Hybrid events are a fusion of live and virtual experiences. But, hosting one is not as simple as putting in-person guests in a physical space and online guests in virtual space, and hoping the two audiences will come together to feel part of the same event.
For your hybrid event to be a raging success, you need to create a unified experience for both physical and remote attendees. Read How to merge the digital and in-person experience at hybrid events for some tips on creating a unified experience.
Keep reading for advice on harmonising online and live audiences – a harmonised audience is a key ingredient for a unified hybrid event experience.
Treat your online guests as VIPS
A major advantage of an online or hybrid event is that you can cast your net wider and beyond borders to attract attendees who otherwise would not have been able to come. Winning them over is important. Apply the same level of care and attention, if not more, to your virtual audience as you do to in-person guests.
At the same time, understand that your virtual guests are different. Being remote, online and somewhere in the world, your virtual guests are far removed from your live guests in distance, culture, demographics, and access to technology as well as decent bandwidth.
When you’re planning itineraries, content, speakers and room layouts, keep your digital guests top of mind. They won’t have the same attention span as your in-person guests. Your content, how it is presented and over what period of time has got to be valuable and engaging or you will lose them. Think carefully about their journey and weigh it equally with that of your live guests’ journey – albeit different.
Empower tools of engagement
Keeping people engaged in virtual events is one of the biggest challenges for marketers. With hybrid events, the challenge is amplified because there must be ways for your online guests to engage with your content and presenters in a fashion that makes sense, and there must be ways for them to engage with each other, including in-person guests.
Exceptional engagement is what distinguishes a hybrid event from a live event with a few online elements thrown into the mix. It’s absolutely possible with the seamless integration of technology and engagement tools that facilitate participation between a live and virtual audience.
Your remote guests are actively participating from their mobile devices or desktop computer, which means they can talk, share, like and comment in real time. Let them participate in question-and-answer sessions and polls, discussions, social media conversations, virtual break-outs and chat rooms to encourage interaction with and between your audiences.
Most hybrid and virtual event platforms have a live chat feature. Use it as a way for your remote attendees to ask questions, spark debates and connect with one another in the same way that your live guests would in a physical environment.
Add interactive workshops
If you’re hosting a hybrid conference or summit, think about adding a few interactive workshop sessions during which your online and in-person guests can work on something or learn new skills together. Interactive workshops and discussion groups are seen as high-value opportunities by attendees because it gives them a chance to engage with the subject matter on a deeper level, and most importantly, network with other like-minded people.
Videoconferencing can be set-up for discussion groups and workshops between guests at the event and those joining remotely. Your event venue will need adequate break-out spaces for physical guests as well as the technical capacity to host and support your virtual guests.
After the workshops, bring your audience back together to share their discoveries and insights, ask questions, and interact with your presenters and speakers. This strategy hits the sweet spot for elevating attendee engagement at events, and between attendees.
Facilitate networking before, during and after your event
Networking is one of the top reasons why people attend events. Give your live and remote guests ample chance to network with people who have the same interests. Your virtual attendees will need a nudge here because they don’t have the same opportunity to rub shoulders and spark-up a conversation with someone during a coffee break. And, don’t forget that both your live and virtual audiences will also want the opportunity to connect with each other.
Facilitate networking using an event platform or event app that allows attendees to upload their business headshots, bios, and interests. From there, your guests can find people with whom they would like to connect, and interact with them directly before, during and after the event. Some event platforms offer Artificial Intelligence (AI) networking which helps to match-up like-minded attendees for video meetings.
Create inclusive entertainment value
People attend events because they want to learn something, see things, connect with others, and be entertained. Offering activities and entertainment pushes the guest experience to the next level. With activities, performances and interactive demos that include your remote and in-person guests, you can up the entertainment value of your event and create shared experiences to unify your audiences.
You could use gamification, host virtual scavenger hunts, live stream a performance or use immersive technologies like Augmented Reality or Virtual Reality (VR) to allow them to interact with your products. However you choose to entertain your audience, make sure it’s inclusive of both your online and live guests.
Ask an expert
With over 25 years of experience producing world-class, memorable events, The Event Production Company has the skills and resources to produce a seamless experience that transcends the physical and virtual. We also build the digital infrastructure, including bespoke event platforms, apps and websites, to stage engaging hybrid events. Let’s get the creative juices flowing. Book a free, 30-minute session