Due to the challenges posed in the last year by the pandemic, hybrid events are set to be one of the biggest trends of 2021. When some people attend in-person and others tune in online, you can reach a huge number of people (and therefore sell more tickets) while working with COVID-19 measures. Not only are hybrid events more accessible, but they can also be a great back-up plan should restrictions change at short notice.
Unsurprisingly, the format is ideal for festivals of all kinds, which many have gotten used to engaging with from behind a screen. Here are our top festival organising guidelines for making your hybrid event a success this summer.
1. Think about accessibility
There are many reasons why some attendees may prefer to attend an event online, rather than in person. As well as COVID-19 concerns, they may have financial, health-related, or logistical barriers to contend with. When planning your virtual festival, think about how various features will translate into an online space, and consider making some elements exclusive to virtual attendees as an extra incentive. For example, performances can be either livestreamed or recorded in advance to be shown to those at home. Make sure to use software that’s straightforward for people to use, too, such as Zoom or Vimeo.
2. Consider ticket costs
When thinking about the ticketing strategy for your hybrid event, consider how to price the various experiences and how these prices will affect your bottom line. Will you charge every attendee the same, for example? Remember that online guests may expect to pay less if they can’t access certain facilities or features. But you can make your virtual ticket offering as valuable as the in-person options, by including freebies like lifetime access to recordings or pre-sent goodie bags of merchandise. If you’re charging less for a portion of your tickets, you’ll need to make sure you’re still covering all of your costs, like artist fees and catering. Hybrid festivals’ ability to have a much wider reach can help here, though, as a bigger potential audience can result in higher ticket sales.
3. Check the law
Mixing in-person and virtual formats means you’ll need to take extra care with legal checks before opening your doors. For a virtual music festival, for example, familiarise yourself with music streaming laws. You might need to apply for a music license via PRS to ensure that you’re not in breach of copyright. If hosting a virtual film festival, put in place additional security measures to make sure your screening is only accessible by ticket-holders and help to prevent illegal recordings or distribution. You could password-protect screenings and ask attendees to agree to terms and conditions before entering the virtual aspect of your festival. Plus, if your event involves any recording of audience participation, it’s important to ask attendees for permission up front and communicate how their data will be used. These steps are designed to get you thinking about the legal implications of hosting a virtual music festival, and it’s important to consult a legal advisor to make sure your festival is compliant with all applicable laws.
4. Make it immersive
Virtual guests want to feel just as included as in-person attendees and enjoy the buzz of your event. To facilitate this, make use of the interactive features offered by your chosen livestreaming platform or – if budget allows – create a virtual venue where guests can interact via online avatars. Keep online attendees engaged with polls, too, or let them socialise in smaller groups through breakout rooms. You’ll also want to consider the interaction between virtual and in-person guests. When promoting a hybrid music festival, for example, create a hashtag so that everyone can get involved in the online conversation and use a chat service that’s accessible to all ticket-holders on the day. (If you go down this route, ensure you have strong WiFi at your venue.) Don’t forget to test-run all the technology that you’ll be using in advance to check for and resolve any issues.
5. Market it right
Hybrid events require a subtle shift in thinking when it comes to marketing. You want to get across the message that there are a range of ways to attend, and emphasise what an exciting option it is to be able to choose the approach that guests feel most comfortable with. Consider undertaking a pre-event survey of your target audience, and use your learnings to speak directly to how attendees are feeling. For example, if they’re concerned about coronavirus transmission, you might include safety measures like social distancing and PPE policy in your marketing. And if they’re unsure how to attend virtual events, focus on how easy your chosen platform is to use.
6. Be ready for change
As we’ve seen over the last year, event restrictions can change at short notice. When planning your hybrid festival, it’s best to enter with an agile attitude and be ready to adapt if needed. The good news is that by opting to have a virtual event, you’re ready to make the seamless switch to solely hosting online if government guidelines rule out in-person meet-ups. It’s also useful to have a solid plan in place when it comes to refunds, so you can handle these quickly and easily. Make sure to communicate any and all back-up plans to your participants and staff so that everyone is on the same page.
The events of tomorrow
As the world slowly opens up again, hybrid events are a great way to ease back into the events scene and excite attendees from across the globe. If you’re a festival event organiser, use the tips above to help make sure that your hybrid event runs smoothly and successfully this summer.
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