Producing a hybrid event adds a level of complexity to traditional in-person event planning. Event professionals need to think through two separate event experiences that need to be executed simultaneously:
One for the in-person attendee and another for the participants who are attending virtually. But this two-pronged meeting experience doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. If you’re worried about how to budget for hybrid events, Matthew Johnsen, Vice President of Product Management at Encore, has some advice that can help you manage, or even reduce, hybrid event-related expenses.
Variable cost reduction
One thing working in your favor is how common it has become for professionals to conduct business remotely. “Before the pandemic, I would never believe that so many people would become comfortable with hybrid meetings,” Johnsen says.
You can leverage that familiarity to expand your virtual audience while limiting the number of participants you invite to join you on-site. “When you reduce the amount of people coming to the in-person meeting,” Johnsen says, “that can also reduce the food, beverage and travel costs.”
Another factor that can help you control costs is scalability. Look at the scope and scale of the virtual production elements you need to achieve your meeting objectives and determine where it’s most important to invest your money.
“A hybrid meeting doesn’t have to be complex. It can be a simple Microsoft Teams meeting,” Johnsen says. “If it’s just a small meeting, you can have participants bring their own laptops and arrange them around a conference table.” The in-person attendees can then use standard videoconferencing software, like Zoom, to connect with the remote participants. This might be more affordable than the kind of in-person meeting you may have done in the past with standard projection packages, microphones and mixers.
If you need something a little more sophisticated, add a centralized camera and screen to the in-person space. “Smaller meetings that didn’t need speakers and microphones may need them now for broadcast.”
For larger events, the silver lining is you probably already have what you need for broadcasting content. “If you’re hosting a meeting that in the past had sound, light and a camera for recording, those costs haven’t changed,” Johnsen explains. “That $50,000 event isn’t jumping to $150,000. It’s quite possible that the only additional cost is adding an encoder [to stream content to the internet].”
You also may need to add a dedicated broadband connection to any room that is streaming content. Use the free Encore bandwidth calculator to estimate your costs for upcoming events.
Focus on the “Big 3”
Johnsen says hybrid events tend to have expenses concentrated in three key areas:
- Hardware costs
- Platform costs
- Virtual team costs
For a small meeting, the hardware costs will most likely be minimal. What is needed to ensure that participants and speakers are seen and heard may be the same or less than the audiovisual costs you normally would incur for an in-person meeting. For large meetings that already have fully produced sessions and keynotes, the only additional costs might be for an encoding device that allows the video and audio streams to be broadcast online. In select markets, like Las Vegas, there may be additional union labor costs for camera persons who are filming content that is livestreamed.
The platform is what your virtual participants will use to view and/or interact with your broadcast content. For simple education or informational meetings and events, Zoom, Google Meet or Microsoft Teams might be the only platforms you need. If you want to enhance the experience and increase participant engagement, or customize the experience, you may want to invest in a platform with more bells and whistles. The costs and features vary, from self-service to fully produced. If you’re unfamiliar with options or need assistance, it’s good idea to partner with a team like Encore, which provides a variety of platforms and production solutions.
Encore also can provide virtual team members who can perform specific creative functions, like designing lower-thirds and motion-graphic animations for broadcast content or provide production staff, like virtual stage managers, who manage speakers and coordinate key behind-the-scenes components. Virtual team costs are scalable. For example, if all you want to do is make a Zoom feed look professional, you may only need to hire a presentation graphics designer to create branded speaker frames and a streaming engineer to overlay them on the stream. If, however, you need professional-quality broadcast streams from multiple locations. You may need to build “pop-up” studios in each location and staff them with technicians.
Potential revenue generators
Hybrid events can generate additional streams of revenue to offset costs. Virtual and hybrid platforms, like Cvent’s Attendee Hub, Chime Live and Notified Virtual Event Platform, all offer branded sponsorship opportunities and expanded ways to generate revenue from exhibitors and sponsors.
Another revenue stream can come from repackaging your content. If you’re already paying for elements that enhance the sound and light quality to make your content broadcast-ready, consider recording it. With a little editing, all those sessions can be sold online or rebroadcast as pay-per-view sessions, webinars, or virtual events.