How to merge the digital and in-person experience at hybrid events 

Post by 
Karen Ashwin
May 13, 2021

Hybrid events, touted as the way of the future, pose a mixture of virtual and physical events, integrating elements of both. They appear to be the silver bullet for harnessing the outreach of virtual events and transcending the limitations of physical events while leveraging the energy of live, in-person experiences. 

The possibilities and variety that come with providing both online and physical options has major benefits for companies to reach and connect with more people across the globe. But, hosting a hybrid event understandably comes with challenges, the most mystifying of which is the challenge of merging the digital and physical experience. It is not a simple case of staging an in-person event and an online one under the same banner, and expecting them to rendezvous. Nor is it a case of organizing a live event and streaming it to an online audience. 

You need a synchronised strategy

Planning virtual events and physical events are separate disciplines, while hybrid events require a synchronized strategy that incorporates both. Your goal is to create a unified experience for both physical and remote attendees, something not easily achieved if you set about planning two separate events. Work with an event planner that understands the aspects of planning physical and virtual events to help you to devise a unified event strategy.

Simulate online what’s available in-person

A flexible, hybrid event management platform allows you to manage in-person and virtual activities, and audiences in one place, taking you one step closer to creating that unified experience. It gives you access to an array of resources such as registration and data collecting tools, event lobbies, live streaming, chat rooms, message boards, file repositories, polls, and online showrooms and stores. This way, you can simulate online for your virtual guests what is available for people at your live event.  Your audiences should feel as though they are experiencing the same event, only in a different way.

Prioritise your digital audience first

Online attendees do not have the same attention span as in-person guests and they are more difficult to keep engaged. Plan everything with your virtual audience in mind, from technology, speakers and room layouts to branding, itineraries, start times and ticket pricing. These elements must work to make your event enticing and engaging to remote attendees, who are likely to make up most of your audience. Importantly, make sure that the content you have planned is engaging and value-adding for a virtual audience. It is easier to adapt your virtual-first content for your live audience than the other way around.   

Create shared experiences

Some hybrid events fail at integrating the virtual and physical experience purely because they do not provide mechanisms for live and remote audiences to have shared experiences. Providing a platform for these audiences to experience something together will bridge the divide. Setup polls, question and answer sessions and other activities that allow your remote guests to participate and interact while the event is happening. For instance, you can provide breakout sessions and networking opportunities for your guests through an event app, virtual chat rooms, gamification, or social media. Videoconferencing can also be set up for meetings and workshops between guests at the event and those joining remotely. 

Use immersive technologies

Get your audiences involved in the event experience by using immersive technologies like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), progressive apps and gamification. With VR, it is possible to get both remote and physical guests interacting with your virtual venue as well as your products. Applying AR to event presentations and visuals allows your guests to use their smartphones to see enhanced images, which creates a richer, elevated experience. If you can, give your remote guests the sense that they are connecting with others in the actual space by creating a 3D virtual environment.

Choose a venue partner that can support your hybrid vision

Choose a venue partner that has the infrastructure to accommodate the virtual component of your event. This goes beyond reliable, high-speed internet access to include the ability to customise production for remote guests such as optimizing stages, room layouts and breakout spaces with video conferencing capabilities.

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.  Book a free, 30-minute session with us to discuss your hybrid event vision.


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