How to Build a Hybrid Events Model for the Future

June 10, 2020

Linda Baker

Linda Baker is president of Conference Managers, a firm she founded 30 years ago to help association events with site selection, housing, logistics and more. She leads a team of experts who help clients create powerful experiences for their event participants.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the events industry. We know it’s unlikely that it will just be “over” and things will “go back to normal.” While it’s disheartening to think of what we’ve lost as an industry, we have the exciting opportunity to build a new and better events model. Once in-person events return, building a hybrid meetings model could position your organization for even greater success.

A virtual component added to your in-person experience, whether it is part of a single large annual event or separate stand-alone virtual conferences that connect stakeholders throughout the year, can bring multiple benefits to your organization. It can boost your meeting content by reaching a wider global audience, offer flexible timing and offer real-time engagement through live-streaming.

Here’s how to build a hybrid events model for the future:

Determine the Desired Outcomes of Your Hybrid Event

This process is twofold. Map out the outcomes you want from a virtual component itself and the outcomes you want from the overall hybrid meeting experience. Additionally, as you think about outcomes related to the virtual component, consider how they may differ from those of a solely in-person meeting so that you can align all of the stakeholders’ expectations.

Some examples of outcomes related to the virtual component include:

  • To deliver top-quality, timely education or research to attendees that can be immediately applied
  • To serve as additional touchpoint with members or your meeting community during the year
  • To give increased exposure to your in-person exhibitors (lead generation, brand visibility, providing thought leadership, conducting content presentations and demos)
  • To build a wider audience for future in-person events
  • To serve as a replacement or supplemental revenue stream for the organization

Some examples of outcomes related to the overall hybrid experience include:

  • To offer expanded networking opportunities within the industry
  • To offer exhibitors the ability to reach more members of the industry than just those who can attend in person
  • To provide education to a global audience that includes those unable to attend in-person
  • A longer shelf life for your content and education

Identify Your Hybrid Event Audience

You probably know who attends your event in person, but who else could you reach with virtual components? A hybrid event will be accessible to a wider audience such as young professionals, those who don’t have a travel budget or can’t afford to take extended time away from the office. To identify them, ask “If travel wasn’t a factor, what would motivate people to join our event?” Is it continuing education, networking, exhibits or something else? Can that motivating factor be delivered virtually in order to attract more attendees?

Source Enhanced Technology Solutions

Many technology platforms exist to deliver the virtual experience you desire. After you identify your outcomes, you can research platforms that offer features to facilitate networking, education, exhibits and more.

If you plan to connect your virtual component directly to your in-person event (for example through live-streaming of sessions), ensure the right internet and bandwidth are included in your facility contract. Address other audio-visual and internet needs for your hybrid event with your vendors so that you can deliver a highly produced experience.

Some ways to use technology ensure a positive experience for virtual attendees whether as a separate component or part of the in-person event include: 

  • Pre-recording presentations so that you have them ready if the streaming video fails
  • Allocating time for presenter orientation so that they are familiar with the platform’s functionality to ensure the sessions run smoothly
  • Troubleshooting technical glitches
  • Assigning a facilitator/moderator to engage the remote audience
  • Capturing real-time feedback
  • Planning for strong customer support
  • Treating attendees as collaborators through digital voting options throughout the planning process
  • Selecting software that allows for matchmaking, video calls and discussion boards within sessions.

Reimagine Event Content and Networking

Once you have the first three pieces of your hybrid event plan in place, you’ll be able to work creatively to build a powerful program for both in-person and virtual attendees. Infuse compelling content into your virtual and experiment with different ways to connect the two audiences. Activities such as job fairs and interviews can be held to connect your in-person attendees with virtual participants. You can also include the remote audience in focus groups, which could potentially benefit both the virtual attendee and your exhibitors or sponsors.

Good things often come out of difficult times. Adding more virtual opportunities to your events is definitely adding value for your community. Our world has become much more connected, and engaging global audiences is one more way we can share solutions and learn from each other.


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HERE, hosting responsible meetings and caring for our communities are top priorities. Through its 'Focused on What Matters: Embracing Humanity and Protecting the Planet' philosophy, MGM Resorts commits to creating a more sustainable future, while striving to make an impact in the lives of employees, guests, and the communities in which it operates. Water Stewardship Efforts MGM Resorts understands the importance of using water efficiently, especially in the desert destination of Las Vegas. Conserving water has always been part of the mission, but MGM Resorts has expanded its ambition into water stewardship. In 2022, MGM Resorts President and CEO Bill Hornbuckle signed the CEO Water Mandate—a UN Global Compact initiative mobilizing business leaders to advance water stewardship. MGM Resorts International was the first gaming company to take this important step. MGM Resorts replaced 200,000 square feet of real grass with drought-tolerant landscaping in Las Vegas. MGM Resorts pledges to reduce water withdrawal intensity by 33% by 2025 and by 35% by 2030. From 2007-2021, use of more than 5.6 billion gallons of water was avoided because of conservation efforts. Caring for One Another MGM Resorts’ Food Donations Program collects and preserves unserved food from conventions held at MGM Resorts properties, then safely donates to food insecure people in the community. Since the program’s launch in 2016, more than 3.7 million meals toward a 2025 goal of 5 million meals have been donated into the community. Donations include: Unserved perishable prepared foods from events Perishable unprepared food from MGM Resorts’ kitchens Nonperishable food items from minibars and warehouses The collaboration with Southern Nevada’s primary food bank, Three Square, has developed the infrastructure needed to safely collect, transport, and store food from MGM Resorts properties in Las Vegas, reducing food waste while serving the community. Fostering Diversity and Inclusion To MGM Resorts, a diverse and talented workforce is essential to success. By cultivating innovative strategies that consider multiple perspectives and viewpoints, the company creates an inclusive workplace culture that benefits its employees and community. MGM Resorts takes pride in being a welcoming home for veterans, individuals with disabilities, people from diverse backgrounds, LGBTQ+ community members, and more. This commitment to inclusion is reflected in the company's recruitment and hiring practices and its social responsibility initiatives. From the workplace to the community, MGM Resorts' commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion remains unwavering, and its efforts continue to create a more equitable and sustainable world for all. MGM Resorts understands its responsibility to contribute to the social and economic progress of the communities in which it operates. HERE, we embrace humanity.