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Adaptation: Making the Hybrid Format Work for You

Author: Sue Frye
Job Title: Director of Associations

One of the lasting effects of the pandemic has been the ubiquitous use of “hybrid” – hybrid cars, hybrid contracts, hybrid working and, of course, hybrid events. We have written and talked previously about hybrid events and the importance of choosing the right format for the right event but when and how to use the hybrid format is still a complex issue for many organisations.

Defining what makes a hybrid event is not straightforward because it is not a simple, clear-cut format. Everybody knows and understands what is involved with an in-person event or a virtual event. But what exactly is a hybrid event? I think most people would understand that it is a mix of in-person and virtual elements, but how much, and which elements? As the light at the end of the Covid tunnel started to get nearer and clients dared to talk about a return to “normal” events we were increasingly told that they wanted a “hybrid event”. However, it soon became clear that everybody’s interpretation and understanding of the format was very different. Currently, when asked, we ask the dreaded budget question which does tend to focus the discussion. Interestingly, we recently went through an exercise of pricing up a client’s event as a fully hybrid event with every single session also being streamed live. The quote was prepared by a supplier that we work with on a regular basis, is very reasonably priced and knew the particular event already. The preliminary quote came in at four times the in-person only costs!

The allure of the hybrid event is clear as initially it appears to solve the challenge of giving access to an event to everybody regardless of their location, willingness to meet face-to-face, mobility issues, budget constraints, time issues etc. However, and as we have talked about before, designing an event that gives virtual and in-person delegates the same level of experience and opportunities is very difficult as well as costly.

In my role as Director of Associations I have had many conversations over the last few months with both long-standing and new clients about how best to navigate the requirements and constraints of the Association, the needs of the members and the understandable concerns of the fraught Finance Director. For me, the solution is not to look at the individual events but rather to look at your annual event programme as a whole. Some events will clearly be prime candidates for the virtual format – technical and knowledge sharing meetings; others will lend themselves more to a face-to-face format – networking and mentoring sessions for example. Other events, usually an annual or biennial conference, need to be reviewed more carefully to understand the drivers behind the event as a whole and each individual element. Interestingly our discussions with Associations have often resulted in an in-depth review of their events in their existing format, which is never a bad thing. Solutions currently range from events remaining in the fully virtual format, reverting to in-person only as well as numerous variations on the hybrid format. In my experience, many Associations have been running hybrid events for years but have not used the term. Many of their events will have included a keynote session which may have been streamed or made available online, or maybe a speaker has appeared via Skype etc. Sometimes it can be a case of not needing to reinvent the wheel!

It is also important to remember that you can never please all of the people all of the time. There will always be push back about such decisions and, invariably, the negative reactions are much louder than the positive. However, to be able to demonstrate that there has been an in-depth review of the event and its main purpose, together with being able to offer a range of events in different formats across the year is aiming to satisfy a range of different requirements.

If you are struggling with identifying the best format for your event or agreeing how hybrid an event should be please do reach out to us. We will be more than happy to discuss the options with you. Email us on info@outsourcedevents.com.

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