Hybrid events usually describe business-related events such as trade shows, conferences, or seminars, but they have already outgrown their original description. While the discourse has mostly been about business-to-business corporations adapting their events, they aren’t the only ones thinking about going hybrid. The arts & culture industry which relied heavily on in-person events pre-pandemic was forced to quickly adapt to a digital landscape. Theatres, museums, festivals, and art exhibitions found a multitude of ways to reach their audience virtually. And a lot of them saw successful results. 

Moving forward, hybrid events won’t be exclusive to corporate seminars discussing business trends and economic predictions. My guess is that the best hybrid events in the coming years will be created by arts performers and curators who will entertain viewers across the world. And it’s already happening!

We saw the Metropolitan Opera provide live-streamed concerts in breathtaking locations around the world. The Louvre released the Petite Galerie virtual tours around topics like founding myths and political power. Even Tomorrowland created an entirely immersive digital festival: Tomorrowland Around The World. Digital events have proven to be both successful and entertaining, so what will they look like when in-person gatherings begin again?

The goal isn’t to get rid of in-person events, but rather increase their quality and make them more accessible. The reality is that not everyone has the resources or time to attend events in person. Not only that, those who do might want to relive them in more detail. 

Think about Netflix’s music documentaries.

If you were lucky enough to see Beyonce’s outstanding performance at Coachella, odds are you also watched her Homecoming documentary. You got the best of both worlds: you got to feel the electric energy of the crowd, but you also got to see an intimate and in-depth look at the performance at home. These are exactly the types of hybrid experiences we want to see more of when it comes to arts and culture. Those who can and want to attend get to have an amazing experience, but those who can’t still get to feel the magic online. 

Obviously not everyone can make a Beyonce level production, so what options are there for successful hybrid events that don’t require as big of a budget?

Virtual Tours & 3D Objects

If you focus mostly on tours or collection displays, virtual tours and 3D imaging would be a great addition to your digital strategy.

What are Virtual Tours?

Virtual tours, also known as 360-tours, are panoramic pictures that are strung together to create a 3D view of a space.  Similar to Google Maps, you are able to use your mouse or keys to visit a space and view objects. This is particularly valuable for museums and exhibitions where you can interact with the objects on screen as well as read their stories.

RELATED: Sounds Like Toronto: Creating an Accessible and Interactive Digital Exhibit

What is 3D Imaging?

Via Sounds Like Toronto

Another option that really puts the focus on the object versus the space is 3D imaging. A 3D image is essentially a three-dimensional digital scan of an object that can be uploaded and distributed online. Again, this is most valuable for museums and exhibitions where users can look at an object up close, even at a granular level. 

A great example is Google Arts & Culture, which offers educational experiences where you can zoom in to see paintings by Van Gogh in insane detail, something you wouldn’t be able to experience inside a museum. But the fact that virtual experiences allow viewers to experience art more in-depth shouldn’t be a worry for your in-person attendee goals. It should actually be embraced. 

Experiencing art and history in the flesh will always be a sensory experience that digital cannot replace (not yet anyway). The point of having a digital option is to make the arts more widely accessible while kindling a deeper connection.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

If you’re looking for a more immersive experience that transports your viewers into a world of your creation, virtual or augmented reality can do just that.

Virtual Reality vs. Augmented Reality

Virtual reality is when an individual uses electronic equipment, such as a headset, to view a computer-generated 3D environment – think of your classic VR gaming equipment with goggles. Augmented reality is slightly different because it adds images to your surrounding, such as e-commerce platforms where you can try on items using a mobile camera.

Google Arts & Culture created Google Cardboard, which is a more accessible way to experience virtual reality with your mobile phone. They currently offer 9 virtual tours including the construction of the Statue of Liberty or the tour of Hong Kong’s Blue House. They also offer augmented reality on their mobile app where you can see life size versions of Van Gogh’s art in your own living room, try on filters based on museum artefacts, or discover art that matches your selfies. 

Via Google Arts & Culture

Virtual reality doesn’t have to be limited to museums and galleries. Lost Horizon is a completely immersive digital music festival first released in July 2020. Viewers could use their VR headset for an entire digital experience, create their own unique avatar, and meet people from all over the world.

Although these events sound exclusively digital, there are ways to incorporate them into hybrid events. Augmented reality options like virtual artefacts or paintings can be made available concurrently during in-person museum exhibits, or even once they’re over. It can also be used as a tool to build hype around in-person events to convince viewers to visit.

Live Streaming and High Quality Videos

A more affordable and flexible option is live streaming. Live streaming grew tremendously over the past year and it’s proving to be a great medium for many industries, but especially arts and culture.

Live streaming can be adapted to any event whether it’s a musical performance, like Boiler Room’s DJ live streams, or an aquarium exhibit, like Georgia Aquarium’s Jellyfish live stream. They are great for capturing real moments with people in a digital setting while also being able to have a live audience. 

If live-streaming isn’t possible, high-quality videos can also be adapted to hybrid events. Exclusive videos such as interviews or short films can be viewed in person and made available online.

High-quality videos are already used frequently by arts & culture organizations, the difference when it comes to hybrid events is knowing how you’ll leverage those videos. Will they only be available for a limited time? Will viewers have to pay a one-time fee or subscribe to access them? The idea is to have a strategy that is in sync with live events to make online viewers feel connected through mutual experience.

Modular Web Design and Digital Exhibits

Once you’ve decided how you want to incorporate digital content into your in-person events, it will all come together using modular web design and digital exhibits!

What is Modular Web Design?

Modular web design builds websites using content modules also known as block grid patterns. It’s a solution to the rigid nature of page templates which is centred around specific web pages or groups of pages. With modular design, everything is centred around content modules.  Each module is a collection of generic elements like images, texts, and buttons which can then be combined together in an infinite number of ways.

Modular design is perfect for hybrid events because users can explore your site without feeling like they are reading repetitive and unoriginal templates. By focusing on the content instead of the site’s structure, you can tell captivating stories and build deeper connections with your audience. Which is extremely important when it comes to digital entertainment.

To maintain engagement and create more active experiences, you want to avoid digital components that feel out of date. The beauty of modular web design is that your website can grow and evolve as you do. It also requires less agency support and it’s cheaper overall. 

Modular web design isn’t exclusive to hybrid events and should become the new baseline as page templates are phased out. But it is a method of web design you should be aware of to create a successful digital event. It’s also the best way to build modern digital exhibits, which are quickly growing among arts and culture organizations.

What is a Digital Exhibit?

Mostly created by museums, libraries, and galleries, digital exhibits are a collection of items and knowledge that has been digitized. Digital exhibits can include 3D imaging, virtual tours, audio and text. 

Although digital exhibits aren’t a new concept, over the past year galleries and museums have been turning to digital facing programs to stay in touch with their audience. With live events starting to take place again, many are wondering how they can be adapted to hybrid events. 

The Garage Museum of Contemporary Art has already mastered the duality of digital and live events. They released an online platform, Garage Digital, dedicated to exploring virtual reality, live broadcasts, and other advanced technologies. They offer a variety of exclusively online and hybrid events some of which are available on their YouTube channel.

Hybrid Events Are the Future

All the virtual experiences that were created over the past year have shown arts and culture organizations that these events can have positive results. But instead of looking at digital events as a replacement for in-person events, we should treat them as complementary.

Live and online events can play off of each other and create experiences like no other. We can start seeing online events as a cheaper, more accessible alternative that individuals can use as a “tester”. We should also start seeing them as a way for attendees to relive their in-person experiences, and as a way to explore the intricacies of the arts, history, and culture from the comfort of our own homes.

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