Events have always been a staple for organizations in a variety of industries, including education, technology, finance, transportation, and many more. It’s easy to see why. They’re a fantastic way to stay connected with your industry, as well as to learn, fundraise, network, and so much more.
Times are changing, and so are events. Hybrid events—events that combine in-person and virtual audiences—are here and they’re here to stay. It’s well past time that your organization learns to not just host them but host them in an engaging way.
The Rise of Hybrid Events
While hybrid events have technically been around for a while, they weren’t the main focus of many within the event planning industry before the coronavirus pandemic. In a matter of days, live gatherings, concerts, fundraisers, corporate events, and conferences that had been planned months in advance were canceled. Virtual events became “the new normal”… until they weren’t anymore. As the pandemic shifted into another season and fewer people were fearful of transmissions, virtual-only events became hybrid events where attendees could choose the right attendance option for them.
With the quick changes necessitated by COVID-19, it’s no surprise that these early hybrid events were less than stellar. Event planners were struggling to figure out how to hold these events, what a successful hybrid event looked like, and whether people would even attend in person or not. Keeping all attendees engaged and entertained wasn’t a top priority. It’s no wonder the experience for many virtual attendees of hybrid events was, well, not great.
The Inherent Struggle of Pleasing Both types of Attendees
In theory, hybrid events combine the best of both worlds to delight and excite attendees, regardless of how and where they’re experiencing the event. But the reality was quite different, especially at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Early 2020 and 2021 hybrid events provided few to zero engagement opportunities for virtual attendees. The result was a lackluster experience for everyone not physically in the event space. In the past, if you were virtually attending a hybrid event, you were likely functioning more as a spectator than as a truly engaged participant. This brings us to our next point: It doesn’t have to be this way!
Pulling off a successful hybrid event requires engaging both your in-person and virtual audience. Now that society has settled into a more stable routine and we can take a pause and improve our event offerings, it’s time to make this a priority. Hybrid events will continue to be an essential part of the events industry for the foreseeable future, and so the mindset around hybrid events has dramatically evolved. It’s now possible to not only host a hybrid event but make the experience engaging for everyone.
How to Engage Attendees in a Hybrid Setting
Catering to all of your attendees at a hybrid event can be difficult. So how do you build an experience that ensures both in-person and virtual attendees are interested, engaged, and excited throughout the event?
Hybrid events are a balancing act. While you may feel like a circus tightrope walker at first, you’ll soon learn that a few tips and tricks up your sleeve give you the stability necessary to make it to the other side without a bobble. Remember to:
1. Offer One Event, With Two Experiences
You have two types of attendees, and smashing one into the other’s attendance experience simply won’t do. That being said, you’re not hosting two separate events. Keep a few main ideas in mind:
- You must deliver the same content, but differently to both groups.
- Make sure any content presented is relevant to both in-person and virtual attendees.
- Allow virtual attendees to participate and ask questions during presentations.
- Host a video chat networking room where in-person attendees can meet and visit with virtual attendees.
- Run polls in which both types of attendees can participate.
- Don’t plan joint activities that isolate one group from full participation.
It is much more difficult to keep virtual attendees engaged in front of a computer screen. To keep content engaging, make sure the topic and delivery will translate well over video. This means more than just setting up a camera to stream someone at a podium speaking to the in-person audience. We recommend designating an onsite team member to focus solely on your virtual attendees. Have your team’s virtual representative remind your virtual attendees of the agenda schedule, so they are sure to attend the next session, as well as answer any questions and address any technology issues. Speaking of technology…
2. Ensure You're Using Top Technology
Nothing takes someone out of the moment quite like a technology snafu. When it comes to hybrid events, a virtual attendee’s overall impression is often made with the technology they interact with, how and where it’s used, how seamless it is, and how it drives convenience as well as engagement.
At a very basic level, you will have to make sure that your video streaming service is working correctly and that your presenters are prepared to be recorded and speak in front of a camera. If you’re trying to work with anything less than the best of today’s tech offerings, you may end up with some virtual attendees having trouble, at best, or being unable to engage, at worst
3. Don't Leave Your Virtual Attendees as an Afterthought
By definition, a hybrid event must have some attendees who are experiencing the event virtually. It is a mistake, yet a common one, to focus on your in-person attendees and let the virtual guests simply sit and watch. Make remote attendees feel like they’re part of the conversation! There are many ways you can show their experience is just as important as those in the building.
You can deliver a seamless and personalized virtual experience with interactive sessions like polling, chat boxes, quizzes, Q&As, and surveys that bring presentations to life. Don’t forget about the importance of branded event lobbies and community moderation.
Deliver Engaging Hybrid Events With Aventri + MeetingPlay
If you’re worried this is a massive hurdle to jump over, you’re not alone. A recent study reports that 71% of event planners see connecting their in-person and virtual audiences as their biggest challenge. The good news is that you don’t need to handle all of this on your own. Aventri + MeetingPlay's solutions help event organizers reach attendees, whether they're in the building or across the world.
Aventri, together with MeetingPlay, helps you deliver engaging hybrid events. We’ve blended innovative technology and best-in-class service to close all gaps in the hybrid event planning process. That being said, we know that hybrid event planning strategies will look different for every organization. That’s why we offer personalized demos, so you can see what incorporating Aventri and MeetingPlay will look like for your organization. We encourage you to discover how our platform can help make your next event one to remember.