Zoom on Zoom: 6 takeaways from our largest hybrid event to date
Hybrid events have come a long way since those early months of 2020 when we had to quickly transform our in-person events into entirely virtual experiences. The hybrid work style is a hot topic at the moment, but what is a hybrid event? In its simplest form, a hybrid event is any event that uses technology to bring remote and in-person attendees together for a live experience. We’ve all experienced a hybrid event in some form, whether it’s dialing into a work meeting from home when your child is sick or watching a live match on TV with friends at your local restaurant.
Today, you can create a jaw-dropping event from anywhere and expand your audience beyond the traditional walls of a conference center or event space. That means more leads and ROI for brands. It’s also what audiences have come to expect as a more flexible hybrid workplace becomes the norm. This shift and the many benefits of hybrid events make having a virtual component to your live experience a valuable must-have as you plan your future event strategy.
At Zoom, we recently hosted our 2023 user conference, Zoomtopia, on our own hybrid events platform, Zoom Events. We’re taking you behind the scenes to share our takeaways and show you why a hybrid strategy is the future for events.
1. A bigger audience creates a bigger impact
The first and most obvious benefit of any hybrid event is scale and all the advantages that come with expanding your reach. With the right tools for managing leads, your event can be one of your most crucial channels for creating ROI and awareness.
Of course, more attendees can mean more complexity. Careful and early planning is necessary to reap the clear benefits of a larger audience. The goal is to create one integrated event rather than two distinct experiences. For Zoomtopia, we used Zoom Events to bring all virtual and in-person attendees together in the event lobby. Having one central event hub made it much easier to manage and helped in-person and virtual audience members feel involved.
With all event participants registered and networking in one platform, tracking pipeline and pulling insights was also straightforward. Integrating our customer relationship management (CRM) platform and tapping into Zoom Events’ post-event analytics reports made it possible to pull rich data analytics.
2. Technology helps create an equitable hybrid event
When your audience feels included no matter where they are, it can help increase your engagement and make your targets easier to reach. But how can you create an equitable experience for every participant? Someone sitting in their home office with their cat on their lap won’t have the same experience as someone moving and grooving around an in-person event. But there are many ways you can make everyone part of the experience in a way that’s valuable to them.
Everyone who registered for Zoomtopia, whether in-person or virtual, could set up their own profile, browse sessions, build their agenda, network, and access resources before and during the two-day event. We even included some behind-the-scenes tours to show everyone how it came together — because who doesn’t like a sneak peek behind the curtain? We kept the momentum going from the moment Eric Yuan zoooooomed onto the stage for the keynote until Charlie Munger saw us out with his wise words at the event closing.
The key moments that helped virtual attendees stay top of mind included:
- Giving online participants the chance to appear live on the speaker stage screen
- Having virtual MCs host and field questions in each session
- Hosting live chat and Q&A for all virtual and in-person participants via the dedicated mobile app
- Encouraging participants to use the emoji tool. Emojis brought the 🔥 to all our sessions, with attendees reacting in real-time worldwide
All of these additions helped those at home, in their office, and at the venue feel like they were part of the action, reducing the drop-out rate and increasing engagement across the board.
Making your event equitable also means making it accessible. Sign language interpreters and AI-generated live transcription enabled audience members who are deaf or hard of hearing to participate, while live translation helped us expand our global reach. By translating Zoomtopia sessions into 17 languages, attendees were able to tune in to Zoomtopia from desktops, laptops, and mobile devices in locations across the globe.
3. AI makes hybrid event planning easier
With such a large-scale event as Zoomtopia, every minute counts. Zoom AI Companion, our AI assistant, was a lifesaver when managing lots of moving pieces. Our meeting summaries, for example, helped the team stay informed when they couldn’t attend the many planning meetings leading up to the event due to packed schedules. Since our team uses Zoom Team Chat to work together, we also leaned on AI Companion to help compose messages. This handy tool saved us valuable time and helped us communicate more efficiently when juggling multiple event workstreams.
Coming to Zoom Events on November 20, we’ve got even more AI-powered capabilities to help event hosts and attendees. The ability to compose AI-generated Zoom Events chat messages in the event lobby will enable attendees and hosts to quickly connect with other guests without losing focus on the live session content. Plus, hosts will be able to compose emails with AI Companion, taking the heavy lift out of administrative tasks behind the scenes by quickly generating invitation and marketing emails through the Zoom Events platform.
4. Prepare for the unexpected
Putting on a large-scale event takes careful planning, but even the most meticulously planned events can throw us curveballs. Having an events platform that’s easy to use helps your team streamline production and stay in sync, reducing the chance of any potential hiccups. If your event has a regular cadence, closely examining the analytics can also help you prepare more thoroughly for the next one.
The Zoom Events platform guides you through a simple step-by-step process to help you build your event from scratch. For Zoomtopia, we added the support of our Event Services team, who are available as an add-on to provide technical and production expertise to customers for more complex hybrid events. We also took a look at last year’s data to analyze attendee behavior and reactions to inform and thoroughly prep our 2023 strategy.
When it comes to showtime, a few things will give you peace of mind when putting on a hybrid event. The first is the Zoom Events backstage capability. This feature is effectively a virtual green room where your panelists can get prepped and chat behind the scenes, helping ensure a seamless flow to the live session. Secondly, for those unforeseen travel delays and other last-minute changes to the event speaker lineup, having a virtual component ensures the show may still go on.
5. Save valuable resources
The headcount is the most apparent hybrid event cost savings; fewer in-person attendees and speakers means fewer people on the ground. But there’s also the possibility of saving on the event’s production.
We used Zoom Events’ built-in production studio to create TV-quality graphics for our virtual audience during breakout content sessions to avoid hefty production costs. Along with helping make the event build more cost-effective, production studio simplifies event operations by enabling one operator to run the entire virtual show from their laptop.
There’s no need to invest in a separate platform when finding a home for post-event content. All of our Zoomtopia sessions and resources live on in the event lobby. Our team can pull assets from this on-demand event library, repurpose them into evergreen content, and share them across multiple platforms.
6. Reduce your carbon footprint
Sustainability is another significant benefit of hybrid events. With fewer speakers and attendees traveling to the event and less printed collateral needed on-site, you can help reduce your business’s carbon footprint. With the White House’s goal of achieving a net-zero emissions economy by 2050, every business is looking at ways to expand their sustainable practices. Hosting more hybrid and virtual events is one way you can support your business’ environmental goals.
The benefits of hybrid events are shaping the future
When virtual-only events became necessary in 2020, we discovered that hosting a successful experience online was possible. Returning to in-person events in 2022 was a novelty for all involved after such a long break. We quickly learned what makes a great on-site experience and how valuable a virtual component can be. Zoomtopia 2022 was our first large-scale hybrid event, allowing us to test features that we’ve since embedded in Zoom Events and demonstrated at this year’s event.
At Zoomtopia 2023, we had a blast using the full Zoom Events platform and discovering all the benefits of hybrid events. We saw firsthand how taking the best of both scenarios and building an outstanding hybrid event can help you expand your reach and generate demand cost-effectively and sustainably. Having achieved ten times the attendance of previous years, engaged a global audience, and collected bundles of content we can use throughout the year, we’re excited to continue evolving our hybrid event strategy as we move into 2024. We hope you’ll join us on the adventure!
Find out more about how Zoom Events can help you with your next hybrid event.