We explore the potential of hybrid events, which are sure to grow in importance over the next few years
Over the past year and a half, charities have showcased their prowess in delivering high impact virtual events. Now, there are plenty of opportunities to blend old and new skills.
At Charity Digital, we see a bright future in hybrid charity events.
Charities have taken virtual events by storm. Digital events are helping charities to reach new supporters, and, in some cases, proving more cost-effective than in-person events.
Virtual events are also being deployed to replace in-person fundraisers. From digital auctions to athletic challenges, charity leaders are using new ideas to rally donors. Like many businesses and organisations facing pandemic uncertainty, the new normal is virtual.
With the potential return to pre-lockdown normal just around the corner, it does seem appropriate to think about how live events can return to the charity tool box.
But most charities won’t be letting go of their virtual event skills any time soon.
Instead of returning fully to in-person events, hybrid events are pushing into the spotlight. Combining both virtual and live elements, hybrid events are opportunities to get the benefits of both types of engagement.
Hybrid events take virtual and in-real-life (IRL) elements and blend them together to create an event accessible to more supporters. They can also act as a hedge to any new lockdown measures threatening to cancel IRL fundraisers. Best of all, some of these events don’t require any additional tools beyond those already acquired over the lockdown period.
Exploring what hybrid events look like, we take a closer look at what’s possible.
Wanting to celebrate during 2020’s lockdown, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust used a hybrid event model to host its annual Memorial Day Ceremony. Prior to the pandemic, the charity hosted the event in a live format with performers on stage and 1,000 seats for guests.
Due to the pandemic, organisers used digital to recreate elements of the ceremony. Film crews and production agents took the event online by creating content suitable for livestreaming. Coordinating through digital communication prior to the event, guests were also invited to light candles to commemorate survivors. Phone lines were added during the broadcast for those audiences with technical difficulties.
The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust’s hybrid event was a huge success. The candle lighting aspect kept audiences engaged throughout the livestream, with bespoke candles being lit by special guests.
The benefits of the hybrid event included taking previously recorded content online and increasing reach. Unlike IRL events, the hybrid format meant that the charity could go national, tapping into audiences from across the country.
Overall, 25,000 views were captured versus the IRL audience cap of 1,000 seats.
Planning a hybrid event uses the best of both worlds. To mesh event types, make sure that virtual and IRL activities link together. For the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, for example, that meant lighting candles virtually and IRL at the same time.
Other examples of coordination could be a silent auction, where bids are accepted from both virtual and IRL guests at the same time.
Mobile phone technology offers so much potential for digital and IRL engagement. Hybrid events can take advantage of this tool. Sports charities could use mobile phones to track race participants, for example. Following the race, activities could shift online for efforts.
For charities who already have mobile apps, the potential to showcase livestream tracking of participants could lead to interactive games, races and other events.
To note, conference organisers already use this type of technology to enable virtual and IRL participants to send messages to each other during events.
Simultaneous question and answer sessions, quizzes, and discussions are just some of the ways hybrid event organisers can build engaging events.
Finally, don’t forget about the virtual skills you’ve learned during the pandemic. Make sure to get the word out before your event on social media. Be clear about how participants can engage.
During the event, post your livestream or pre-recorded event. For those who are hosting a fundraising event, providing digital updates in real time can create a sense of urgency to donate. Remember to thank your audiences either in IRL, by post, or e-mail.