The following checklist was compiled by Michael Doyle, who serves as executive director of the Virtual Edge Institute and event director for the Virtual Edge Summit.
A hybrid event combines physical and virtual audiences around one event. You have an audience that is meeting face-to-face and an audience that also is participating in the event by attending online.
Preplanning • Determine what your business objectives, audience, content and budget are. Do you want to cut costs, drive new revenue, increase engagement, improve communication and productivity, or expand/extend the existing audience?
• Develop appropriate metrics, such as amount of money saved, number of attendees (physical/virtual), level of engagement or interaction, and revenue generated.
• Include input from all of the relevant stakeholders. Getting their input and support on your goals and strategy will be important to building a successful engagement.
• Use the stakeholder input to determine the timeline and the types of virtual elements that you add to your event.
• Plan out what the event strategy and user experience will be, and identify who is going to be responsible for executing the different tasks. Will you have exhibitors, sponsors and/or partners? Who will be involved in producing the event, both internally and externally?
• For first-time hybrid events, incorporate additional time for unknowns, such as technology hiccups, exhibitor and sponsor recruitment, virtual event development and the like.
Event Experience • Map out what an attendee will see and hear at the physical and virtual events. How will the content be displayed? Will you host the content or need a third party? Is this a one-time event, or will it be available 24/7/365?
• Determine how you will drive engagement with both of your audiences -- the physical and the virtual, as well as the communication between each. What are the primary drivers of engagement, who are the participants and what are the objectives for participants? Will you be leveraging existing activities or events?
• Consider what, if any, communication or networking features your attendees will be able to use. For example: Twitter streams, instant messaging to other attendees and exhibitors or sponsors, video chat capability, etc.
• Evaluate technologies based on which features you want, how content will be displayed and your budget. For example, will the content be streamed live or prerecorded, or will this be available on your website or via a third-party platform?
Technology Considerations • Start small: Event producers with less virtual-event experience can begin with less expensive solutions, such as streaming a session and adding to that a social-networking component.
• Survey your target audience to determine their comfort level with technology. Are they technology novices, early adopters of all types of technology or somewhere in between?
• Consider what level of service you need: "do-it-yourself" free streaming solutions, hired contractors or "white glove" nuts-to-bolts vendors.
• Evaluate the reliability, scalability and experience of all technology vendors. Will there be any hidden costs if your virtual attendance exceeds planned levels? Will the platform be able to scale accordingly? What is the track record of the platform for other customers who have events similar to yours?
• Plan for at least a T1 hard-wired Internet connection at your physical location to handle the streaming requirements.