Since the global pandemic, hybrid events have become an increasingly popular way to deliver meetings, training workshops, conferences, presentations, etc. They combine the personal elements of face-to-face events with the convenience, cost, and sustainability benefits of virtual events.
While most hybrid events take place live in real-time, there is growing interest in delivering asynchronous hybrid events, which allow attendees to participate in certain event elements at a time that better suits them. But what are the main benefits and drawbacks of asynchronous hybrid events, and how might you use them for your organization?
What is an asynchronous hybrid event?
Put simply, asynchronous hybrid events are the same as standard hybrid events, apart from the fact that some components of the event don’t have to be carried out simultaneously by all participants.
The viability of an asynchronous hybrid event depends primarily on the type of activities offered throughout your event. If it’s a full day of live talks from guest speakers, asynchronous activities probably won’t work. However, suppose your schedule is more fluid and contains well-being exercises, interactive displays, pre-recorded keynotes, or a scavenger hunt around the venue. It may be possible or desirable to have attendees participate at different times.
What are the benefits of asynchronous hybrid events?
Let’s say your event has a well-being room complete with massage chairs, meditation spaces, and yoga classes led by an expert. If your event capacity is 1,000 people, you don’t want everyone to descend on this room simultaneously. It is much better if attendees drift in and out of the room throughout the event to use the space when they need it.
This can take the pressure off event organizers, who don’t need to funnel everyone through an identical schedule all day and gives attendees the freedom to engage with activities at their own pace. It also means that you can opt for smaller spaces in your venue – a well-being room for 20 attendees at a time is a lot easier to come by than one for 1,000 people!
Another major benefit of asynchronous hybrid events is that they are more flexible for global or non-local attendees. If your event features a quiz, attendees in a different time zone who are joining virtually may prefer to participate in their own time, with scores collated and winners determined at the end of the event to ensure that everyone can get involved at a time that suits them. If the hybrid event includes pre-recorded keynote addresses or training modules, these elements can be played back on a loop or on-demand to create even more flexibility.
What are the challenges of asynchronous hybrid events?
One issue is that it can be challenging for event organizers to predict who will want to do what activities and when. If there are no limitations on when attendees can engage with each activity, you may end up with queues or long waits, leading to frustration from attendees.
Another challenge is ensuring that shared connections and experiences are maintained. When a team attends a hybrid event together, they will usually have the same experiences and participate in many of the same sessions, facilitating better bonding and the ability to share unique takes on each talk or activity. This can be lost if people are split up and doing their own thing. When all of your attendees aren’t based in the same location, it’s important to keep your hybrid events engaging.
How to make the most of asynchronous hybrid events
If you’re looking to introduce asynchronous hybrid events to your strategy, you must communicate the concept to your attendees. Emphasize which sessions and activities are available asynchronously, whether they can be completed virtually or in person, and the benefits of asynchronous access. This also means coming up with a straightforward way to present the asynchronous sessions separately from the main schedule – perhaps in a separate list or using an icon to clarify what can be done and when.
Asynchronous hybrid events are especially valuable for attendees across multiple time zones, who will appreciate the ability to engage with activities when it suits them. However, even for primarily local audiences, building some asynchronous activities into your event will allow them to explore their areas of interest in more detail or skip sessions less relevant to them.
Finally, it’s vital to understand what your event is about. There is likely little need for asynchronous components if it’s a simple knowledge-sharing session, such as a team meeting. In contrast, a large conference with a global audience would probably benefit from a more flexible schedule tailored to each attendee’s interests and availability.