What is a hybrid event and what are the pros and cons of going hybrid for your next business summit? Join us for this Small Biz Trends in: 15 episode where Monique Johnson, Founder of Live Video Lab and the M.O.V.E Experience, answers these questions, as well as gives some advice for making your next virtual event a success. Monique previously sat down with us to talk about how virtual events can help build your business, and we are happy to have her back on our show!
What is a Hybrid Event?
Shawn Hessinger: Let’s talk about hybrid events because you’re not a proponent of them. Maybe you could talk a little bit about why people do them, whether it might be a good idea or a bad idea to try and pull one off, depending on your resources.
Monique Johnson: Hybrid is trying to marry in-person and virtual if we’re strictly discussing a virtual conference or virtual event. Hybrid did exist before, but before the pandemic, it was mostly a passive experience. In other words, it was more or so like, “let’s just live stream this out” or, “fine, we’ll get a virtual crowd.” But there was no real attention paid to them. There was no engagement by the audience, and the participant who was watching on the virtual side can type in the chat. And many people didn’t have a chat room or moderator.
The reason why I am not a proponent of hybrid is because of four things:
- During the pandemic, it was a passive experience. And a lot of times people today are thinking that’s still okay. However, that’s not ok and people need to be engaged. And since we’ve been inundated with the Zooms, the Zoho meetings, and all types of virtual platforms, people are used to being talked to, even though they’ve gotten sick of being on Zoom calls all day. So, if you’re going to do a hybrid experience, you can no longer just do something like, we’re just going to put a camera on, have it come into the virtual platform and that’s it. You can’t do that, and you at least need a chat moderator.
- When you do a hybrid experience, you have two audiences. You have those who are in-person and those who are virtual. As a result of that, you must figure out how you are going to be able to fully engage both audiences simultaneously.
- if you truly are going to do hybrid, consider that just because you’re doing something in person does not necessarily need to happen simultaneously for those in virtual. Let’s say you’re going to have in-person people do an actual exercise or something like that. Those virtually, of course, cannot participate. So, at that time, if you can dedicate another co-host or maybe you go backstage while those are in person, do an exercise, and you adjust those in virtually to do something else or something similar.
- Lastly, depending on the type of event that you’re doing…let’s just say you’re doing an enrollment event or aka sales event where you plan on pitching something or providing an offer, a program etc., what we’ve seen, at least in the last year or so, is that those who do virtual have converted much higher than those in person. So that’s one thing.
As you can tell, hybrid is way more complicated. But if you really want to serve your people and do hybrid appropriately, intentionally, and strategically, those are just some initial things that you need to consider because, otherwise, it’s going to be a flop.
So, decide, whether you’re going to do it virtually or you are going to do it in person. But marrying the two is a challenge. And as the facilitator, you have to keep both audiences engaged.
How to Get Your Hybrid Event Started
Shawn Hessinger: So, I’ve decided I want to do a virtual event. How do I get started?
Monique Johnson: For what we do at Live Video Lab, we really focus on the experience. And when we say experience, we mean how do you want your attendee to feel? Whether they decide to work with you or not, you still want them to feel a certain way. You want to ensure that they walk away with something. Make sure that at any time of your event when listing it out and brainstorming, you ask what they can walk away with.
So, to me, that is the biggest or most important first step is the experience of how they’re going to feel, whether they’re going to see just tapping into all the five senses, because quite frankly, we’re dealing with a lot with a virtual event, and when you’re hosting one it’s all about energy management. We’re dealing with the tiny box, and that’s the one thing. I’m taking up most of this tiny box you see on this camera frame. And a lot of times people don’t even take that into consideration. Because if I were to back away, it’s less engaging. Or if I’m like, over here, it’s different. So even something as simple as that is tapping into the experience.
Another thing would be because of virtual events we can peer into people’s environments. For instance, you can see objects in my home office, even though the camera is slightly low. That picture behind me is of Bob Marley, and you’d be surprised at how many times it’s a conversation starter. People love Bob Marley!
What Platform is Best for Virtual Events?
Shawn Hessinger: Let me ask a technical question. Platform-wise, if you’re trying to decide when you’re going to do a virtual event, how do you decide on the platform on what technology you use to do the virtual event?
Monique Johnson: There are so many different types of virtual platforms out there, especially with virtual events. To put it into like two major categories, there is the meeting conference type of platforms and then those that they say are strictly for virtual events. Therefore, they try to emulate as much as possible what would happen in person would happen virtually.
What I mean by that is buying the ticket, and doing a check-in. There are specific platforms for that. So, the second kind that I just mentioned, let’s tackle that real quick because, to be frank, I’m not a big fan of them. A lot of times they are for enterprise-level sized companies or types of conferences if you will. And to me, it’s just glitter sprinkled on a webinar. With them, there’s not that much interaction.
Now let’s talk about virtual meeting types of platforms. So virtual meeting types of platforms are not new. And then with the pandemic, people are like, “What is this Zoom? I’ve never seen it before!” These virtual meeting types of platforms, right, allow for the two-way street. I’m talking about the two-way street of–I can see you–and you can see me.
Now, of course, you can add different things. You can even take some of the things that they’re doing on the enterprise level and bring them to the Zoom conference type of platform. You’ll be surprised that you, as a facilitator and the host, can see who you’re talking to. You can peer inside, and the people are giving you permission to see where they are.
If you have the right equipment, you can create grids of your audience as if you’re in person and you can still see them. You can call up my name. Hey, Shawn, “How are you doing!” People are like…wait…oh, yeah, they can see me, right?! Versus these other more enterprise-level where you can’t see them. And to me, it’s just that is just a big missing piece that is just putting an added layer of no relation or connection. Because we’re virtual, of course, that’s the huge thing about in-person is the connection piece, the physical piece, the energy. And if you’re not able to see them, honestly, to me, what’s the point? There’s no point. So, when it comes to choosing a specific platform, think about those things.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to find out more about virtual event ideas and tips, be sure to check out Small Biz Trend’s article: 40 Virtual Event Ideas.
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I agree with the sentiment here that you need to focus on in-person or virtual. Trying to go the hybrid route is a recipe for failure.
Monique really gives some good tips if you ever want to try any of those approaches, Robert. Thanks for the feedback!