Hybrid Events: How to Plan a Hybrid Event Production for Your Membership Organization

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Now that venues are opening up, we’re entering a new phase. Associations are pivoting from hosting a virtual conference in 2020 to hosting a hybrid conference in 2021. However, a hybrid conference software platform might not be a viable option for some associations, so we found ways to go hybrid on a tight budget.

Find a Flexible Hybrid Conference Strategy

In 2020, the challenge was to find the best virtual conference solutions. Now, associations are challenged to find the best hybrid strategies for their events.

Last year, we learned that the road ahead is unpredictable. For that reason, it’s important to adopt a flexible approach when going hybrid.

Keep in mind that planning an in-person component is risky, because no one really knows what’s going to happen as venues start opening. So early on, make sure you set yourself up to be able to pivot to a fully-virtual event. 

All hybrid events have a virtual component. To be safe, we recommend that you find a virtual conference platform that will be able to handle a fully-virtual event. If things change and you’re unable to have an in-person component to your hybrid event, then you need to create a safety net to assure you can pivot to a virtual conference quickly and easily.

To conclude, if you adopt a strategy with an in-person component, you’re going to want to be prepared for things to change and easily pivot to fully virtual as well. This might be concerning for larger organizations with a big audience, so if you have a large audience for your virtual conference, check out this post about virtual conference platforms for large groups.

The Hybrid Conference Strategies

Last month, OpenWater purchased equipment that is typically used at conference venues and tested them out to find effective ways to go hybrid with a low budget.

Budget allocation is a major concern for many organizations when going hybrid, so OpenWater experimented with the equipment purchased to see what setup would provide a healthy balance between budget and quality for a hybrid conference. 

In the end, OpenWater identified three different strategies in which it is possible to go hybrid with under $100, $200, or $300 worth of equipment.

From there, they rolled out resources for event professionals to use to go hybrid with their conferences. Visit the OpenWater hybrid page to see the resources.

Now, let's dive into each hybrid conference strategy that OpenWater experimented with.

Hybrid Conference Strategy 1: Slides and Audio Only

The first strategy involves streaming an in-person presentation to in-person and virtual audiences at the same time. 

We have your speaker presenting to the in-person audience live. When your virtual audience attends the session, they’ll see the presenter’s slides and hear the presentation through the presenter’s microphone, which is hooked up to a moderator’s laptop.

This is about as basic as it gets when it comes to hybrid conferencing. But it works! Also, anybody can conduct a hybrid conference like this with under $100 of equipment.

Also, There are pros and cons to this approach. 

It’s the cheapest option, but your virtual audience is unable to see the speaker present the slides. 

Gather Voices knows that video content engages people in a way that slides on a screen cannot. So, if you’re looking for a more engaging experience for your conference attendees, I’d suggest including a digital camera to film the conference speaker as they present their slides.

Hybrid Conference Strategy 2: Slides and Audio + Camera on Presenter

This next strategy is the same as strategy number one, but we add a camera to stream the presenter for the virtual audience.

To illustrate, your virtual audience will see the slide deck that the speaker is presenting, just like in strategy 1 above. However, this time the virtual audience will also be able to see the speaker presenting the slides. 

Honestly, this adds quite a bit to the overall cost because you’ll need a high quality DSLR camera with an HTML output to stream directly to the laptop.

However, your virtual audience is getting a more immersive experience because they actually get to see the presenter. This will no doubt increase engagement and serve your virtual audience for the better.

Hybrid Conference Strategy 3: Remote Speaker Presentation

This strategy adds a complicated factor: what if one of your presenters has to deliver their content remotely?

This involves capturing the video and audio of the remote presenter using a virtual conference tool like Zoom. Then, you’re going to want to pipe their audio to the main room with the in-person audience AND the virtual attendees. You might want to show the presenter to your in-person and virtual audience as well. 

This strategy involves more equipment like an audio mixer and PA system, more HDMI cables, and more staff.

I’m sure this complicated strategy is difficult to visualize. That’s why we made a guide that’ll show all these strategies called Go Hybrid Without Blowing Your Budget. It’s a free download and a ton of organizations have been using it, so be sure to check it out.

Hybrid vs. Virtual vs. In-Person

Between hybrid, virtual, and in-person conferencing, hybrid will likely be the most expensive. However, it’s not much more expensive than in-person conferencing. If you can afford to go in-person, you’re likely able to afford to go hybrid for your conference.

Going hybrid is a safe choice for associations looking to host an event in 2021. It’s difficult to navigate, which is why we put together guides and videos to help out.

Be sure to visit the OpenWater hybrid resource page, where you can find content to help visualize our hybrid conferencing strategies detailed above. We also have links to where you can purchase equipment for going hybrid and a checklist to stay organized when you’re hosting.

Many associations are going hybrid with OpenWater. If you’d like to learn more, please schedule a demo.

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