[GUEST BLOG] Why Going Hybrid is a “Must” for Associations and Chambers

Hybrid Events for Associations and Chambers

by Will Flaherty

Your chamber or association is probably holding in-person events again, or soon will be. Now that in-person events are returning, organizations must choose one of three options: stick with a virtual conference, switch to an in-person conference or pivot to a hybrid conference.

Because the majority of event-goers are not yet comfortable attending fully in-person, most associations are choosing hybrid conference solutions this year.

However, costs for hybrid conference software, venue fees, and equipment rentals quickly add up. Hybrid events are the most expensive option compared to entirely in-person events and completely virtual events.

 So why is it still necessary to learn how to go hybrid?

Last year, we saw some examples of virtual conferences that simply didn’t work. Some common issues were technical problems with the software, Zoom fatigue, and ineffective networking tools. Based on the results, some associations gave up on virtual conferencing altogether.

However, virtual conferencing isn’t worth giving up on yet. Event technology is getting better and more intuitive. Conference tech providers are learning from 2020, and improvements are being made.

Although there was a lot that didn’t work when it came to virtual conferencing, a lot did work. For example, taking an event online makes it more accessible for people who cannot attend in person. Thus, associations and chambers saw their attendance increase up to 4x more than their in-person events.

After seeing how virtual conferences work, it would be foolish to throw it away as in-person events make a comeback. Organizations will continue to consider hybrid events, with hybrid conferences eventually becoming the norm.


Since hybrid conferencing has become commonplace among associations, it’s essential to know how to host one on a tight budget. 

It takes a lot of digging to find hybrid conference examples that you can apply to your conference. So, OpenWater took out some of the guesswork for associations and chambers of commerce that need to go hybrid on a small budget. 

OpenWater took three commonly used scenarios that organizations use to add virtual aspects to their in-person conferences. Below, you’ll see a brief explanation of how each scenario is played out at a conference.

  • A session in which a speaker presents slides in front of an in-person audience. The presentation slides are projected on a screen for the audience. The audio comes from a PA system at the venue. Virtual conference-goers attend the session through a tool like Zoom, seeing the slideshow presentation on their screens and hearing the presenter speak.
  • The same setup as scenario 1, but instead, a camera on the speaker is being broadcasted through the conference platform for remote attendees. So, virtual conference attendees see the presentation slides, hear the presenter’s audio, AND can see the presenter. 
  • This happens when a remote speaker joins live and virtually presents their slides to the in-person and virtual audiences simultaneously. At the in-person venue, the live audience sees the virtual presenter and their slides projected on the screen. At the same time, remote attendees see the same thing as the in-person attendees on their personal computers. 

Now is the time for associations to consider going hybrid for their events. Going hybrid will expand your reach and open opportunities to earn more non-dues revenue for your association.


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Will Flaherty is a Digital Marketing Specialist at OpenWater. He lives in NY with his partner in crime and a pretty cool dog.

OpenWater serves associations, higher ed and foundations through dual software platforms. Host and manage a virtual or hybrid conference with OpenWater Event Cloud. Manage awards, abstracts, scholarships, grants or anything with a competitive review process through OpenWater’s Application & Review Cloud.

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