Contrary to popular assumption, hybrid events have been around for years.
Just look at the Super Bowl. Thousands of fans would watch the game at the stadium, and many millions more would watch the game from their homes. It's a classic example of a hybrid event with both in-person and virtual components.
It’s taken the pandemic for businesses and corporations to realize that they can hold hybrid events, and the unique value they offer. Hybrid events combine the irreplaceable feeling of connection of in-person events with the amazing data-based insights and reach of virtual events.
But, not all hybrid events are created equal!
Hybrid events come in all shapes and sizes, delivering unique and memorable experiences to their attendees. We found 9 of the coolest hybrid events that really showcase how versatile the format can be. All it takes is a little bit of creativity.
1. Austrian Wine Marketing Board
What’s a wine company to do in a middle of a pandemic? The Austrian Wine Marketing Board seems to have taken the question as a personal challenge. Instead of shutting shop, the company decided to hold a hybrid Austrian wine tasting event in Moscow instead!
At the in-person event, wine professionals were given their own socially distanced tables on which they tasted several hybrid wines from Austria, and learned about each product. Using an online app, the tasters could connect virtually with suppliers in Austria through 1:1 video calls in private video meeting rooms or live chat at virtual booths, that had easily accessible documentation and technical specifications. This allowed the tasters to place orders directly from suppliers they would never have known existed, without the event.
2. Meeting Professionals International: WEC Grapevine
It’s no surprise that the largest meeting planner and event planner industry association worldwide held one of the most successful hybrid events to date: WEC Grapevine. The association's flagship event brought together more than 600 in-person attendees in Grapevine, Texas, along with 1,000 virtual attendees. It garnered a 93% satisfaction rate from attendees.
The reason? All WEC Grapevine sessions ensured that both the in-person and digital formats complemented one another. This includes keynote sessions structured like a late-night talk show, where an emcee engaged with the speakers and in-person audience, while virtual attendees participated online. Break-out sessions, midday broadcasts, and Zumba workouts boosted the virtual side, with 23 concurrent sessions.
3. Twitch’s GlitchCon
Twitch, an online streaming service for gamers and content producers, hosts a conference – usually in San Diego – that attracts thousands of attendees from around the world. TwitchCon 2019 focused on community-building regardless of where their attendees were. Virtual attendees are able to participate in the event through live streaming, panels, tournaments and more! There were also keynotes, dozens of heavily-produced gaming tournaments, and even a Blink-182 performance.
4. SHIFT 2021
What better way to impress upon event marketers and organizers the benefits of virtual and hybrid events than host one yourself? Shift 2021 did exactly that. Powered by virtual and hybrid events platform Zuddl and studio partner, Entertainment Technology Partners, the event was held at a physical venue in Orlando and virtually on Zuddl.
The event boasted speakers from companies like Google, Hubspot, LMG, Viacom, Invision, Redstone, VEI, and more, talking about all things hybrid, as well as online networking sessions too. As a consequence, although this was Zuddl’s first hybrid event, it was a resounding success. More than 55% of in-person and virtual attendees actively participated during Shift, asking questions to speakers, upvoting questions asked by other attendees, and connecting 1:1 to network with each other.
5. Empower 21
Soon after Texas opened up in early 2021, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention successfully held a Christian mission-inspired conference titled Empower 21 as a hybrid event. The target audience for the event were the members of the 40,000 Southern Baptist churches under the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (STBC) spread throughout the country.
The organization used a single platform for both in-person and virtual attendees instead of a patchwork of different programs. Because of this, SPTC was able to promote the event over 100 channels to the families and individuals of the community. Virtual attendees tuned in from the safety of their homes, and attendees who went to the event in-person in Texas, followed social distancing guidelines and wore a mask.
All attendees were able to attend 29 sessions that included panels, luncheons, workshops, and keynotes. And thanks to enhanced integration, virtual attendees were able to network with their in-personal counterparts. Empower 21 is one of the top examples where a unified audience was created across virtual and in-person so that attendees could share the same experience, communicate, and interact with each other.
6. Apple Special Events
When it comes to events with power and pull, Apple is, of course, one of the front runners - and it’s no different when it comes to hybrid events. For years, the company has live-streamed product launches and special events to thousands of technology enthusiasts and Apple fans all around the world in addition to on-site attendees.
7. Growth Marketing Conference
There are some who believe that hybrid events disproportionately favor in-person attendees over virtual participants. The Growth Marketing Conference is one hybrid event that disproves that. Organizers created a ‘Virtual Access Pass’ that gave their virtual attendees bonus content, such as access to more than 200+ webinars, to make sure they felt included and valued.
8. Gainsight Pulse Everywhere
This conference has been running every year since 2013. Last year, because of the pandemic, the organizers decided to pivot to a hybrid model. Key staff members and speakers attended the event in person, and thousands of attendees were able to watch the event live and online free of charge.
Organizers used a virtual event platform to keep attendees excited, engaged and make them feel taken care of. When attendees logged in, they were greeted by DJ Skemaddox, top-notch swag, and puppies of Pulse to set that tone of excitement. And welcome video popups shared helpful tips for navigating the virtual platform to make the experience as frictionless as possible.
Organizers used their virtual event platform to great effect - organizing networking sessions for all attendees, driving virtual event engagement, and capturing attendee feedback. It was one of the most sophisticated hybrid events held to date.
9. INBOUND by Hubspot
HubSpot's annual INBOUND conference is usually a three-day affair held in Boston that brings together business professionals from almost every industry. The company’s hybrid event featured all its trademarks.
Known for its great entertainment - stand-up comedians, actors and industry leaders regularly feature on its roster of excellent speakers - this year, both in-person, as well as virtual attendees were able to interact with presenters like Kerry Washington, Bob Iger, and John Legend. It doesn’t get more star-studded than that.
The event blended live sessions with on-demand recordings. Additionally, during the event, both audiences could connect and speak and mingle, which was one of the aims of the event.
As can be seen, hybrid events offer companies a myriad of ways to leverage the blend of virtual and in-person to their advantage. Whether broadening your reach like in the case of Empower 21 or attracting more star power to bolster your brand like in the case of INBOUND, the unique attributes of a hybrid event lets you work towards your business goals in creative ways.
If you have any questions about how to host a hybrid event of your own, and how to drive the best business outcomes from it, we’re happy to help! Let’s talk.