Jun 18 2021
Sue Burns

Top Trends and Insights for Planning Impactful Hybrid Events

With 2020 thankfully in the rear-view window, the meeting and event industry is slowly recovering from the impact of COVID-19.   Planners and attendees alike are ready to get back to in-person events and optimism for a full recovery is growing.  In the meantime, demand for hybrid events is rising and is expected to be a common event format in the foreseeable future.

How do we continue to adapt to this new normal?  In November 2020 and again in April 2021, we surveyed our meeting planner customers to gain an understanding of event practices and challenges. Through this feedback from more than 3,400 event planners, we identified key trends and insights for planning hybrid events and how perceptions are evolving.


What is a Hybrid Event?

Let’s take a moment to revisit what we mean by a hybrid meeting or event. Hybrid events integrate technology with traditional event practices to create new types of attendee experiences and content delivery tools. They include any meeting or event with at least one group of face-to-face participants that digitally connects with participants in one other or multiple locations.

Therefore, as our industry continues to recover, hybrid events are an excellent opportunity to bring attendees together in a face-to-face environment while still including attendees who prefer to participate virtually.


Adapting Buyer Habits for Hybrid

Our Spring 2021 survey revealed that contract lead times were lengthening with 73% of planners contracting at least 3-6 months prior to their event. This is up 17% from our Fall 2020 survey.

The increase in the planning cycle makes sense when we look at the scope of planning a hybrid event. In the hybrid world, planners need to consider that they are now planning for two distinct audiences: an in-person audience and a virtual audience. So, while the number of events being planned may not be at the same level as live events, advance planning is needed to ensure a thoughtfully designed program for both audiences.


Early Stage of Hybrid Adoption

While the hybrid format is growing, adoption remains at an early stage.   In November 2020, 31% of respondents said they executed a hybrid event, with most planners from the corporate and association/not-for-profit sectors. This has grown by 2% in 2021, with a total of 33% of respondents indicating they had planned or executed a hybrid event in 2021.

When it comes to the type of events that are being prioritized for hybrid, our 2020 survey indicated that small to mid-sized meetings and trainings would be first to adopt a hybrid model. This has since evolved to include conferences, likely due to the comfort planners are starting to feel with planning and executing more diverse and complex hybrid events.

While planners are still exploring and evaluating options, when it comes to the format of hybrid events that planners are anticipating, the most prevalent response in both surveys was a single in-person location with remote participants (59% in 2020; 61% in 2021), with multiple in-person locations within a single venue (19% in 2020; 20% in 2021) coming in second.

This is where professional spaces including Presentation Stages™ from Encore will play an important role. Equipped with state-of-the-art technology and facilities for a wide variety of online events, these permanent and/or pop-up studio spaces allow planners to deliver professional footage in a styled environment for any purpose, anywhere across the world.


Barriers to Hybrid

According to our research, the key barriers to hybrid events are starting to shift. While safety remains the biggest barrier to hybrid events, our 2021 survey revealed greater concern around participant engagement, planning complexity and higher costs.

This is where Encore’s Hybrid Event Handbook can assist planners in overcoming these barriers. Our Hybrid Event Handbook outlines a framework with six key drivers for a successful event: environment, experience, engagement, connectivity, content, and production. Considering these drivers and how they work together in the creation of your hybrid event will directly impact how to effectively engage both remote and in-person participants, how to plan for those two separate experiences, and where to prioritize costs in your production.


Planning for Impact

One thing we know for certain, hybrid events aren’t going away any time soon. With hybrid events on the rise, planners will need to continue to adapt their meetings for this new environment and understand the changes that will be necessary for events to be successful.

Lead times will need to continue to be re-assessed to allow for thoughtful design, the demand for a single provider for hybrid events will continue to emerge, and new solutions including Presentation Stages™ from Encore and all-in-one platforms will lead the way.

Many organizations are making this transition successfully, helping keep millions of people engaged and employed. To learn more about how companies are leveraging the right mix of production and technology to create compelling hybrid events, read through our relevant case studies.

Our most recent Planner Pulse Insights summary and infographic can be accessed here.

Sue Burns
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