September 8, 2020

Defining Virtual and Hybrid Events

A camera is pointed toward a stage with a backrop. Chairs and tables are in front of the stage.

As fundraising events shifted dramatically this year to online virtual events, our shared vocabulary evolved. It’s helpful to pause and define virtual and hybrid event terminology.

Virtual Events

Instead of gathering in a physical location, virtual event audiences share an online experience at a designated time. These events feature a live host or co-hosts and the event is run like a live television show. The audience is encouraged to interact in the live chat and through branded social media hashtags. Pre-recorded segments keep the program on time and give the host a break from continuously appearing on camera.

Hybrid Events

Hybrid events include an audience gathering in person at a specific location while a separate online audience attends the event remotely. The evolution of the hybrid event will be dependent on state and local crowd restrictions lifting as well as the ability of event organizers to plan events that follow COVID-19 safety protocols and ensure physical distancing.

Hybrid events of summer 2020 featured audience members remaining in their vehicles for a shared live viewing at a drive-in experience. The next step could include small in-person audiences experiencing the livestreamed virtual event together. Future versions of hybrid events will be essentially two events occurring at the same time with integrated elements: a live event for an in-person audience and a shorter virtual event programmed for an entirely online audience.

Virtual Auctions

The live auction has been a fun mainstay of fundraising events for years. Converting the auction for a virtual event can be done in a few different ways. Each option involves creating an online auction using bidding platforms such as Greater Giving,, and Auctria. Explore more details about online auctions as elements of virtual galas.


When a virtual event is livestreamed, that means it premieres at a specific time and is broadcast online via social media channels or embedded in webpages. The audience is able to watch the livestream on various devices with an internet connection. After the livestream ends, the event is saved as a video to be streamed online anytime.

Entirely Virtual or In-Studio

The virtual event can be hosted from anywhere and livestreamed everywhere. Hosts who do not have home studios or strong, reliable internet at their remote location are able to host from a livestreaming broadcast studio.

On Location

On location livestreams are different than hybrid events because there is no event audience. The only people present for the event are those who have an essential role in the production. For their 50th Anniversary Virtual Gala Celebration, Meals on Wheels People livestreamed their virtual fundraiser from their location.

Live or Pre-Recorded

Virtual events include live hosts, emcees, and auctioneers; live guests on video conference calls; and live viewing of giving thermometers and donation totals. Pre-recorded segments can be anything filmed in advance of the virtual event. We recommend 40% live and 60% pre-recorded content. A virtual event can also be recorded in advance and premiered at a specific time.

As we move into 2021, fundraising events will continue to change. According to an Event Manager Blog survey, 62% of event planners say the future of events is hybrid. We’re ready to partner with you to achieve your vision and meet your fundraising goals — filmed, livestreamed, or in-person.