Hybrid events: The best of two worlds

Author: Matthias Schultze, Managing Director GCB German Convention Bureau e.V.

Hybrid events combine the advantages of the real and virtual world. Read our guide how to benefit from this event scenario.

A hybrid event combines a physical event with a virtual offering, i.e. the online broadcast of a conference or meeting via a live stream. This virtual parallel world enables participants to take part on site as well as digitally - no matter where they are in the world, using their notebook, tablet or smartphone. As a meeting scenario, hybrid events are therefore very time-efficient, save cost and create a special experience. Sascha Lobo, a German blogger, author and journalist, calls it something akin to "a pair of twins - if the right kind of people meet in the right kind of environment, a collective and simultaneous enthusiasm builds that doesn't exist anywhere else."

Hybrid events can enable event organisers and venue operators to better inform, motivate and engage participants. Here are five rules to make your hybrid event a success:

1. Fast and secure IT

Tech is at the heart of every hybrid event and a fast and secure Wi-Fi connection is key. Apps help to connect attendees and enable conversations. A variety of presentation techniques can amplify speaker presentations and how content is delivered.

2. House rules for communication

Don't forget to define certain rules when it comes to communication, for better management of attendee interaction and avoidance of misunderstandings and "communication mishaps". This includes establishing who is allowed to speak on behalf of the organiser and if there are any "taboo subjects" and if so, which ones, including possibly filtering comments.

3. Put participants centre stage

The use of new types of media and innovative technologies (holograms, interactive/tangible media, Bluescape, etc) helps boost interaction. This includes digital matchmaking tools, allowing participants to communicate their preferred topics and interests prior to the event. Using this data, organisers can connect participants with similar interests.

4. Harness social media

When it comes to social media, creativity knows no bounds. Here are a few examples of what you can do: Prior to the event, you can use apps to integrate games or city guides for the respective destination. During the event, Twitter walls, real time polls, digital guest books or QR codes provide more information and encourage increased interaction, and afterwards, photos and videos can be shared on YouTube, Facebook or Instagram (best to integrate feedback tools then!). The GCB's recent "Digital and Innovation Day 2017"and accompanying digital communication activities showcase the effective use of social media for events, with our event trending at number 3 on Twitter that day.

5. Playful motivation

Gamification, i.e. the use of game-design elements and game principles in a non-game context, works very well for hybrid events. Participants can be actively engaged and new methods and ways of organisation be introduced to events. Experience points, progress bars, rankings or awards motivate to tackle even complex content and tasks in a playful way and to attend as many sessions as possible.

The "Future Meeting Room" scenario shows how events can promote interactive knowledge transfer. It was developed by the "Future Meeting Space" innovation network that was set up by the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO, the European Association of Event Centres (EVVC) and the GCB German Convention Bureau.

The results of the research phase will serve as an instruction manual for the design of future-oriented organisational, technological and special future meeting spaces in phase 2 of the project.