HYBRID IS AN ADJECTIVE, NOT A NOUN
With in-person events on the mend and virtual events having claimed their rightful place in the event planner’s tool kit, the industry discussion has turned to hybrid events. But it’s there that the dialogue hits a roadblock. There is no single definition of a hybrid event and, for now, that’s a good thing.
In their book, “Reinventing Live: The Always-On Future of Events,” Denzil Rankine and Marco Giberti define a hybrid event as “being in-person (F2F) with a digital extension with the opportunity for interaction during the event or directly related to it during the year.”
However, event-industry thought leader, speaker, and podcaster Nick Borelli defines hybrid in a more philosophical, less prescriptive way. “There is no such thing as a hybrid event. There are just events and hybrid strategies,” he says. Borelli offers three possible interpretations of hybrid, including:
- Attraction: pre-event marketing, which includes (digital) social media posts, videos, and hashtags, and email, to draw attention to an in-person event.
- Extension: modes of driving in-person event attendees to virtual channels post-event to continue the conversation and engagement.
- Inclusion: back and forth communication between people who are at live events and those who are experiencing the event virtually, either through an online platform or a mobile app.
Rather than assign meaning to the term hybrid, Dahlia El Gazzar, tech evangelist and igniteur of Dahlia + Agency prefers to rid the industry of the “H” word altogether. For her, event design is location agnostic and solely dependent on the host organization’s objectives. For example:
- Lead generation — use the in-person event to introduce and onboard prospects to a 365 marketplace with a virtual storefront
- Audience augmentation — deliver live-streamed content from the in-person event to the virtual audience; offer on-demand content to both audiences, or provide “velvet rope” content (live or on-demand) to an exclusive audience
- Networking — use one software platform to match both in-person and virtual attendees to other in-person or virtual attendees and schedule meetings that can be conducted live or digitally.
Michelle Bruno, event-technology content strategist and writer thinks about using live and virtual tools and strategies to “reach participants where they’re at with their interest-levels, financial resources, time constraints, and desire for convenience.” Her list of hybrid experiences includes:
- Hub and spoke: multiple remote groups of attendees (pods) meet in person and connect virtually to the main in-person event
- Dual-purpose: under one event umbrella, live participants meet primarily to network face to face (limited education on-site) but a much larger virtual audience gets on-demand access to content
- Experience continuums: referred to the Online-Offline-Online (OOO) model by Rankine and Giberti, participants meet on and offline over the course of time for different reasons
There are benefits to leaving the definition of hybrid open to interpretation versus adhering to a rigid set of rules. It was the privileging of the face-to-face experience that made the global event industry vulnerable during the pandemic in the first place. Hybrid events incorporate a strategic diversity and tactical agility that makes events more resilient to disruption.
Borelli believes that most organizations have been producing hybrid events all along. “What’s more important for planners,” he says, “is knowing all of the tools that are available to accomplish their goals and not to be intimidated, thinking if they don’t do this, they’re not a valid planner or their event isn’t valid. I want them to be free to say, ‘this works for me,’ and go with it.”
Rankine, Denzil and Giberti, Marco. Reinventing Live (pp. 62-63). Anthem Press