. Hybrid because the participants come together in groups and virtual at the same time because this can take place in several networked locations at the same time.

As a second example, I would like to describe a Hakathon in which several teams in different rooms conquered a large Chellange. Each team did their own sprint, which they then used to measure themselves against the other teams, in other rooms. A centrally seated and observing Yuri watched the teams and awarded prizes to the best solutions. By networking via video conference, a community is created and the organisation can follow what is happening where at any time.

In my opinion, great examples of the use of hybrid events. Of course, the whole thing also works on a smaller scale. I think that meetups and workshops can also take place in such formats. Those who want to are on site, others take part online. Nevertheless, everyone is together.

Completely new challenges

Hybrid events also bring their own challenges. You should always keep in mind that you are actually operating in two worlds. This starts with muting the microphones and ends with skilful positioning of the speaker and camera.

Support for technology

It makes sense to think about how you want to set up your event in advance. Very quickly it can become apparent that you should get some support. Where is my camera, can I be heard well in the conference and in the room? Do I want to show content? Do we want to collaborate in some way? How do we capture the content?

In this picture you can see an example of such a conference solution. I myself as the organiser sit best at the head end and look directly towards the screen.

Pixabay: Business team attending video conference at desk in office

This way, no one turns their back to the camera and you have the feeling of looking the others in the face. During my speaking time, my participants can look at me and follow me. But what is much more important is that I am permanently looking in the direction of the camera. To support intelligibility, there is another microphone on the table so that everything in the room can be understood. If you want to show content, many providers of online conferencing solutions offer the possibility to connect a computer as a participant in the conference. Then you can share the content via this computer.
For example, a small workshop or meeting can look like this.

Pixabay: Speaker Giving a Talk at Business Meeting. Audience in the conference hall.

But what if it gets bigger again? Then it would be great if our virtual meeting was perfectly aligned with the event. The best thing would be a camera that can record the stage from behind and we can see the participants of the video conference on the screen. You can see that this would involve a lot more technical effort. So what to do?

My idea

My idea would be to consider both parts separately, why not set up a virtual conference with a moderator and the participants and the room on site, is a participant of this conference. If a speaker in the room then gives a presentation, this can also be recorded with a simple camera and a small external microphone. In the parts before the work is done in the room on site, the online moderator takes over and conducts his or her own programme with the participants. Of course, this is only an idea and can certainly be expanded in many different ways.

Challenge to moderation and agenda

It is important that the organising team is always aware of being present in both worlds now. Neither should be neglected. It is no problem to integrate them one after the other. I first address the participants on site, then my participant in the network. Of course, the joint work can be done in parallel. But this should all be taken into account on the agenda.

Try to get into the habit of always looking into the camera. Speak slowly and clearly. Give your participants a little time in the virtual room and speak to them actively when you want feedback and participation. When you speak, look into the camera, when they speak look at the screen and listen to them.

Hybrid Events – try it out and learn

It doesn’t hurt to practice the whole thing and get familiar with the situation. Get to grips with this new situation and feel free to develop the ideas and concepts further. The important thing is that a hybrid event gives us completely new possibilities and is certainly a great experience for all participants. I will be happy to give you more tips and tricks on new event formats in the near future and would also be happy to hear from you what your new formats look like and what experiences you have had with them.

Above all, it is important that the fun is not neglected. Have fun with what you do. Enjoy the event.