Website Preloader
Image of a person at a laptop to show how to run hybrid events in pharma



How to run hybrid events in pharma

29 Feb 2024 |
Words by Emma Morriss

In a hybrid world, a mix of in-person and digital engagement is essential, so let’s take a look at how to run hybrid events in pharma.

Digital engagement has accelerated across the world, remote or hybrid working is the norm wherever possible, and it’s shaping future working practices.

In pharma marketing, there’s no denying that things have taken a turn for the digital. Customer engagement went digital first and it’s been a slow switch to a hybrid model.

eConferences, webinars, e-detailing emerged as essential tools in the omnichannel marketing mix but now there’s a need to balance virtual and in-person for a hybrid offering that gives your customers that all-important choice.

Customer preferences

It’s clear that healthcare professionals prefer digital engagement but people still want human interaction, networking and to meet their peers. Research by Accenture Healthcare found that 87% of HCPs want either all virtual or a mix of virtual and in-person meetings1 – so it’s important to offer it to them.

So where does that leave you? If digital events are more accessible and preferred by many, but face to face is wanted by others and offer unique benefits, it’s time to consider the role of hybrid events.

What are hybrid events in pharma?

This is a burning question, and, in all honesty, they can be whatever you want them to be to a certain extent. There is no set format, but there are key considerations.

Most importantly, what does your audience want? Understanding your audience, their information needs, and channel preferences is central to brand engagement, and these insights will help you to shape whether your audience will want the event format, and content, that you’re planning to deliver.

Your customers are unique and so are their requirements, but in our experience, we’ve found that digital events offer more opportunities to engage HCPs who you may not have reached with a face-to-face event. There are barriers to getting out of clinic to attend an event. Study leave approval, a day off work, travel, caring responsibilities, last minute urgent issues, even the location of the event can all impact the ability to attend.

But that said, there’s still something truly beneficial to a face-to-face event and a lot of people prefer the format for networking, building genuine connections with peers, speaking to exhibitors, and catching speakers for private one to ones.

So, how can we reach both groups in a way that best meets your needs, those of your customer and your budget?

Different locations, same experience

Some consider this the ‘true’ hybrid format as all attendees get the same experience, at the same time, by simultaneously live streaming your face-to-face event to your remote audience.

Questions, polls and surveys can be taken from the floor and the virtual audience, pulling together answers and conversations from all attendees. This gives everyone access to speakers, a chance to share their views and network. For exhibitors, team members can be present online via an eConferencing platform, and in person. Breakout rooms can also be streamed.

This sounds like the best of both worlds and, to an extent, it is, but there will be an element of innovation and creativity required to ensure everyone is included and engaged. Explore ways of bringing everyone together through interactive solutions, augmented reality or gamification so you don’t end up with silos of live and virtual attendees.

Running the event simultaneously does, however, involve a large amount of technical support to ensure both elements come together seamlessly, making delivery potentially costly. However, with an experienced digital and events team this is not only achievable, but you can create a fantastic, integrated experience for everyone in attendance.

Stagger your events

If running simultaneously isn’t for you, you may wish to hold one event before the other. If you hold your face-to-face event first, you can film, edit and then host the presentations on-demand for a virtual audience. This reduces the integrated feel of the event, but still delivers the information to everyone.

That said, it’s worth exploring how your virtual audience will gain access to speakers and exhibitors, contribute to polls or Q&As. Just like a pre-recorded webinar, one solution may be to have the speakers join for live Q&A sessions online, as long as they have the availability.

Or it may be that you use the interactive benefits of the live event to boost in-person attendance and then promote the on-demand as purely video content.

Pre-learning and discussion

Flipping the previous format around, the hybrid model offers the opportunity for your attendees to access pre-learning or pre-recorded webinars in advance, with in-person discussion and workshops later. All attendees have access to the digital platform where content can be delivered via multi-formats such as video, audio, handouts or quizzes. Attendees then come together in smaller live group meetings for discussion or workshops.

Hub and spoke

The hub and spoke model successfully incorporates virtual presentations with live discussion. This allows overarching national or international messages to be delivered virtually to a wide audience, then crystallised and explored for detailed, localised in-person discussions. Attendees gain access to a wealth of information that is then targeted to their specific area’s priorities and needs giving nuanced, relevant discussions.

On demand

Whether you follow one of these formats, or have your own ideas in mind, making the most of the virtual platform and making the event available on demand for all attendees enhances the experience for everyone, and gives those who may have missed it a chance to watch at a more convenient time.

Access to handouts, downloading presentations, re-watching and revisiting the information can also help to build and engage your customer base.

Hosting this on an educational hub can further boost the impact.

On-demand hosting also supports the all-important data capture and analysis which is so crucial to omnichannel marketing and more difficult to collect with solely face-to-face events.

Pricing hybrid events in pharma

If you’re running paid-for events, pricing is critical. Are there tangible benefits to face-to-face over virtual which justifies a higher ticket price? Alternatively, you could charge one price and allow attendees to choose how they want to attend? This approach enables those who have last minute commitments to join online instead of in-person but runs the risk of you having a venue with only a handful of attendees.

When considering pricing, factor in whether live event attendees will have access to the event on-demand? Will virtual attendees have access to live Q&As with speakers? Weigh up the benefits and package for your audiences to consider the price versus return on their investment.

Creating a community

One of the key draws of a face-to-face event is meaningful engagement amongst attendees, speakers and exhibitors which is difficult to replicate in a virtual environment. Innovation will be required to make it work for you and your audience.

An online platform where all attendees can engage, whether in person or virtually, can be beneficial – depending on the nature of your event. This is easier to achieve with eConferencing platforms which have online networking lounges. However, this will mean all attendees need access to the virtual platform in real time, which may stifle in-person interaction.

Alternatively, a simple solution may be to create a LinkedIn group for the event, where discussions, questions, downloads and videos can be posted for on the day and post-event conversations. Attendees can easily connect, and the event can keep delivering value long after the speakers have signed off. This also creates an engaged audience for any future events or work, though it does require ongoing management.

Speaker flexibility

Finally, it’s not just delegates that benefit from a hybrid format. It can give you the best of both worlds when it comes to attracting speakers. If your audience isn’t in the same room, there’s no reason why your speakers need to be either. An experienced technical team can seamlessly stream global speakers into the live event and virtual platform giving everyone the same experience.

Marketing mix

Hybrid events have found their place in the marketing mix. To ensure they deliver for you and your customers, carefully consider the best format to meet your objectives and budget, and maximise attendance and engagement in-person and online.

Want a hybrid event to engage your customers? Get in touch >


    1. Reinventing Relevance New Models for Pharma Engagement with Healthcare Providers in a COVID-19 World, Accenture Healthcare Provider Survey May 2020
Pharma webinar fundamentals – get the basics right for success

Pharma webinar fundamentals – get the basics right for success

Prioritising UX: How good website design drives HCP engagement

Prioritising UX: How good website design drives HCP engagement

Let’s start a conversation