Going Virtual: All About Hybrid Events

Events have long been a key strategy for businesses and organizations to build connections with their audiences. However, as social distancing extends, organizers are looking to technology for alternative ways to maintain those connections without the risks associated with large events. With all of the changes and uncertainty, many organizers are choosing hybrid events to engage their audiences.

What are hybrid events?

A hybrid event is any tradeshow, conference, seminar, workshop, festival (+ other types of events) that provides content to two separate audiences: those attending in-person and those attending virtually. With hybrid events, virtual components are fully baked into the event program in a way that is meant to offer remote audiences an engaging experience.

Hybrid events empower organizations to reach beyond their typical audience for an event. By breaking down travel barriers, audiences around the world can tune in and participate.

Why should I think about hybrid events?

Experts and major publications suggest that the new normal will be one of long term social distancing and small gatherings for the near future. But as we all know, business must continue. 

Even as restrictions ease, we’re seeing travel experts indicate that many will be slow to begin traveling again. According to Travel Agent Central, intent to travel will continue to drop during the upcoming six months for both leisure and travel for business. This means many who otherwise would have attended your event in-person, might be reluctant to travel.

Hybrid events give organizers the opportunity to achieve their event goals in a new way – both in-person and online. 

Will virtual take audiences away from my live event?

Hybrid events open your event to a larger audience than would otherwise attend in person. 

Worried that the virtual aspect will draw attendees away from your live event? Research by Digitell suggests there is very little overlap between your audiences. Rather, 83 percent of survey respondents who participated in the virtual side of a hybrid event indicated they were never planning to attend the event in person. In fact, offering a virtual component was a key reason most people engaged with the event.

There is little overlap between the audience who attends an event and those who join in virtually  – instead, by offering virtual, you’re expanding your audience.

How do I organize a hybrid event?

Hybrid events can come together in a number of ways, but essentially hybrid event programs should engage both your live audience and your virtual audience.

The simplest way to organize a hybrid event is to treat your event as a live one, while also offering virtual audiences a live stream to tune into. While it’s fairly easy to produce, this type of event focuses primarily on engaging a live audience, leaving your virtual attendees behind as a secondary audience. 

To achieve a truly immersive experience for both audiences, you should build in engagement for your virtual attendees. Technology makes it possible for your virtual audience to get in on the action and engage with the content. Equal attention should be given to creating an interactive atmosphere for both audiences. Interactive video platforms and mobile apps enable audiences to get involved.

Because your virtual audience isn’t physically present, it’s important to offer ways for attendees to feel connected. A mobile event app, like Guidebook, acts as a home base for attendees during the event. Though schedules, attendee networking, and interactive tools like surveys and polls – you can fully engage your virtual audience before, during, and after your event.

What does success look like for a hybrid event?

A critical element of any event plan should be measurements of success. Deciding what to measure and what success looks like for your event should happen early, while planning. Event metrics vary, depending on the event – attendance, sales leads, education are all common metrics to measure. 

Events with a virtual component can be measured just as traditional events and offer additional insights to attendee behavior. Virtual interactions are tracked, recorded, and analyzed to give you better insights. What sessions generated the most discussion? How was the engagement with the polls and what were the poll results?

By moving to a hybrid event model, backed by technology, you can get granular and measure more.


If you’re thinking about hosting a hybrid event, Guidebook enables you to create a beautiful, engaging app for both your live and virtual audiences. Get in touch today to learn more about going mobile.