COVID-19 disrupted operations around the world, and in-person events were no exception. Event planners for universities, FinTech conferences, and non-profit board meetings had to quickly halt in-person gatherings and turn to alternatives. They soon learned to adjust existing virtual platforms and communication tools to organize virtual events that keep attendees connected online.
Now, the virtual approach has merged with the return of in-person events, resulting in the cementing of hybrid events across all verticals. Hybrid events enable organizations to reach larger audiences and deliver an engaging experience that's unmatched by traditional in-person events.
As the industry-tested virtual gatherings, and then hosted hybrid events as the pandemic dwindled, event planners learned important lessons. To help you deliver engaging experiences — no matter the location of your attendees — we put together best practices for hosting next-level hybrid events.
Hybrid Event Best Practices
Here’s the first thing you need to know when planning your next event: hybrid event strategy and technology has exploded during the pandemic, and attendees have higher standards for the experience than before. That’s why virtual event approaches that worked a year ago may now need reassessment and readjustment.
The best path forward for your organization means learning lessons of the past and answering questions specific to your future event goals:
Is the virtual-to-in-person balance right for your events?
Event planners learned that the perfect balance of virtual and in-person elements varies from business to business. Before you can host a hybrid event, you need to define what “hybrid” means for your company. This will depend on your industry, attendee expectation, average event size, etc.
Deciding what a hybrid event looks like to your organization is a critical first step. Spend time deciding which elements will be in-person and which will be virtual. Then, think about the tools and features you’ll need to meet your hybrid model and deliver the ability to merge a virtual event with an in-person setting seamlessly.
Is your content engaging and accessible for both audiences?
As in-person events turned virtual on a last-minute basis, event organizers learned that audience engagement is one of the most significant challenges of online event hosting.
Today, as you establish agendas, activities, and content, you should still consider your virtual attendees first. Create hybrid content optimized for remote viewing, with considerations for screen size, audio quality, and possible delays between in-person presentations and online streaming.
Did you know that virtual-first content often drives more engagement in-person as well? Built-in polls, chats, or breakout sessions keep the attention far longer than guidance alone. These interactive features drive attendees to take active participation instead of simply spectating – an easy practice to adopt during a long speech.
Plus, optimized content can help turn one-off events into long-term value for attendees and companies. Always-online virtual spaces with on-demand recordings and sessions allow audiences to attend and re-attend your event at their convenience. On-demand content access also opens new revenue streams outside of the pre-registered list of attendees. Whatever you decide when it comes to content, know that a cohesive experience is vital for a successful virtual event.
Do you have the technology and tools you need?
As you look for hybrid event platforms, look for ways to unite both audiences. Features like personalized agendas and attendee matchmaking enable event planners to expand their impact in the market. Plus, they allow remote audiences to network and build meaningful connections – rather than passively absorbing content.
Customized extensions can also boost engagement. For example, calendars can build interest after the gathering by suggesting related upcoming events. They also make it easy to schedule meetings with company representatives, keynote speakers, peers, and other individuals in the network.
These extensions make online networking even easier than in-person sessions. Attendees can create lasting connections and find the resources they need without searching online participant lists or hoping to pump into the perfect product specialist in the queue for lunch.
The Key to Successful Hybrid Events: Focus on Attendees
It’s easy for the audience to feel disconnected in a poorly-planned event. That’s why you should choose an experienced virtual event partner with proven expertise to successfully launch your hybrid events. Your partner should offer robust technology features, plus experience- and expertise-based consulting every step of the planning process.
As you know, a focus on engagement, connectivity, and attendee experience is key to a hybrid event they won't soon forget. And if you partner with an all-in-one event platform like MeetingPlay + Aventri, you'll see your investments reflected in increased ROI, higher engagement, and long-term business growth.