The 5 Hidden Costs of Organizing Hybrid Events
In our previous segment, we discussed some of the different ways organizers can incorporate hybrid elements into their event concepts. Hybrid events can have a considerable positive impact on your participant’s experience, such as making your event more visually appealing and creating more connections for your participants and sponsors. But when considering what hybrid elements to add to your event, it’s important organizers budget for these appropriately– not just in an economic sense, but also in time and human capital. Here, we explore some of the hidden costs that organizers should keep in mind.
In this post, we’ll share 5 of the biggest hidden costs to hybrid event production, and why you should be careful not to be under budget when it comes to hybrid events.
The first point to keep in mind is the technical costs of your production. Oftentimes, there is an underestimation of the technical elements required when it comes to running a digital event. The production costs for a virtual studio live-streamed in real time are different from those for a production held entirely on-site. If you have remote attendees, to ensure the best viewing, you will likely need multiple camera setups per session, alongside specialist sound and lighting. Compared to exclusively on-site participants, these technical camera setups do increase the technical requirements on-site. Then you should consider the qualities of your venue. If you will be live-streaming your event, does your location have the appropriate bandwidth to stream your event in real time? You may need to bring in additional hosting capacity or support to host your livestream.
These production costs should be accounted for in addition to the cost of your digital “venue” or event platform. With many of the best digital event platforms, you “get what you pay for”. If your attendees are joining remotely, your digital platform is their event experience. Just as you would be managing things on site, you cannot neglect this attendee experience. You want to be sure the option you choose has the appropriate features necessary for your participants to experience your event to its full capacity.
The second hidden expense for hybrid events considers programming. You might think that programming for an event is straightforward, however, in the hybrid experience you are essentially hosting two attendee experiences. If your attendees are split between an in-person location and virtual attendees, you want to be sure that you develop your event programming specifically for each audience. You cannot expect a livestream of in-person content to be suitable for an entirely virtual audience. Organizers should examine the attendee journey from both a remote and an in-person perspective– and be sure that the event programming is suitable for each type of attendee. This may require the creation of additional engagement activities designed specifically for each type of attendee. For instance, you might consider having an online host or moderator, that can facilitate the online conversation and share questions from the online audience with speakers on-site. Or, you may consider developing a special interactive booth area for online attendees, or a sponsor area that provides digital goodies. You can incorporate the online programming for your on-site attendees as well, for example, providing a “social area” or a quiet room with computers that allow both of your attendees to connect during the event.
Staffing and human capital needs of a hybrid event are often underestimated. While it might be easier for organizers to understand the staffing requirements of an in-person event, your virtual venue should have the same attention. For instance, you will need to staff your virtual venue with personnel to answer attendee requests, review comments and posts, facilitate Q&A, as well as spur engagement on the digital platform. The digital components of your event should be staffed appropriately, for example in the unfortunate occasion that disruptive participants can be removed promptly and unruly behavior can be prevented. The amount of people necessary for these tasks is determined by the number of attendees you expect, as well as the amount of interaction you will seek to engage. Similarly, staffing is needed to devote attention to managing the technical production of the event, such as uploading and downloading stream recordings and cutting videos.
4- Security and Insurance
As events include more and more digital elements, the importance of a robust security apparatus should not be downplayed. You should ensure that you take the right steps to ensure your event and personal attendee data is protected online and from cyber threats. Organizers must ensure that their events follow digital privacy laws in the jurisdictions they operate in– and from where your attendees are joining you. This can be tricky for organizers to implement, but many digital event platforms will work with event producers to ensure compliance. It’s often a good idea to purchase digital event insurance and to work with your insurance specialist to identify potential risks in advance.
Taking the appropriate security protocols online does extend beyond the platform you are using. For organizers, additional steps to take might involve carrying out a risk assessment plan or utilizing registration tools that can maintain digital safety. While your event is ongoing– organizers will need to regularly undertake steps to ensure the digital safety of their participants, such as implementing a code of conduct or behavior policy, and clearly outlining to participants and sponsors how their data is protected and used. Be sure to have a copy of these protocols available, and to have a compliance officer that is responsible for ensuring each step is taken accordingly.
The final hidden cost of hybrid events concerns your event marketing. When it comes to marketing an event with hybrid attendees— and thus a different value proposition for your on-site, and virtual attendees– your marketing team will be running more than one event campaign, to directly appeal to each audience persona. In this example, you will design different campaigns highlighting the value offering for those onsite, as well as campaigns targeted for those attending virtually. Attracting each audience will generally require a larger marketing budget, as you will be reaching different types of stakeholders with each campaign. Here, it is important to clearly define the budget available, as well as the targets for each campaign. What should your digital attendees expect from your event? What features will you optimize? Your marketing campaign should make this clear. Each campaign will likely involve different outreach strategies–so it is important to realize both the financial and human resource costs of your marketing spend.
Hybrid events have the opportunity to bring your event to the next level by enhancing your attendee experience. But those benefits don’t come for free. Hybrid events, done correctly, do cost more to produce. But this investment can have a significant payoff– and is often worth it. So before you jump into production, be sure to be aware of the costs and know what you are getting into beforehand.
And if you have any questions– please feel free to reach out to our team. We’d be happy to help you develop a hybrid event concept that meets your needs and exceeds your attendee expectations– while staying within your budget.
PIRATEx Head of New Business