© KölnTourismus GmbH, Foto: Dieter Jacobi

Planning a hybrid event

What is a hybrid event?

Hybrid events mix physical with digital participation. Some people attend in person – others digitally. Offering participants, the option of attending in real life or digitally allows organizers to reach an even larger audience.

At hybrid events, organizers live stream presentations but also involve their online audiences interactively in real time at the event itself. Asking questions, joining in the conversation, networking, voting digitally – ideally, these are all part of a hybrid event. 

Hybrid conferences, seminars, and trade fairs etc. have been part of the event industry for many years. But the hygiene and social distancing rules introduced during the 2019 pandemic have had a lasting impact on the acceptance, resonance, growth and delivery of hybrid meetings, conferences, workshops, and events. Step by step, hybrid events have established themselves as a sustainable event format. Guests appreciate the ability to attend safely from any location, save time and money, and remain flexible, while organizers, speakers, and participants are pleased to be proactive even in challenging times, to meet in person, and make new contacts.

But for hybrid conferences to be successful from start to finish, it takes – as with other events – long-term planning, plenty of experience, an extensive network, state-of-the-art technology and a lot of heart and soul. 

Find out how to successfully plan your hybrid events here.

The pros and cons of hybrid events

The advantages hybrid events offer compared to purely virtual or real-life events are greater flexibility, reach and the ability to choose how you attend. For those unable to organize a time-consuming journey to and from the event, for instance, or want to make savings (travel and hotel costs), hybrid events provide a great alternative to conventional formats even in times of normality. 

Hybrid events also enable you to record your event in its entirety and send it to participants afterwards. In addition, the content of your event can be kept up to date, viewed and discussed long after the actual event has ended. This creates added value.

Hybrid events pose a number of challenges,too. While they can make networking feel special, reduced face-to-face communication can also have a negative impact – as can the potential lack of interaction between digital and on-site participants. Also, some participants tend to engage in less spontaneous networking during coffee breaks. 

Planning a hybrid event therefore requires you to think and plan interactively. Not only do you need an on-site moderator, but also someone to take care of your digital participants. The financial and organizational effort can also be higher depending on the extend of the event’s planning requirements.

When to go hybrid?

The answer to this question lies in the event concept and its feasibility. Creating a sense of belonging among participants is key to organizing a successful hybrid event.

Consider planning a hybrid event if you:

  • can solve the technical and creative-conceptual challenges
  • are not put off by the effort and level of organization involved
  • want to address an international or location-independent target group 
  • want to try something new to advance your overall plans (e.g. promoting your brand)

Guide for planning a hybrid event

Assuming you have weighed everything up and decided to organize a hybrid event, to ensure your success it's best to plan things well in advance.  Do you have a large professional network, colleagues or acquaintances who have already organized an event of this kind? Very good – their experience will benefit you.



1. Defining the goals
2. Set the budget
3. Selecting the venue and the right technology
4. Set up & Programme
5. Follow up & Evaluation

1. Defining the goals

The goals of a hybrid event are basically no different from those of any other event format. It always starts with the question: Which target group needs to be inspired with which idea and how can I best reach this target group? But there is another important aspect to a hybrid event: How do you turn your event into an experience that will captivate attendees both physically and digitally? 

Make it one of your goals to know which outcome is most important for your hybrid event and align your practical and creative ideas accordingly.

Additional goals can include

  • Interaction (networking, cooperation, exchange)
  • Financial added value (ticket sales, sponsorship money, product sales)
  • Information (exchange of knowledge, provision of content)
  • Satisfaction (particularly important for event series)

2. Set the budget

Hybrid events may require bigger budgets than conventional events. Your budget plans will largely determine which ideas and options will work – and which are beyond the scope of your budget.

Let's first take a look at a selection of possible basic cost items: 

  • Internal costs (such as preparatory meetings, research, rehearsal and technical checks, documentation, and follow-ups, etc.).
  • Costs for the registration software, payment and/or cancellation processes for participants 
  • Costs for pre-produced digital content (to ensure the best possible quality for your digital participants)
  • Event location hire
  • Stage decoration / backgrounds
  • Hotel or logic costs
  • Catering 
  • Moderators, speakers, speakers 
  • Decoration and visualization in the premises 
  • Give-aways for the participants 
  • Entertainment add-ons (such as online games, virtual city tours, etc.)
  • Printing of programs and conference material, printing of print advertising if necessary 
  • Hostesses, security services, technicians, set-up and dismantling, support, online support 
  • Marketing (possibly online advertising such as Google Ads and social media ads)
  • Hygiene materials such as disinfectant dispensers, if applicable
  • Possible agency costs

In addition to these costs, hybrid events also incur costs for specialist technology, as well as its installation, maintenance, and support. In the next section we discuss which technical solutions you really need.

3. Selecting the venue and the right technology

A hybrid event requires more sophisticated technology and therefore a higher equipment level than a pure face-to-face event. Specifically, you will need:

  • a reliable streaming platform 
  • high-quality camera technology equipped with several cameras for different perspectives
  • very good microphones, both for the speakers and for questions from the audience
  • speakers, lecterns, screens, projectors (may already be available at the location)
  • technology sets for the speakers (also for home office)
  • a reliable high-speed internet connection 
  • computers for your technicians to monitor and moderate the live stream transmission

Successful hybrid events are built on reliable technical infrastructure. Like a well-oiled machine, the technology and its operators need to work closely together to ensure that everything runs smoothly. The associated costs depend primarily on how you go about making your event digitally accessible. The length and type (live stream, on-demand or simulcast) of broadcast, the number of video sessions and digital broadcast rooms all influence the cost of your IT infrastructure, as well as that of the software licenses.

Our tip: Technological equipment can be rented or leased easily and does not necessarily have to be purchased! This keeps your costs down.

Ideally, the venue you choose for your hybrid event should support the technical infrastructure your event requires. This does not concern suitable seating, accessibility, security, and parking facilities. Rather, the hybrid aspect of your event needs to be considered from the outset:

  • Does the location need specific lighting? 
  • What kind of camera perspectives does the location offer? 
  • Is there a suitable technical infrastructure already in place?
  • How fast and stable is the internet connection? 
  • What are the room acoustics like? Is there any background noise?
  • Is it possible to set up a separate control room?

4. Set up & Programme

The smooth running of your hybrid event is just as important as choosing the right location or technical infrastructure. The best way to do this is to follow the steps below:

  • Create a schedule for all your stakeholders (service providers, moderators, assistants, etc.) 
  • Designate a main person responsible (including telephone number) in each case
  • Test the stability and functionality of your digital platform early on
  • Be mindful of data protection rules and on-site process security 
  • Carefully prepare the portal for your event, for example by designing it (or having it designed) in your corporate design, uploading pre-produced content, integrating sponsors and sending a guide to digital participants 
  • Test which camera settings and microphone positions are most suitable (the real-life moderator should also be able to speak directly to the digital participants via the camera) and arrange trial dates with some speakers
  • Make sure that the event content is accessible digitally without issues arising (it is harder to keep your virtual participants on screen than it is to keep your face-to-face participants in the room) 
  • Consider whether and if so, which content you would like to make available digitally as evergreen content afterwards

Be prepared for all eventualities. To ensure a smooth process, it is advisable to build in buffer times and, above all, have a (creative) plan B ready for technical failures and disruptions.

5. Follow up & Evaluation

The last canapés have been eaten, and the last hands shaken. Is it over? Not quite – the follow-up for your hybrid event is still to come. Your event is only as successful as your participants are satisfied. Now it's time to find out how well it was received. In addition to the usage statistics accessible in the backend of your streaming platform, obtaining personal feedback is also a good idea. It is a central pillar for measuring the success of your event. For example, you can collect feedback with a thank-you email a few days after the event. A nice sincere message increases the chance that participants will response to questionnaires. Web applications such as SurveyMonkey, LimeSurvey, Typeform or Google Forms are useful survey tools.

For the purposes of internal performance measurement, it is also important to compare outcomes with the goals you set at the beginning: Which goals did you acheive? What additional goals were met? In which areas did the participants expect more? How did your participants react to unexpected situations? These and similar critical questions are important if you want to better adapt future hybrid events to the needs and wishes of the participants. Don't shy away from criticism – we welcome constructive suggestions!



How to promote interaction between physical and virtual participants?

An easy way of doing this is to integrate questions and comments from digital participants into the physical plenary session. It is best to avoid running a purely "frontal event". Be creative and mix methods and formats. Hybrid discussions, live surveys, speed networking, world cafés and interactive games are all worth considering. 

If you have something left in your budget (and are planning a large and perhaps international hybrid event), setting up an event app might be worthwhile. In addition to networking with physical and digital attendees, this allows you to address participants directly, via news feeds for instance. 

© ANDRANIK HAKOBYAN; Shutterstock.com

Download checklist and start planning your event!

Need a precise and detailed checklist that shows you all your important event planning points at a glance? No problem! 

The Cologne Convention Bureau is here to help you plan your event successfully and confidently. Our checklist is available for you to download - ensuring that your event turns out to be an enriching experience.