How to host a successful hybrid event, whatever your budget

Whether you’re planning a conference, a board meeting, a summit or a product launch, there are all kinds of ways to bring people together. Though in person events are enduringly popular, many conferences, talks and meetings are now held virtually. Not only can this be a more budget-friendly option, virtual meetings also make it possible for attendees to join from wherever they are, whatever their accessibility needs.

Of course, event organisers don’t have to choose between these two options. Hybrid events allow local attendees to be in the audience in person, while remote attendees can still take part virtually. A good hybrid event will be delivered live and will allow plenty of opportunities for remote attendees to interact with the event.

When is a hybrid event the right choice?

There’s no denying the world has changed in recent years. The cost of travel has spiralled upwards, concerns about environmental impact have increased and many people have become more conscious about accessibility.

The increasing costs of flights and hotels mean that it’s often prohibitive for businesses to be able to afford to send employees to conferences and events in person, especially if those events are taking place internationally. Some organisations may even find it makes more sense practically and financially to invite certain speakers or panellists to contribute virtually.

Cost isn’t the only factor; convenience is also key. Issues such as train strikes, inclement weather, caring responsibilities and health/disabilities can also make it difficult for attendees and speakers to make it to events in person. This means that holding an in-person only event can exclude attendees for all kinds of reasons. This can have a significant impact on the reach of an event, as well as on ticket sales.

With a hybrid event, everyone gets the best of both worlds. Local attendees who are willing and/or able to attend in person can get all the benefits of doing so, while attendees who are located further away or cannot attend in person for other reasons can still take part on their own terms.

Event organisers are sometimes unsure about providing hybrid event opportunities due to worries about cost and complication. However, the cost of making an in person event hybrid is relatively low, and the additional opportunity for increased numbers of attendees usually offsets additional costs very quickly. As for the complication factor, though managing a hybrid event will necessitate a more detailed plan and some extra project management, it’s unlikely to be as complicated as you think.

Costs of a hybrid event

It’s important to keep in mind that making an event hybrid will make it accessible to a much larger group of attendees. You could be able to double, triple or even quadruple the reach of your event. With this in mind, spending an additional 20-30% to turn an in-person event into a hybrid event is likely to offer a big return on your investment.

Depending on your requirements, the cost could be even less than this. In some cases, you may not even need to invest in or hire any additional equipment. Many events can be made hybrid using only a few smartphones and digital microphones.

One of the key ways to keep your costs low is to consider the availability of built-in technical facilities when choosing a venue. Some venues have integral hybrid event facilities such as a PA system and cameras that are connected to computers and projectors. In these cases, only very limited additional equipment would be needed to stream your event online. Choosing a venue that already has a hybrid event system in place could mean that you’re able to run a hybrid event at no additional cost.

Project managing a hybrid event

When preparing for a hybrid event, it’s important to ensure you have a good project manager, both in the lead up to the event and on the day itself. You’ll also need to put some time into planning which digital platform you’ll be using. In our opinion, Zoom is the best platform for use with hybrid events. It is a low-cost option that offers superior interpreting and accessibility features.

For best results, it’s always important to make sure all speakers at an event have been well briefed. However, it’s extra helpful to ensure all speakers are following best practice when they’ll be speaking to an audience made up of both in-person and remote attendees.

You may wish to ensure speakers have been reminded to:
  • Share their notes with interpreters ahead of time.
  • Join virtual meeting rooms at least thirty minutes before the start time to ensure video and sound can be tested.
  • Keep their microphone muted when not speaking.
  • Speak at a clear, natural pace to allow interpreters to keep up.
  • On site speakers should be careful to speak directly into portable microphones without getting too close to them. If possible, using lapel microphones would be ideal.

Project management on the day

On the day, you’ll need technical support and a project manager onsite at the venue. You’ll also need someone who’s able to provide support on Zoom.

You’ll need to set aside plenty of time to test that all tech is working on the venue end, but also that everything is working well via Zoom. Make sure the person providing Zoom support is able to test the ease of joining meetings, that they’re able to enjoy good connectivity with the venue and that all interpretation channels are accessible. It is also important to check that the sound and lighting are working as well over Zoom as they are in the venue itself.

Once the event starts, the Zoom support person will be able to help to bridge the gap between onsite actions and online. This includes:
  • Troubleshooting for remote speakers and attendees.
  • Ensuring attendees know how to access interpreting channels.
  • Allowing attendees into virtual meeting spaces.
  • Spotlighting speakers in Zoom.
  • Collecting questions from remote audience members and sharing them with in-person speakers.
  • Sharing notes with interpreters digitally.
Having someone take on this role is a really important part of ensuring a hybrid event runs smoothly, but it’s often overlooked. Though the project management role will need to be carried out by someone who’s working closely with the interpreters, it cannot be done by anyone who’s responsible for interpreting at the same time.

Technical requirements for a hybrid event

The equipment you’ll require to deliver a hybrid event will depend on many factors. These include:

  • The tech facilities at the venue.
  • The budget of your event.
  • The number of languages involved.
  • Whether interpreters will be working onsite or remotely.
  • Whether retour interpretation is required.
  • The quality of the required finish.

Below, we’ve shared examples of four different types of set up at four different budgets.

Translation equipment rental

Option one: full AV team

This is an example of a hybrid set up at a large event using a full audio visual team. There were camera operators, microphones, transmitters, a transceiver and a computer on Zoom for each language. At the event pictured, the equipment was all on site, but the interpreters were working remotely.

Event planning and management

Option two: mixing desk and camera operator

This photo was taken at an event with a much smaller crew. They used a table top interpreter booth with interpreters working onsite. They also had the support of one AV engineer and a camera operator.

Translation equipment rental

Option three: using a fully hybrid-friendly venue

This photo was taken at an event that required only a very minimal set up. It took place at The Brunei Gallery at SOAS, which is a hybrid-friendly venue. The venue’s PA system is connected to Zoom and has almost everything needed to deliver a hybrid event already available.

All that was required to take this event online was a single AV technician, a DLT400 transmitter with Digi.Wave Connect from WilliamsAV, and one laptop per language.

Event planning and management

Option four: laptops and smartphones

For smaller or low-budget events, using multiple smartphones as cameras along with a laptop per language can work really well. In these situations, buying or hiring a set of wireless microphones, such as the Rode Wireless Go II, can make a big difference to the overall sound quality.

Things to consider:Notes

Though delivering a hybrid event doesn’t need to involve a huge amount of extra work and preparation, it’s important to make sure there’s planning in place to avoid any last minute technical hitches.

Make sureNotes

  • That you have a headset or microphone connected to each laptop that’s connected to Zoom.
  • That the venue’s connectivity is good enough to handle the additional demand of a hybrid meeting.
  • That any cameras (including smartphones) are carefully positioned to ensure a good view for remote attendees without blocking the view or movement of in-person attendees.
  • All speakers have a digital microphone to speak into, either on their lapel or handheld.

Hiring hybrid equipment

If you decide to hire equipment for your event, consider whether the equipment you’re hiring is designed for onsite or hybrid events. There are so few providers of specialist interpreting equipment in the UK, and most of them use European kits that are designed primarily with onsite events in mind. At WordlyWise, we use versatile WilliamsAV kits that are much more compact than the alternative and are ideal for hybrid events. A more compact kit can lower the overall hire cost dramatically.

Can WordlyWise help you?

If you’re planning a hybrid event and are not sure where to start, we’re always on hand to offer advice. Please get in touch to discuss how to successfully take your in-person event online and welcome a much larger group of attendees.