As we roll deeper into 2021, hybrid events have become more and more popular due to easing Covid restrictions. Events that were once in person had to become virtual last year to simply survive. Now organizations are mixing it up and offering the same event both live in person, and virtually.

Hybrid events are poised to become the new normal as companies and organizations look for ways to save money after 2020. These events signal less travel for fewer employees, smaller venue space needed to accommodate smaller crowds, and fewer hotel accommodations as well. Where host companies and organizations can save money through a hybrid event is the virtual side, through real-time streaming, on-demand options so attendees don’t miss anything, and customization based on attendee analytics. Host companies will enjoy a new revenue stream as hybrid events can scale from a few hundred to millions of participants with the right hybrid event platform.

What events make good hybrid events?
There are many opportunities to turn live or virtual events into hybrid events. Some great examples of hybrid events include: trade shows, conferences and summits, concerts, gaming competitions, product releases, auctions, sporting events, webinars, and more. Perhaps we should be asking what can’t be turned into a hybrid event.

Find inspiration
As creators of the live streaming Red5 XDN platform, which enables developers to build all kinds of new experiences, we get a unique perspective on what’s coming by simply helping our customers with their projects. If you want to throw a successful hybrid event but aren’t sure what one may look like, or how one is run, look no further. Get inspired to create your own hybrid events like these, with the right tools, like XDN. Check out these examples of hybrid events that help showcase the current landscape, and where hybrid events are headed in the future.

Apple Special Events
For all intents and purposes, Apple is the grandaddy of hybrid events. When Apple has a new product, or five, as they did this past April during their ever popular worldwide developers conference (WWDC) ‘21, all Tim Cook basically has to do is nestle said product(s) in his hands, and 2 MILLION+ people around the world tune in virtually to ogle. It’s Pavlovian at this point. Apple has a gorgeous library of past event videos for those who want to tune in later and really study the new product offerings. Apple events are always exciting, they generate so much buzz. Hopefully with future events, Apple can make these events more interactive and less passive. Who wouldn’t want to participate in an Apple event? Okay, perhaps you diehard Linux users and Android aficionados won't be too into it...

Austrian Wine Marketing Board
What is there to do for a wine association in the middle of a worldwide pandemic? One might first think “close shop,” but the opposite happened. Through dark times, the Austrian Wine Marketing Board created light. To gain footing in Russia, the wine marketing board held a “hybrid” Austrian wine tasting event in Moscow on November 23, 2020. The event was held for 160 wine professionals, including buyers and sommeliers, over two separate sessions. Each participant was given their own socially distanced table in person, where they tasted several hybrid wines from Austria, and subsequently learned about each product, grower, and vintner online, as they imbibed. The event was such a hit that the Austrian Wine Marketing Board is taking it to other international cities this year. The pandemic has affected how so many types of organizations do business, creating fluidity where there had been none in the past. The wine trade is no exception. Look what Napa Valley vintners are up to too. Perhaps more importantly, what could next year’s hybrid wine events look like?

Bleeker Street’s Save Yourselves! Hybrid film premiere
Did Alex Huston Fischer and Eleanor Wilson predict the pandemic a year before it struck worldwide? Well, no, not exactly. They’re the writer-directors of a Sundance fan favorite independent film, Save Yourselves! Save Yourselves! takes a cheeky look at an apocalyptic meltdown with a couple on a cabin getaway, on a tech break, when strange things start to happen, panic ensues. Written and produced in 2019, a solid year before the pandemic. The filmmakers turned to Addison Interactive’s Eventuall in September, 2020 to create a super fun, unique premiere. The movie was broadcast virtually, with a live intro from the directors, with some cool animations, then after the film, the cast surprised viewers and joined the directors for a special Q&A session, just like at Sundance. Hybrid film premieres are great because they invoke a feeling of attending something exclusive, as they are often intimate online crowds, but they have ample opportunity to scale to large crowds and to be inclusive.

HubSpot’s INBOUND 2020
Marketing, Sales, and Service CRM giant HubSpot was deeply affected by the pandemic, however they didn’t let it stop them from putting on their stellar annual conference, INBOUND, in September, 2020. INBOUND went from an event that was supposed to be three fun-filled days of speakers, panels, and incredible entertainment. Instead INBOUND was two fun-filled days of a virtual conference with the same incredible entertainment, like Jesse Williams, Kerry Washington, and John Legend. What was unique about this event, however, is that HubSpot created their own hybrid event platform specifically for INBOUND, which in turn gave access to almost 70,000 virtual attendees who tuned in for the conferences and discussions, and stayed for the social media and star power. INBOUND 2020 was graphics-heavy, so it took a while to fully load, and it wasn’t available on mobile devices, so hopefully HubSpot is ready for INBOUND 2021 with a few improvements.

Meeting Professionals International: WEC Grapevine
Meeting Professionals International is the largest meeting and event industry association in the world, with over 60,000 members through 70 chapters. These people really know what they’re doing when it comes to planning in-person events. Fast forward to November 2020, and MPI needed to pivot quickly for their WEC Grapevine event. They worked with Cvent’s Event Management solution to host over 600 attendees in person at the Gaylord Texan hotel, and over 1,100 attended virtually for one event, two experiences(tm) . There were 23 concurrent sessions, 5 general sessions, a Thought Leadership summit, a silent auction for charity, and much more. The WEC Grapevine hybrid event was a proven success for the event planning community. If this annual event continues to be a hybrid event, given the organization’s large member numbers, it will continue to grow and scale to reach more attendees.

SWM New Botanical Paper Offerings
SWM has history on its side. The company started in 1545, the Renaissance era, as a paper mill in the south of France. Now they are a leading supplier of paper goods, and late last year, they were excited to host their trade show on alternative, sustainable products. The pandemic of course made an in-person event impossible, so SWM turned to NexTechAR to go virtual. SWM hoped to get 100 attendees. Instead, they had well over 250 participants enjoy 9 live speakers, see new products in action through streamed and archived videos, and happily networked. NexTechAR helped SWM exceed event expectations and expand their business.  Hologram botanical paper offerings in the future? Yes, please!

Twitch’s GlitchCon
The pandemic may have temporarily wiped out TwitchCon, Twitch’s annual gathering of streamers, wild fans, vendors, gamers, cosplay enthusiasts, and oh so many others, but covid couldn’t stop the fun! Twitch looked within, and held their first ever fully streaming event, GlitchCon, on November 14, 2020. It was a 12-hour marathon that brought together 425 streamers to an intimate online crowd of 6.7 million viewers, with 175,000 concurrent viewers at one time. GlitchCon offered four main streaming channels, including /twitch, /twitchpresents, /twitchrivals, and /twitchgaming, plus one for the overall hub, keynote, and all afterparty entertainment. Some well known streamers were caught snipe streaming while gaming in a Rivals tournament, effectively getting themselves suspended for six months—something Twitch needs to correct. Twitch went big, so everyone at home could be safe, but had just as much fun as they would have at TwitchCon. It will be interesting to see what Twitch does this year as they will likely have in-person activity as well as virtual. If Twitch can get their broadcast latency down to real time to allow for true interactivity, GlitchCon 2021 could be one of the coolest events ever—virtual, hybrid, or otherwise.

Ermenegildo Zegna Fall/Winter 2021 Menswear Fashion Show
The fashion world lives and dies by the latest and greatest. The pandemic left designers scrambling for new ways to show their beautiful seasonal wares. Virtual shows weren’t necessarily new, but the Zegna Fall/Winter 2021 Menswear show in May, 2020 as part of the Milan Fashion Week Digital event, took the “phygital,” or physical/digital hybrid fashion show to a new level. The fashion house showcased scenes of their studio, of Italy, and finally, they built a dollhouse of sorts, with rows upon rows of boxed “rooms” with models draped in Zenga’s luxury line. For anyone tuning in, the effect was like a streaming video meeting service come to life, minus the sweatpants. The fashion world has a huge opportunity to create beautiful interactive events, as they long ago mastered virtual fashion shows, well before many other industries. How about live fashion house Q&As, or robotic or holographic introductions. There are so many ways fashion can take advantage of hybrid events.

Hybrid events work best with real-time streaming
Hybrid events are here to stay. They attract new, unexpected participants, create new revenue streams for host associations, and they’re less costly to produce. These events are proven to work best with the lowest latency streaming available.

There is a wide array of tools available to help build your own hybrid event of any size and scale. Look for ultra low to real-time latency such as Twilio Video Service, which uses WebRTC for streaming. While Twilio makes it very easy to build out a prototype or MVB, beware of their inability to scale past 3,000 subscribers in real time. Their per-stream-per-minute pricing model can also be cost prohibitive at scale. Wowza Streaming Cloud also provides multiple plan options for your budget, and they can scale for large groups, yet have run into issues with high latency. AWS’s new service IVS also scales to crowds in the millions, yet its latency of 3-5 seconds doesn’t allow for real-time interactivity, and the use of HTTP based protocols means that the streams themselves are not synchronized. This means that participants can fall out of sync in experiences like watch parties.

Red5 Pro’s WebRTC-based live streaming platform broadcasts to millions in real time, so virtual participants experience the same thing at the same time as in-person attendees. No lag, only captivation, deeper engagement, and greater ROI. For more information on Red5 Pro’s XDN platform and how real-time video streaming can work for you, contact info@red5pro.com, or schedule a call.

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