Hybrid Virtual Events
There are many options for hybrid events these days. In this article we are going to explain some basic differences between the popular virtual options of Live Streaming, Zoom, and full -service Virtual Event Platforms like Whova & Cvent.
The main consideration in determining which option is food for you is to think about your virtual attendees. What level of audience engagement do you want and how many attendees will you have? Those factors can increase your virtual event budget from a few thousand to tens of thousands. You can reach a massive audience very affordably with live streaming., but you won’t have the audience engagement you can get from Zoom or full-service virtual event platforms.
Live streaming is basically a one-way broadcast of your event or program to an audience on the internet, very similar to a TV broadcast. However, the main difference is that you can add features like live chat for audience engagement. It is also significantly cheaper than broadcasting to TV and your audience can be global. Live streaming has been the most popular option for hybrid events for many year. Sometimes this is all that is needed, for example to broadcast an awards ceremony, fundraiser, or performance. The most popular live streaming platforms are YouTube, Vimeo, and Facebook. You can also use private alternatives embedded directly into your website to avoid music copyright issues that might arise on those popular sites or if you simply just want a private broadcast possibly behind a paywall. In its simplest form of a single streaming camera, this could be an affordable option. Adding in multiple cameras, multiple simulcast destinations, and remote locations are just a few of the factors that can increase cost.
Zoom (or other teleconferencing applications)
Zoom basically uses all of the same equipment of a live stream but adds in an audience engagement component. Your virtual attendees can attend all the same breakout and education sessions that in-person attendees do. You can even have your virtual attendees ask questions via chat or by displaying their video & audio onto the screens during the session. The one main area that zoom attendees will miss out on are the in-person interactions and networking opportunities. So, it is separate conferences, but with strategic planning this can be achieved. Zoom’s addition of sel-select breakout rooms makes it an even more appealing option to host multiple breakout sessions or “expo style” trade show booths for your virtual attendees. You can now also broadcast the same share screen to all break out rooms. A Zoom Meeting can host up to 1,000 people. Anything above 1,000 attendees move into the Zoom Webinar option. There are other similar platforms like Webex and Microsoft Teams, but in our experience, they are not as user friendly. Zoom is a great option for many virtual or hybrid events because of the cots and accessibility. Everyone if familiar with Zoom and its features might be all that some hybrid events need.
Virtual Event Platforms (Full Service)
A comprehensive virtual event platform like Whova or Cvent can help take your hybrid event to the next level. These platforms provide a one stop solution for all your virtual needs. It’s basically a combination of live streaming and Zoom in one option – but with so much more. Your virtual attendees can watch the live streamed sessions and engage in the Q&A in real time. These streamed sessions will also be available on demand for your virtual attendees in case they want to attend another simultaneous session. The biggest benefit of a full-service virtual event platform is security. All your conference content and attendee engagement is in one spot safely behind a login system. This is definitely the most expensive option since it combines all of the equipment of live streaming (sometimes with multiple rooms) and extra planning and staff for online only attendees.
Which is Right For You?
To decide which option is best for your event, it is recommended to bring in your event planning & technical team early to discuss the best way to achieve all your event objectives. It is also very important to survey your attendees and sponsors to find out what they want from a hybrid event or if they are even interested in a virtual option. It is no use spending all this money and time planning a virtual / hybrid event if not one is going to participate.
Another important consideration with any virtual or hybrid event is internet connection. None of this is possible without a good solid internet connection. Most venues can accommodate this but there are also wireless broadcast quality options for remote locations (depending on your event needs). And while superfast download speeds are great, It is really important to have a fast dedicated upload speed for each streaming feed (usually about 10mb).
And finally, the biggest question on everyone’s mind is budget! There are so many options and factors that go into a hybrid event,it is hard to give a one size fits all package pricing.But most options could start as low as a few thousand up to tens of thousands for multi day / multi breakout conference with hundreds of virtual attendees. The good news is that there are a lot of options and with enough early planning you can find the right solution