Hybrid Association Events: How to Make Them a Success for Your Association

Hybrid Association Events: How to Make Them a Success for Your Association

You may have heard that hybrid association events are the wave of the future in a post-pandemic era. Perhaps you’ve even attended a few yourself. If you’re curious about this new phenomenon for meetings and conferences and are considering one for your organization, we offer these tips for success.

What Are Hybrid Events?

Hybrid events are meetings that are a mix of in-person activities and online participation. They are increasingly popular among some groups who have a good handle on technology and who want to include people who may not feel comfortable traveling or being around crowds, to which their budget-conscious employers have capitalized. 

This style of events have become a lifesaver for associations and nonprofits that can’t afford to cancel conferences and conventions. There’s no need to forego revenue when you can make attendees of all persuasions happy with this win-win approach.

There are multiple logistic configurations for hybrid events:

  • Offer the same content regardless of location
  • Create two distinctly different experiences
  • Have speakers and panelists appear live, while everyone else is online
  • Keep speakers and panelists online, while other participants are on location
  • Provide discounted, limited-participation badges for online attendees

Associations aren’t just doing this for conferences that require a ticket. It’s becoming the norm for boards of directors and management meetings too. 

Why Are Organizations Turning to Hybrid Meetings and Conferences?

Hybrid meetings became all the rage during the pandemic, when fewer people could travel and mingle. Now, even if association members are ready to return to some sense of normalcy, venues may have stricter limitations on occupancy. Restaurants and other venues may also reduce options, making online attendance more appealing.

As more and more organizations are conducting hybrid meetings, additional benefits are emerging. With lower price tiers and no travel expenses or weather worries, more people can participate, potentially generating increased revenue through volume and new members, especially if in-person expenses are kept low.

For associations that are concerned about climate change, hybrid events present an opportunity to lower their carbon footprint. Less travel is more environmentally friendly, as is reducing hotel laundry and similar services.

What Can You Do to Host an Outstanding Hybrid Event?

Every hybrid event is distinct, but there are some ways you can make your meeting or conference a success. First, define your goals for the event, and then decide how you want to accomplish them. Too many associations work backward from the tech side of things, which should actually come later in the process.

When possible, have board members, planners, and staff attend a few hybrid meetings to see what works and what doesn’t. You may want to divide your meeting committee into in-person and virtual teams that join together for discussion about the meeting as a whole. Think about challenges unique to hybrid meetings, like:

  • Potential for new types of ROI calculations
  • Participants in different time zones
  • Recording sessions with virtual participants, not just in-person attendees
  • Organizing breaks for coffee and meals
  • Providing written content for online attendees
  • Post-event evaluation

If online or hybrid meetings are new to your organization, consider hiring a consultant to help with the planning and technical execution. It will be much less stressful to know everything is taken care of with elements that are out of your wheelhouse. A consultant can test audio-visual and cyber components in advance to ensure everything works, so there hopefully are no glitches once the real event commences.

Work to make sure neither category of attendees feels like they have been made second-class citizens at the event. Divide key leaders between both groups. Offer social segments and breakouts for both as well. If you hand out swag bags to in-person attendees, mail them to your online participants too.

As mentioned above, you may have more than just two categories of participants, depending on how the event is structured. The Austin Film Festival, for example, offers full participation at various tiers in person, plus several types of virtual badges for listening in on panels; Q&A sessions; or attending for only the weekend. Discounts are provided for people like students, and walk-up tickets are available on a limited basis for a higher price.

Keep options open as long as possible for attendees, in case they decide to change their minds about going in person or new unforeseen restrictions surface. And don’t forget that you still need registration procedures, marketing, and sponsors, just as with events that are all in person — and most likely double the staff to ensure a successful and seamless event.

Does your association or nonprofit need help setting up your next event, whether on location or online? Jaffe Management specializes in all aspects of association management, including meeting planning, membership, and email list coordination. Call us at 212-496-3155, or reach out online to let us know how we can help your group.