The truth about hybrid: 5 myths debunked

‘Hybrid’ is the word on everyone’s lips right now but there is a lot of confusion around the format, so I wanted to bring some clarity to the conversation.  Talk to us or visit our website if you want to find out more about the Aspect approach to hybrid events.

The long-awaited and much-anticipated 17th of May finally arrived this week – the penultimate stage of the UK’s roadmap to recovery out of the COVID-19 crisis.  The spring weather may not be playing ball but there is a renewed feeling of hope and optimism in the air for the first time since last March.

While we are still adapting to this new reality (again!) and the inevitable impact of the past year – the extent of which won’t be properly known for a while yet – all eyes in the event industry are on hybrid.  It’s a seemingly perfect solution that combines our love of live events with all the benefits of the virtual format we have become accustomed to (more about the virtues of virtual in my previous article here).

It’s true that hybrid events have a lot going for them, offering the best of both worlds to planners and delegates.  Done well, a hybrid event can broaden your audience and exposure, offer a global perspective, and provide a richer experience for everyone involved.  But a hybrid solution is not a silver bullet, one size definitely doesn’t fit all, and it’s important that event professionals are empowered to make the right decisions based on the priorities of both their business and their audience.

Myth 1: Hybrid is an unknown quantity.  As an event format, hybrid isn’t actually new but to date it has been used in fairly niche ways.  Now that digital event formats are no longer something to fear and the advantages of hybrid are becoming more widely recognised, the key is to work with an events partner whose hybrid expertise is based on experience, not circumstance.  Some of us have been designing and delivering hybrid events for years – pivoting from live to virtual does not a hybrid expert make.  Which brings us nicely on to myth no.2 ….

Myth 2: Hybrid is just live and virtual combined, isn’t it?  No, it isn’t.  A good hybrid model is one in which the live and online audiences are treated equally.  However, this doesn’t mean simply using the same engagement tactics for both audiences – the experience offered has to be adapted for each one.  The focus has to be on a fully integrated customer journey, and delegates will expect to be able to switch seamlessly between in-person, digital and on-demand, allowing them to engage with the content in the way that works best for them.  Another nice segue to ….

Myth 3: Technology is the most important element of a hybrid event experience.  We now know just how important the right platform is for delivering a successful virtual event, and the same goes for hybrid.  An effective technology solution will deliver engagement, data capture and ROI. But even the best technology can’t compensate for mediocre content – to design a memorable and engaging experience, the creative approach has to be human-first.  Hybrid provides an opportunity to reinvent the nature of the relationship with our customers, with a focus on what they want and need right now, rather than the mechanics of delivering it.  Speaking of delivery …

Myth 4: Good hybrid events are difficult to plan and execute.  Not so, but they do require a particular skillset.  Traditional events run by event teams have long been an important element in the multi-channel marketing mix, and this won’t change.  But marketing and event teams will evolve and merge, as organisations see events as part of an overall digital marketing and communications strategy.  Businesses will stop asking how they can get people to come to an event and will instead ask what information their audiences want to receive and how they want to receive it.  This means that additional event planning resource and different skillsets within a team may be required to run successful hybrid events, especially when you consider that …

Myth 5: The best in hybrid is yet to come.  Actually, this one is true!  Event planning will keep evolving into a fully integrated event mix – virtual, hybrid, live, and on-demand (including podcasts) will all co-exist happily, each fulfilling its own potential.  While last year was about rapid developments in technology, this year is about making those experiences human-centred.  A solution to enable people to connect meaningfully online and in-person will not come solely from a technology platform, but from a combination of technologists, psychologists and creatives working together.

Much like the impact of virtual events over the last year, the next 12 months will see hybrid events driving innovations in the industry.  They will be at the forefront of the testing ground for collaborative, virtual and online communications.  By their very nature, hybrid events will bring a renewed human focus to the sector.  Now is the time to rethink, reinvest in and reimagine how you engage with your audiences and grow your business.

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