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The benefits of Hybrid events in the Covid era

30th October 2020
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The world has been living in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic for half a year, a period of time that has seen the events industry amongst others, come under huge pressure. 

 
With restrictions on indoor capacities and a population less willing to be in the physical presence of others, the event industry is now adapting to a form of event delivery that’s been around for a few years but will now define the future of events as we know it. This is the idea of hybrid events. 
 
Given the fluid nature of infection rates and public restrictions, hybrid events in 2020 and beyond offer event planners a viable option to continue organising conferences, concerts, expos, festivals, award ceremonies and more. 
 

What are the impacts of Covid-19 on the event industry?

 

Before we take a look deeper into the specifics of hybrid events and why they are a saving grace in pandemic times, we need to understand the limitations imposed on events by Covid-19.
 
Limited physical capacities - Due to the need to socially distance and remain 2m from those from other households, venues can no longer fill their events to pre-Covid -19 capacities. This has meant that it just isn’t viable financially to sustain the overheads and outgoings needed to run an event as capacity limits are effectively capping the amount of revenue made. Unfortunately this has forced venues and events organisers to either cease their activities or inflate their cost-per head price.
 
Reluctance towards mixing - Although the demand to experience seminars, lectures, conferences, awards and events as a whole still remains, the fear of contracting the virus has made many apprehensive towards attending physical events. For the events industry, this has acted as another barrier toward attendance especially those organisers forced into charging higher costs-per head adding to the de-incentivisation.  
 
Reluctance towards traveling - With official government guidance advising against travel unless essential, many people consider using public transport as a potential risk and are less prepared to do so in order to attend events. This is especially problematic for industry-focused conferences and knowledge events which draw many national and international attendees. With international travel more of a restriction than a choice, large event organisers are seeing this international attendee demographic completely cut out.  
 
Rapidly changing restrictions - Perhaps the biggest challenge faced by venues in the wake of the pandemic is the uncertainty of how public restrictions will develop. As we have seen, increases in infections are met with more restrictive measures mostly centered around coming into contact with individuals from another household. Quite rightly this has forced many event organisers to be slightly reluctant in putting down cash deposits for events because they are worried about the possibility of subsequent lockdowns and the risk to their event and capital. 

 

What are hybrid events? 

 

Hybrid events are a type of organised event that combines both physical and digital participation experiences. A hybrid event is delivered as usual with a portion of attendees physically present and the other portion viewing and participating remotely. The underlying principle of a hybrid event is for both digital and physical participants to have identical experiences in terms of quality, interaction, viewing and access.
 

Hybrid event types

 

There are many different types of hybrid events from meetings, conferences, lectures and presentations. In fact any event can be “hybridised”, it’s merely a case of levering technology to the point where your event can be consumed by both physical and virtual audiences at the same time and at the same level of quality. 

 

Hybrid meetings 

 

Internal hybrid events such as hybrid meetings can be any kind of small or large scale meeting where some attendees are present in the room with others dialling in via video chat. This is a great way to conduct any type of meeting since the organisers can be in one room with each other and easily coordinate it whilst other attendees can contribute via video link. 
 
With many workspaces and offices under capacity restrictions, the hybrid meeting represents a way for multiple attendees to be at work making the experience more centralised and realistic for all in attendance. Tools like Google hangouts allow users to not only have a physical and audible presence, but to also share their screens, present documents and slide decks. For more information on our meeting facilities learn about our meeting rooms.    

 

Hybrid conferences

 

Hybrid conferences are known as ‘external hybrid events’ and are an area that has increased hugely over the past few years. The technology of today’s hybrid conference can replicate every facet of a regular conference with impressive detail.
 
It’s common for the presenters or keynote speakers to be physically present at the event venue along with a limited number of attendees. Those participating digitally however, are not limited to just watching a live stream of the event and speakers, this is where the hybrid conference really comes into its own. 
 
An attendee at a regular conference would be able to have multiple levels of interaction e.g. exchanging ideas with others over refreshments, networking, talking to speakers etc. Apps like SpotMe and other hybrid event mobile apps offer attendees a complete virtual experience where they can see those attending certain talks or meetings and interact with them just as they would in real life. In this sense, the digital audience is able to make use of every single level of interaction that a physical attendee would. At University of London Venues we offer a selection of large halls and breakout areas perfectly suited to conferences of all sizes.     

 

The difference between virtual & hybrid events

 
There is a very distinct difference between virtual and hybrid events. A virtual event is 100% digitised apart from the physical presence of those running it. Other than that, there are no physical attendees present at the event and it is delivered via an online platform. 

 

What are the benefits of hybrid events? 

 

More profitable - There are no limits to the number of virtual attendees at a hybrid event. This means that it can be more profitable than traditional events. There’s no need to rely solely on physical presence of attendees. Advances in technology like Multihub now mean attendees can have high quality audio/visual room-to-room experiences.
 
Better for the environment - By offering such a first-rate interactive experience to digital attendees, hybrid events reduce the need for physical travel, lowering the carbon footprint of the event. At University of London Venues, we’ve been long committed to hosting events in the most sustainable way possible. To read more about our approach to greener events, read our sustainable events post
 
Accessible for a whole new market - Due to the relative ease of attending a hybrid event, the opportunity to learn and share knowledge becomes accessible for people around the world who would have not attended if the event was just physical. Whether academia, business or other, there’s the potential to uncover a whole new time zone of potential attendees    
 
Repurposing of event material - With such high-level audio/visual technology freely available, event planners can re-distribute event content after the event as a means of monetisation. This is a very useful way to generate extra revenue in a challenging time for events organisers.  
 
More industry data - With greater participation from more global attendees, the scope for obtaining data for learning purposes becomes very rich. Since many people will be logging on through online platforms you can access data on which subjects attract the most visitors, duration of stay and attendee’s country of origin to name a few. You can even use global attendance statistics to identify new markets that might be interested in your content. 

 

How to run hybrid events

 

Running hybrid events requires careful planning and organisation. It’s important to stay true to the principle of providing the highest level of interaction quality to both your physical and digital attendees. As such, you need to make sure that your technological setup is tested, flawless and ready to go whilst also delivering the content of the event to attendees in the most engaging way possible. These are the most important best practices for hybrid events:
 
Prepare your speakers 
Check equipment 
Check camera angles to make sure there are no blind spots 
Check sound equipment (lapel mics etc) 
Always give online audience content and keep them engaged
Keep audience interaction to a time schedule
Always have experienced AV staff on standby for any potential problems

 

How do you plan a Hybrid event in terms of organisation?

 

Planning a hybrid event and organising the various different components should be done in a way that’s logical and structured.   
 
Type of event - Decide what type of event you would like to put on. This may seem simple but by clarifying your aims, you can then establish the best way to achieve them e.g. venue, platform, choice of speakers etc. For instance, an awards ceremony won’t require audience participation whereas a business meeting will be smaller in scale, but all attendees need to communicate and potentially present documents or work. 
 
Venue - Once you’ve decided on the type of hybrid event you wish to hold, it will then be time to select a venue. For instance if you plan on hosting a large-scale academic conference with a keynote stage and smaller seminars to run concurrently you will need a venue that has a main space with additional smaller rooms. You can then scale your technological needs to this e.g. small brainstorm sessions in smaller rooms could employ Whizwall, an app that allows multiple attendees to share the same whiteboard. 
 
Speakers/Contributors - The content that you offer will be a central part of your hybrid event’s success. With this in mind not only should you select engaging speakers with exciting pitches, you should also be sure that they are comfortable with simultaneously catering to both the physical and digital audience. This could be making sure to answer live Q&As from both audiences.

 

Are hybrid events here to stay?

 

Given the steady rise of the hybrid event over the last decade, they have appeared to have been growing in popularity. The impact of Covid-19 has served as a catalyst for hybrid events to take centre stage as a potential lifeline during an extremely challenging time for the event industry. But now we are starting to see the true potential of hybrid events. Never before have there been so many opportunities to entertain, learn and spread knowledge in such a high-quality engaging way. Many in the industry have gone as far as to say that hybridising events will be part of the norm as we move forward. 

 

Running a bespoke hybrid event in London

 

As we have seen, the benefits of hybrid events are irresistible: inclusivity, higher participation, low environmental impact and safety. What is very clear is that for an event to be truly hybrid, it must be of the highest quality and allow full audience interaction. Seamless integration of a digital and physical audience requires a reliable AV setup with experienced professionals. 
 
If you are looking to run a hybrid event in London, University of London Venues combine iconic central London interiors with the very best AV professionals and equipment. Our modern AV facilities include: 
 
AV support on-site
Fast internet 
Breakout room functionality 
Option to live stream using Panopto
 
We are also offering a flexible bookings policy with fantastic discounts on bookings for a limited time only!  For support with a hybrid event, get in touch with our expert in-house events team via email conference@london.ac.uk, on the phone on 020 7862 8127 or make an online enquiry.
 
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