What are the Cost Considerations for a Hybrid Event?Tuesday, June 15, 2021
By: Guest Blogger Brian Lagestee, CEO, Clarity Experiences
Tips on How to Budget for a Hybrid Event
2021 and beyond is going to be all about hybrid events, so it is important to know the costs to consider and effectively budget for all elements of a hybrid event, as it is quite different than in-person and virtual-only events.
As we look at the price structure for hybrid events, it is vital to consider production budgets for both your onsite elements and your virtual elements. Depending on the overall goals and vision for your hybrid event, your production costs could increase slightly or more than double your event budget.
Regardless of the type of event you are producing, it is important to focus on your audience needs and the purpose and value of your events. If you focus on that, your in-person, virtual, or hybrid event will be remarkable!
What costs should be included in a hybrid event?
So, what does it cost to put on a hybrid event? For starters, your venue space will be about same as it was pre-Covid due to social distancing and safety guidelines, which can vary from state to state and even city by city.
The programs you want to present to your virtual audience (i.e., general session, conference sessions, breakouts, chat rooms, etc.) will impact your virtual event costs, as well as the program schedule. If planning concurrent programs – in-person and virtual events on the same days - your budget will be higher because of the live streaming costs and production staff needed to produce both events at the same time. If you present your virtual event after your in-person event, but spread it out over more days or weeks, you may need more staff and contractors to manage the production.
While setting a budget for a hybrid event is going to be unique to each event based on the requirements, below are a few rough budget number examples to consider when planning and budgeting a hybrid event compared to your 2019 in-person event:
- For small in-person events costing on average $25k-$35k, budgets should be increased to $50k for hybrid event
- For mid-size in-person events costing on average $50K-$75K, budgets should be increased to $75k-$120k.
- For full-scale events that had a production budget of $100k +, you should plan at least an increase of 150% for your in-person event for the hybrid event.
What are the biggest differentiating cost factors between in-person and virtual events with hybrid being the in-between?
What are the biggest differentiating cost factors for hybrid events? In a traditional in-person event, you can cram your audience into a tight space and the content is only projected to the audience onsite. With hybrid events, you may have half the number of in-person attendees, but you will still need a similar size room to allow for social distancing and complete A/V set up (screen, stage, and environment). Additional costs for the virtual event can include (but are not limited to):
- Broadband onsite
- Production equipment and crew (including travel & expenses) for live streaming and recording sessions to present post-event
- Virtual technology platform license and hosting costs
- Sales for virtual exhibits and sponsorships
- Marketing to reach an expanded audience (international attendees and those that cannot or will not travel to an event)
There are other cost factors for virtual events, as well as cost considerations for streaming live or recording the program for viewing by a virtual audience on demand.
What is the cost impact on the event design side?
When talking about the cost impact on the design side, you have to consider your virtual audience needs separately from your onsite audience. This does take some creative planning on how you produce and present your program. For example, having more cameras to show different angles of the speakers and the audience can improve engagement for your virtual audience. This takes additional camera equipment and operators around the room and on stage.
Having a broadcast host can help to engage both virtual and onsite audiences. This can include a “news crew” roaming onsite or a central studio or news desk with hosts like CES set up at Microsoft headquarters for their entire 2021 virtual event. This is a great opportunity to capture content from your event, including participant interviews, speaker Q&A after a session, recap of the day, or a featured presentation on an exhibitor or sponsor.
If budget is not a concern, then two separate central environments can be created to address the different needs of each audience. For example, the general session room acts like the central hub for an in-person event, but it is hard to recreate that same onsite energy and buzz for the virtual audience. Having a separate virtual studio in another room at the venue to keep the virtual audience engaged in between sessions is key. Once presenters take the stage, the program switches to the live general session or individual education sessions. Many convention centers and hotels are offering a ‘ready-make’ studio onsite for this very reason.
However, costs can be expensive to create two separate production environments, so organizers should look for ways to create one central broadcast “hub” that can present to both audiences.
Do meeting planners need to think about pre-recorded sessions in a hybrid event?
Yes, yes, yes! Not only will some of your attendees not be able to attend the in-person event, but some of your speakers may not be able to travel or attend in-person. Trying to produce sessions with some presenters onsite and some remote can be difficult and costly, so you may want to pre-record sessions prior to the event where speakers are remote, and only have speakers live for audience Q&A after the session. This will not only help to eliminate production issues that can occur when you are producing live sessions with speakers in multiple locations but can keep costs lower than producing live streamed sessions.
Travel restrictions will be an issue through at least 2022 or 2023, so planning and budgeting for a combination of live presenters and remote and pre-recording some sessions for the foreseeable future is a must.
How long does it take to plan a hybrid event?
It takes the same amount of time to plan your virtual components as it does your in-person event. Many organizers did not allow for sufficient time to plan and execute their virtual events last year, resulting in lower attendance and revenue results, and missed opportunities.
Make sure to develop your event operating plan at least a year out, so you can effectively budget for all the new costs associated with virtual components, plan all the steps and components, and execute both the in-person and virtual event successfully.
Let Clarity help you with your next hybrid event:
When it comes to hybrid events, you have a lot of different options you can choose from, and it might seem daunting to get it all started and implement. Clarity is your partner and can help you plan every element to ensure your next hybrid event is a success.[KV1]