By now, we should all be familiar with the concept of a hybrid event. They’ve become a way to transition back to in-person events while giving attendees the option to attend in a way that works for their schedule, budget, health and safety concerns, and more. They also offer alternative ways to address the sustainability, accessibility and global inclusivity worries that have become top-of-mind for many organizers, planners, and attendees. However, even though the benefits of hybrid events are appealing, they come with additional considerations and steps in the planning process. Given the need to consider two event experiences, hybrid events can be complex, versatile, and hard to budget for. Coupled with lingering pandemic effects, new variants, supply chain challenges, the war in Eastern Europe, and labor shortages everywhere, it can be a challenge to consider – let alone pull off – a hybrid event. Don’t be intimidated by these challenges. Because there are many ways event planners can produce an effective hybrid event without a big budget. Here are seven ways to make the most of your spending and create budget friendly hybrid events:
1. Determine What Each Audience Needs
Our world has changed. Before beginning planning, conduct a survey or revisit current data to understand attendees’ current preferences so you can deliver more of what they want and don’t waste time and money on what they don’t need.
For example: do they attend your events for professional education? Is it networking opportunities and attendee interaction? One-to-one meeting scheduling?
A hybrid event also doesn’t mean in-person and virtual need to be the same experience. Use the discovery process to find out how many people are likely to attend your event in-person versus online. Uncover what elements of each experience would give attendees the engaging experience they’re looking for.
For example, if you see a clear signal most attendees want to come in-person, you don’t need to build a robust virtual experience. But if your audience is hesitating to commit, consider reducing your F&B commitment and putting that money into a higher-level production quality on streaming.
2. Mix Up the Venue
No matter if you’re thinking about a hub & spoke model or an asynchronous hybrid event, you’ll need a physical location.
The venue is a crucial part of the hybrid planning process. With many 2020 and 2021 events pushed to this year combined with industry labor shortages, venue availability can be limited. Book as early as possible to secure the best rate and maximize your budget.
You can also mix up the venue selection by seeking out independent or non-traditional venues. Traditionally smaller and more local, these tend to be more budget-friendly. They also offer additional flexibility to source your own vendors and negotiate individual contracts versus being restricted to traditional venues’ preferred suppliers.
If your event is being hosted across multiple locations, another option to manage venue costs is to partner with a venue or hotel brand that can host you at all locations.
3. Make Technology Multi-Task
A hybrid event doesn’t have to be complex. Depending on objectives and attendees’ needs, it can be as simple as asking attendees to use their own devices and bringing together in-person and virtual attendees via Zoom, WebEx, or Microsoft Teams.
If the event is more sophisticated, stretch your production budget by making use of equipment already being used for your in-person audience. For example, for smaller hybrid events, all that is often needed to ensure participants and speakers are seen and heard is similar to the audiovisual costs normally incurred for an in-person meeting. Pro tips: don’t save on internet connectivity. We highly suggest you to add a dedicated broadband connection to any room that is streaming content.
For large events with fully produced sessions and keynotes, the only additional cost might be an encoding device that allows the video and audio streams to be broadcast online.
4. Pick a Platform for Attendee Engagement
No matter your budget, a goal should be for everyone to walk away feeling as if they’ve had an outstanding experience. How included and engaged both audiences feel can make or break your hybrid event.
Enhance the experience and increase participation by picking an engagement platform that covers both in-person and virtual events, and gives those online and F2F the tools to make them active participants instead of passive spectators.
Partner with an all-in-one web and mobile solution, like ConnexMe, that covers all the must-haves for your particular event including registration, visual polling, slide/document annotations, collaboration tools, live video streaming, and more.
And just as important as the platform, vet the partner success team. Work with a partner that provides guidance, skills, consultation, and knowledge to help you get the most out of your audience engagement technology investment.
5. Use Event Content as a Revenue-Generator
Your hybrid event content has monetization opportunities beyond ticket sales that help stretch your budget.
For example, if you’re already paying for elements to enhance the sound and light quality to make your content broadcast-ready, record that content at the same time. With a little editing, those sessions can be sold online or rebroadcast as pay-per-view sessions, webinars, or virtual events after the original hybrid event.
You can also charge for premium experiences during the hybrid event, like charging extra for a special AMA with a keynote speaker or an exclusive VIP meet-up experience. The trick is finding value in something attendees are willing to pay extra for.
6. Bring in Sponsors
Sponsorships are another way to stretch your budget. Since you will be dealing with both in-person and virtual locations, there is a wide range of sponsorship opportunities.
Properly executed, hybrid event sponsor offerings can be a win-win for all. Sponsors receive great brand exposure and opportunities to connect with attendees. Attendees benefit from increased content and engagement opportunities funded by the sponsors’ participation.
Beyond traditional sponsor packages, unique activities, pre-recorded content, and live-streamed sessions are all ways to help your sponsors put their brand on full display to both in-person and virtual attendees.
7. Staff with Volunteers
The last and most efficient way to maximize your budget is by creating openings for volunteer opportunities. Your hybrid event offers opportunities for education, networking, and more – which can be extremely beneficial to those early in their careers, those looking to make a job switch, or brand fans who just want to contribute more to your event.
By hiring volunteers, event organizers can benefit from lower staffing costs and more human resources on hand to make the hybrid event run smoothly.
Putting together a hybrid event might seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. These budget-friendly tips can help you make the most out of your hybrid event.