Looking into hybrid events: the benefits

24 June 2021

When considering all the elements of an in-person event, from catering to material waste and from travelling to accommodation, the greenhouse gas emissions add up quickly. A 2019 report from Hope Solutions showed that the UK events industry emits 1.2bn kg of CO2e every year. It is clear that an in-person event has a significant environmental impact. The UN has reported that progress on the Sustainable Development Goals remains uneven and is not moving fast enough to meet the 17 goals. With a 2030 deadline for delivering the UNSDGs, there’s an urgent need to take decisive action on sustainability. We all need to contribute in order to reach these targets.

Although the past year has been difficult on various levels, it has given us a glimpse of how by changing some of our habits, we can become more sustainable. Especially regarding events, we had the opportunity to explore virtual and hybrid models. Moving forward, we’ll have to find a balance between sustainability and creating an event that serves its purpose.

Well, what is a hybrid event? Simply put, a hybrid event is a mix of live and virtual events. More specifically, a hybrid event integrates technology to facilitate participation between live and virtual audiences. A key aspect of hybrid events is engagement. The audience in such events can participate in conversations and give feedback in real-time. A hybrid event is not streaming your sessions on a device or a shared on-demand video after the event. It is an experience designed to cater to all audiences in a viewer-friendly way.

Hybrid events can vary in structure and the technology used. It depends on your event format and your audience. Their common characteristic is that both live and online audiences should be able to participate constructively. This is why it is important to choose an event platform that will help you achieve the smooth cooperation of audiences. When you’re choosing a virtual event platform, remember your goal is not to replicate the literal experience of walking through the event. You should aim to create an experience that allows virtual attendees to engage with your content and to grow their network in a way that makes sense to their ‘restrictions’. So what are the benefits of hybrid events?

Reduced environmental impact
2020 showed us what a positive impact reduced travel has on the environment. Emissions plummeted and global energy usage dropped. While hybrid events still have an environmental footprint that needs to be properly addressed, choosing them helps significantly decrease travel emissions and food waste of the event.

Hybrid events allow you to increase your reach and accommodate more attendees. A study found that nearly 98% of attendees at a hybrid event were not planning to attend live. This can help you reach an audience that otherwise might not have been able to attend.

Higher engagement with your audience
Adding a virtual element to your live event opens many more engagement opportunities both during and post-event. There are various activities, for example polls or dedicated Q&A spaces, that can enhance engagement from both your live and virtual audience.

Valuable data
Because of their nature, hybrid events can offer you valuable insights. This can help you understand how to improve the structure of your event to better engage with your audience. It can also help you identify the areas for improvement when it comes to breakout rooms and exhibitors’ booths.

Greater flexibility
One of the things that the global pandemic has taught us is that we need to plan for the unexpected. Since we cannot factor in all types of disruptions, choosing to create a hybrid event can help us adapt to unexpected situations.

Hybrid events have great potential. Looking ahead, we need to take advantage of all the knowledge and experience we gathered this past year and understand which is the best way to move forward. There have been a lot of reservations around virtual and hybrid events, but they are here to stay.

This is our first blog on hybrid events, but we aim to create a series that will help our community learn more. As the main aim of this initiative is to facilitate the discussion between the members of our community, we encourage you to share your thoughts and ideas. We would like to use our blog posts to offer more information and guidance on sustainable conferencing and new technologies based on your suggestions, so feel free to contact us via email at sustainability@biologist.com.

The Sustainable Conferencing Initiative is here to help event organisers in our community with sustainability and virtual innovative technologies. Through our blog posts and resources pages, we want to share information. We are hoping to start a constructive discussion.

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