July 8, 2021   |   Abby Foutch

Hybrid Events Are a Myth (Here’s Why)

For the past 6-9 months, event profs have been trying to define hybrid events. We’ve all been putting noise out there about what hybrid events should and shouldn’t be, but in reality, we were just trying to fill the assumed void. 

The leadership team at Swoogo thought about that “void” and had many meetings about hybrid events trying to figure how they fit into a bigger event strategy.

The conclusion was “true” hybrid events should not exist.

We know what you must be thinking: bold. And then your afterthought is probably wth are true hybrid events?  

“True” hybrid events are equal experiences of the same event for virtual and in-person attendees with distinct ways to bridge both audiences. 

Josh Shepherd, Swoogo’s VP of Business Development and leader of our Hybrid Team, worked with many partners, customers, and external research sources to drive us to this understanding: 

Now that your wheels are turning and your head is slightly nodding up and down, we’ll present the case against hybrid events. 

Looking for more than just the case against hybrid events?

Click the button below to download our full hybrid guide. It’s broken down into four sections: 

  • The case against running true hybrid events

  • What a hybrid strategy is

  • How to implement a hybrid strategy from a technology standpoint

  • What non-tech considerations should go into your hybrid strategy planning

The case against hybrid events 

When virtual events began to emerge as a broad category in 2020, the industry was in the midst of an existential crisis: we simply couldn’t go on as we always had.

The rise of virtual events can’t be attributed to the desire for more attendees, the broader selection of speakers and content, the digital advertising opportunities for sponsors, or even the robust customer behavioral data we’ve been able to pull from them. Virtual simply became popular because it had to; the ensuing benefits were an unexpected, pleasant surprise.

Hybrid events, of course, are messier. 

While the reasoning behind the hybrid event movement is clear—retaining audience reach, increasing event ROI, and harvesting better customer data—the direction for it isn’t; maybe because hybrid events don’t need to exist. When it comes down to it, hybrid events simply don’t have a reason for being; our inability to grapple with the category is rooted in its lack of apparent function. Why do virtual and in-person audiences need to be watching the same content simultaneously and interacting? 

In truth, the virtual advantages listed above can be embraced without taking on the behemoth effort of creating experience parity across multiple audiences at a single event. When instead we try to run two events at once—and connect them in a meaningful way—the advantages simply disappear. The experience is diminished for participants on both sides as compromises are made to address the other audience, and the load on the organizer becomes almost impossible to manage. 

So you might be thinking … if true hybrid events aren’t the answer, then what is? 

Excellent question! We’d like to introduce to you the Hybrid Strategy. Hybrid Strategy combines a discrete in-person or virtual event with a longer-term, loosely structured online component. You may have also heard a hybrid strategy called community hybrid, a 365 event, or an ever-vent. 

The point of a Hybrid Strategy is twofold: 

  • Extend the reach of your event’s content and audience network.

  • Build a growing online event community to promote extended networking opportunities, more sponsorship avenues, and foster repeat attendees

A hybrid strategy is easier and more cost-effective to employ, engages audiences for a longer period of time, brings with it the advantages of virtual events, and delivers strong, unique experiences across the board. 

It does not focus on creating simultaneous, equal experiences, nor creating a day-of-event audience communication stream (though community remains centrally important). Thus, a hybrid strategy doesn’t employ hybrid events at all; instead, we add a freestanding and long-lasting virtual counterpart to any in-person event. In this approach, we relegate true hybrid events to, perhaps, what they were all along; a nice idea, a big dream—nothing but a myth. 

In our next blog, we’ll dive more into Hybrid Strategy and its benefits. If you don’t want to wait until next week then download our full hybrid guide by clicking below.