Hybrid Events: Technology Now & What’s Next

by | Oct 25, 2023 | Audio Visual, Event Technology | 0 comments

Since 2020 ushered in a rapid set of improvements in remote meeting technology, the term Hybrid Events has become a part of every business and event production team’s vocabulary. It’s important to understand that hybrid events are here to stay and that new technology are making hybrid events easier to create, produce and attend.

What is a Hybrid Event?

Hybrid event technology refers to the use of technology to facilitate events that combine in-person and virtual elements. These events can take many forms, such as conferences, trade shows, seminars, workshops, and more. Hybrid events allow attendees to participate both physically, by being present at a physical location, and virtually, from anywhere with an internet connection. This same technology also allows presenters and speakers to be included virtually, removing the physical limitations that typically come with events like these.

Hybrid Event Technology

It’s important to understand all of the technology used in hybrid events as you plan your own event. Understanding the technology is paramount in deciding on things like show-flow, audience participation, file sharing and so much more. Below are key components used in all types of hybrid events.

1. Live Streaming: This technology enables the real-time broadcasting of in-person event activities to an online audience. It can include keynote speeches, panel discussions, and other presentations. Live streaming platforms may be integrated with interactive features like chat, Q&A, and polling. Gone are the days where a webcam in the back of the room is set and forget. The camera streaming technology that our partners offer is improving with every new release. Partners like Crestron who offer the best in unified communications and intelligent video recording and streaming are making hybrid events easier to run and more dynamic.

2. Virtual Event Platforms: Specialized virtual event platforms are used to create digital versions of physical events. These platforms offer features such as virtual exhibition booths, networking opportunities, on-demand content, and interactive features to engage remote participants. New presentation technology can integrate with these platforms to seamlessly stream multiple feeds at once.  Video Conferencing and Webinar Tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Webex are often used for smaller hybrid events or for interactive sessions within a larger event.

3. Event Apps: Mobile apps for events can enhance the hybrid experience by providing schedules, maps, and real-time updates. They can also enable networking and engagement opportunities for both in-person and remote attendees.

4. Engagement Tools: Technologies like audience response systems, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and gamification can be employed to keep participants engaged and interactive during the event.

5. Audience Analytics: Technology can provide valuable insights into attendee behavior and preferences, helping event organizers refine future hybrid events.

How Have Hybrid Events Evolved Over the Last Few Years?

Hybrid events have evolved significantly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic forced the event industry to adapt and find new ways to deliver experiences to audiences, and hybrid events emerged as a key solution. Here are some of the ways hybrid events have evolved in response to the pandemic:

1. Increased Adoption: The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of hybrid events. Prior to the pandemic, hybrid events were already being used, but they became much more common as in-person events were restricted or canceled. Event organizers quickly embraced the concept of combining in-person and virtual elements to ensure their events could continue.

2. Improved Technology: The technology and platforms used for hybrid events have evolved and improved. Event organizers have access to more sophisticated live streaming, virtual event, and video conferencing solutions, making it easier to create engaging and interactive virtual experiences for remote participants.

3. Enhanced Engagement: Event organizers have put more effort into creating engaging and interactive experiences for both in-person and remote participants. This includes features like virtual Q&A sessions, chat rooms, and networking opportunities, which have become more refined and interactive.

4. Audience Inclusivity: Hybrid events have become more focused on inclusivity. Event organizers have realized the importance of making events accessible to a global audience, even as in-person attendance becomes an option again. This inclusivity allows events to reach a wider and more diverse audience.

5. Content Accessibility: Many hybrid events now offer on-demand access to content. This means that participants who couldn’t attend a live session due to time zone differences or other constraints can still access the content at a later time. This has increased the value of events and extended their impact.

6. Hybrid Event Specialists: As hybrid events have become more prevalent, there has been a growth in expertise and specialized roles related to planning and executing hybrid events. Event professionals have had to adapt to the unique challenges and opportunities that hybrid events present.

7. Data and Analytics: Event organizers have become more data-driven in understanding attendee behavior, preferences, and engagement. This data is used to improve future hybrid events and tailor content to audience interests.

8. Hybrid Event Strategies: Event organizers now plan hybrid events with greater intention and strategy. They consider the needs and expectations of both in-person and virtual audiences and create seamless experiences that cater to both.

9. Evolution of Sponsorship and Exhibitors: Hybrid events have prompted a rethinking of sponsorship and exhibition strategies. Virtual options for sponsors and exhibitors, such as digital booths and virtual networking opportunities, have become integral to event offerings.

Overall, hybrid events have evolved to offer more flexibility and options for attendees, combining the best aspects of in-person and virtual experiences. They are likely to remain a significant part of the event landscape, offering valuable alternatives for a range of event types and industries even after the pandemic has subsided. But this leads to the next point….

What’s Next for Hybrid Event Technology?

There are a lot of promising pieces of technology on the horizon for Hybrid Events. We see the evolution in technology from our partners that we work with every day. Here are just a few things we’re excited about…

Enhanced Engagement Features

  • Hybrid events will increasingly focus on providing interactive and immersive experiences for both in-person and virtual attendees. This might include more advanced networking tools, gamification, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR) elements to make remote participation more engaging.
  • Technology platforms for hybrid events will become more integrated, offering a seamless transition between in-person and virtual components. This will simplify the experience for attendees and organizers.

AI and PersonalizationArtificial intelligence (AI)

  • AI will play a larger role in personalizing content and recommendations for attendees.
  • AI-driven matchmaking and content suggestions will help attendees discover relevant sessions and connections.

Hybrid-First Planning

  • Event organizers will increasingly plan their events with a “hybrid-first” mindset, rather than simply adding virtual elements as an afterthought. This means designing content and engagement strategies that work well in both physical and virtual spaces.

Improved Production Quality

  • As hybrid events continue to grow, production quality will improve. This includes higher-quality video streaming, better sound, and professional lighting for virtual components.
  • In-person stages may also incorporate technology for a more dynamic and visually appealing experience for virtual viewers.

The specific direction of hybrid event technology will depend on a combination of technological advancements, industry trends, and the needs and preferences of event organizers and attendees. However, it’s clear that hybrid events are here to stay and will continue to evolve to offer valuable and engaging experiences for a diverse and global audience.