What Does a Smart Hybrid Event Look Like?

Now that we’ve seen the value that virtual events have added to our marketing strategies over the past year, there’s no doubt that they are here to stay (albeit, to varying degrees) . Now, as we begin to re-incorporate in-person experiences to complement virtual events, the spotlight is on the hybrid model as a go-to for event professionals and marketers who are looking to combine the best of digital and in-person events; however, many event marketers have questions about what constitutes the best approach to hybrid event development.

In a recent webinar, Certain’s VP of Business Development, Wendy Phillips, and President of BW Events, Brandon Wernli, shared real-world examples of winning strategies and discussed tried-and-true best practices for creating smart hybrid events. Here are some of the key insights that they shared:

6 Components of a Smart Hybrid Event

Almost anyone can combine a live event with a virtual component and call it a hybrid event, but what does a “smart” hybrid event look like? Wendy Philips shares six essential elements for a winning hybrid event strategy:

  1. Smart Hybrid Events Start with Clear Objectives and Goals
    When business objectives are placed first on an event marketer’s priority list, the likelihood of having a successful outcome is dramatically increased. Clearly defined goals and KPIs inform team members about what should be tracked and measured, thus making it easy to determine what success looks like. You also need to have benchmarks in place that indicate whether you’ve met objectives, over-achieved or underperformed.
  2. You Must Have a Robust Data Capturing Platform
    Goals can’t be measured without capturing data. It’s not only important that data collection takes place at every engagement point in an event’s architecture, it’s vital that this data be unified. Fragmented or “siloed” data is harder to correlate with specific outcomes, and thus a clear picture of what contributed to a successful or less than stellar result can’t be fully known. Make certain to use a robust data collection platform that unifies every data point of your hybrid event, and can integrate all the valuable insights captured from virtual and in-person events into your sales and marketing stack.
  3. Create an Engaging Experience for Both Virtual and In-Person Audiences
    Hybrid event marketers need to focus on creating an engaging experience that satisfies the needs of both virtual and in-person audiences. Both groups should leave your event knowing they were fully accommodated and that one group was not slighted while the other was prioritized.
  4. Facilitate Cross-Audience Engagement
    Networking to build business relationships and generate leads is a key benefit of attending events. Encouraging interaction between virtual and in-person audiences may take a bit more ingenuity, but it’s a must-have for a successful hybrid event. Some example opportunities where virtual and in-person attendees can interact include break-out sessions, Q&As, discussion boards, and joint activities that pair virtual attendees with in-person attendees.
  5. Offer Convenient and Personalized Content
    Providing personalized, curated content to attendees heightens the value of their experience. Good data collection and data analysis are vital for supporting this level of engagement. By extending this extra service, attendees feel catered to, and you can influence them to take action at just the right time, driving them to interact more deeply with your event programming.
  6. Collect Key Insights That Accelerate Business Results
    With the previous five components of your smart hybrid event strategy in place, you’ll be in an optimized position to gather key insights from the data you’ve collected. This actionable data can then be applied to initiatives that generate leads, increase conversions, and grow revenue.

Best Tech for Success?

When it comes to hybrid event tech, Brandon noted one important point that he’s observed: there simply is no one-size-fits-all approach regarding which applications organizations use when developing their events. During 2020, a myriad of virtual event platforms were introduced to the market to meet the sudden spike in demand. While these applications handle virtual presentation well, they might not have been created based on any insights from in-person programs, as a result, they may oversimplify this aspect of the hybrid format.

It’s vital to use event management platforms that have the flexibility to sufficiently accommodate both virtual and in-person events. To ensure they have access to the appropriate tools to meet this requirement, companies are tweaking existing event models and curating individual technology stacks to meet their specific needs. What remains consistent is that utilizing unified, extensible platforms for event and data management leads to higher levels of success.

Real-World Examples of Smart Hybrid Event Success


Cisco, a long-time client of BW Events, has an “always-on” online event portal. Here they offer year-round access to live and on-demand training that attracts 30,000 attendees. Once a year the company hosts a live conference called World of Solutions and they stream the keynote sessions to a virtual audience using their always-on platform. Since this in-person conference is a huge revenue generator for Cisco, they were concerned that by streaming keynotes to a virtual audience, they might be cannibalizing their in-person event.

After conducting some data analysis, BW Events determined that not only was streaming part of the event to a virtual audience not cannibalizing the live event, it was increasing attendance numbers and generating $1.5 million in additional revenue. This encouraged Cisco to invest even more into their hybrid event model


Certain’s client, YWCA, hosted a multi-day national event that involved more than 30 of its U.S. branches. Using Certain’s event management platform and engagement app allowed the organization to provide hyper-personalized content that matched each branches’ community, and empowered smaller YWCA branches with limited staffing to take on a technically complex project. Use of the engagement app offered a number of ways to engage and connect audiences across the country – regardless of how they were attending – through discussion boards, activity feeds, surveys, polls and gamification. The result: the event had 65% higher participation than past events and attracted over 20,000 participants nationwide. And as an added bonus, YWCA exceeded their fundraising goals for the event.

Smart Hybrid Events are the Key to Hybrid Event Success

The events industry has experienced an incredible learning opportunity over the past year. Out of a crisis came quick strategies and new technologies that enabled organizations to pivot and continue with crucial audience engagement efforts. As we move past this historic point, it’s now time to take a more sophisticated approach to events strategies that were implemented to get through a crisis point. Until we’re back to fully in-person events, smart hybrid events look poised to be the format of choice for bolstering the benefits of virtual while tapping back into the long business tradition of face-to-face engagement.

Learn how Certain can make your next hybrid event a smart one. Contact us today to speak to one of our event experts.

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