Rethinking Corporate Event Strategies for 2021: How Hybrid Events Accomplish Goals and Create Engagement

December 10 2020

With Covid-19 still dominating our social and business interactions – and will likely continue to do so well into 2021 – the usual company meetings are bound to look a lot different for some time to come. So it is high time we take a look at how hybrid events combine the best of in-person events and online elements to create real engagement among teams. From safety to IT and catering to social media, there are a series of critical considerations to making a hybrid event a success.

Ask any event organizer and they will tell you that 2020 has been an equally scary and exciting time to be in the industry. We have been driven to rethink our event strategy, learn new technologies and flex our creative muscles in the digital space. While virtual events continue to be the go-to format for the next few months, we can’t help but look forward to what’s coming down the pipeline. Hybrid events are nothing new, but they are the direct path to our next normal.

What Is a Hybrid Event?

A hybrid event is an experience that combines in-person elements with digital, online components. They have grown in popularity in recent years — and with ongoing restrictions around large group gatherings — are the future of the industry. It really is the best of both worlds. For attendees, hybrid offers the option to safely participate in socially distant live events or attend the event online from the comfort of their remote location. For stakeholders, it expands revenue opportunities, offers multi-faceted touchpoints with a broader audience and boosts ROI.

Planning a hybrid event raises a host of new considerations; here are seven tips to help you prepare.

Socially Distant Sourcing: Consider the additional space needed in your venue to safely distance attendees and allow for alternative event formats (i.e. picnic instead of lunch buffet). A traditional cocktail reception needed around six square feet per person—a socially distant reception requires a minimum of 12 square feet. Check out the social distancing space calculator offered by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Entertainment.

Beyond Streaming: The virtual side needs to be as engaging as the in-person event. Consider layering in a virtual platform to act as the venue for remote attendees. Virtual event platforms transform webcasts into interactive event spaces that can host a plethora of engagement opportunities from one-on-one video chats to 3D exhibit booths.

Safety & Security: Additional cleaning and the required use of PPE should be par for the course on-site; an on-site security presence can also help ensure that people are following the rules and provide piece of mind. Digitally, be sure your streaming service and platform offer a robust data security package to keep your company and attendee information safe online.

IT Infrastructure: Work closely with your venue and streaming service to ensure you have the appropriate bandwidth, connection speed and a practiced redundancy plan.  

Food & Beverage: Plan for more plated, chef attended and individually prepared meals. You can also expect to be using lots of packaged/disposable items — not good for the environment but important for health and safety at this time.

Great Giveaways: Give attendees items that will be useful during the event and create a sense of community between those at home and in-person. Think branded PPE, custom cocktail mixes that reflect what the live event is serving, wearables that will be seen in social media posts, etc.

Scalability: The virtual aspect of hybrid allows you to reach a much larger audience. If it fits your goals and strategy, you may event consider publicly streaming your events on a social media platform such as Facebook Live to really catapult your message.

In our view, nothing beats face-to-face interaction, but we have all learned to adapt and embrace the positives. The hybrid format not only offers people the choice of a remote or in-person experience, but also promises to be a more sustainable, inclusive, and profitable option as we move forward.

This blog post originally appeared on The Castle Group’s professional blog series. Click here to read more.

Danielle Dickinson
Vice President, Events, The Castle Group
Nothing gives me more pride than watching a successful event unfold. I am responsible for the design, planning and execution of non-profit and corporate client events. Since joining Castle in 2005, I have planned a myriad of unique incentives, powerful meetings and stylish special events all over the world — from Peoria to Prague. Food and beverage management particularly excites me and I spend time keeping up with the trends to create distinctive menus for our clients. I have an overall passion for planning and enjoy how the analytics of an event drive my mind while the creative aspect feeds my soul. I am a Certified Meeting Planner (CMP) and received my Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from West Chester University of Pennsylvania. I am an active participant in Meeting Professionals International, The Convention Industry Council and Professional Convention Management Association. When I am not checking boxes off my to-do list (my favorite thing to do), I am on the event/host committee at The Food Project, a non-profit organization empowering youth leaders to create personal and social change through sustainable agriculture. At home, I love to cook and explore new restaurants, travel with my family and get lost in a great book.

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