Virtual attendees and in-person attendees at a hybrid event have varying expectations. As an event planner, you need to find a balance between how you engage with both sets of audiences.
Of course, hybrid events are still evolving and to master hosting these events, you need to think of new ways in which your attendees will stay hooked to your event until the end.
Simply streaming the event live for your virtual audience or giving your in-person audiences the opportunity to network on a 1:1 basis won’t be enough to create a memorable event journey for your hybrid event audience.
Comprising elements of both in-person and virtual events, a hybrid event offers huge potential to engage with your audience.
No matter how your audience chooses to join the event, your aim must be to ensure that they derive maximum value and equal opportunity to make the best of their time at your hybrid event.
In this piece, we will focus on the various engagement ideas to make your hybrid events a success.
But before delving into the engagement ideas, let’s start with the basics and know more about hybrid events.
What are hybrid events?
Hybrid events are a combination of both virtual and in-person events. These events give more flexibility to your audience in how they wish to participate — either by signing in to the event remotely or making an effort to be present at the physical venue.
Almost halfway through 2022, in-person events are slowly returning. However, there may still be some who wish to attend an event virtually.
Hybrid events emerge as a middle ground in such situations – as it gives complete flexibility to attend the event virtually or physically.
Why are hybrid events important?
Owing to lockdown restrictions in many parts of the world in the last two years, virtual events have witnessed immense popularity.
Now as life has returned to normalcy in most countries and business travel has resumed, physical events are witnessing a pent-up demand.
That said, keeping your events accessible to only in-person audiences may not be the best choice. This is because, during the pandemic, many people have joined events remotely – making events global in scope.
Keeping your events accessible to only in-person attendees in post-pandemic times can have a severe impact on their reach. It’s possible that the global audience that you had once catered to, through virtual events earlier, would be deprived of your upcoming in-person events.
In this piece, we have shed light on how it’s important to embrace and adopt a digital-first strategy to keep your events accessible to more people.
Having a global reach for your events is also a bonus for your sponsors. Such an event gives them a powerful opportunity to showcase themselves to a larger audience.
What’s more, at a hybrid event, sponsors have more than one way to endorse themselves – at a live stream, on swag bags, virtual booths and more.
So, how do you host a hybrid event that will successfully grab the attention of your attendees — no matter how they join the event?
We have listed the answer to that below. And for your convenience, we have divided the hybrid event engagement ideas into two sections – for virtual and in-person attendees.
Hybrid event engagement ideas for virtual attendees
Virtual attendees shouldn’t be left behind when it comes to actively participating in a hybrid event. Given below are some ways you can engage with them throughout the event.
Offer dedicated support
Managing two sets of attendees single-handedly can be overwhelming on the day of your hybrid event. To overcome this, assign dedicated members of your event planning team to take care of your virtual event attendees.
This allows your virtual audience to always stay on track with what’s going on and even reach out to someone in case they face any trouble exploring the event online.
Additionally, you can resolve any queries of your virtual attendees much faster when you have a dedicated team to support them.
Connecting speakers with the online audience
Speakers who join your hybrid event in person need to keep in mind that they will speak to the audience present both in front of them as well as behind the camera. As an event planner, ensure that you brief your speakers about acknowledging your virtual attendees.
It’s also worth mentioning to your speakers about the position of the cameras at your hybrid event so that they can look into the camera and directly address the virtual attendees.
Ensure high production quality
Poor production quality is a major roadblock to keeping your virtual attendees engaged at hybrid events. So, one of the main focus areas when trying to grab the attention of your online attendees is to keep the live stream of your event at par with broadcast TV quality.
It’s easy to lose interest in a live stream that does not offer a quality experience to the viewers. Thus, as an event producer, you must aim at creating a production quality that uses modern technology and hooks your audience until the end.
Learn more about increasing the production quality of events here.
Offer networking opportunities
One of the core reasons for your attendees to attend your event is to be able to network with people in the industry. And to make this easier for your virtual audience, you need to ensure they can network with both online attendees and in-person attendees.
Using the right event technology platform, you can ensure that no matter how your attendees join your events, they are able to network and communicate with other attendees, speakers, exhibitors and sponsors.
Provide a virtual emcee
A virtual emcee can help you drive conversations with your virtual audience and make the event much more fun and interesting for them. Be it in between sessions or even if some technical issues arise, a virtual emcee knows how to keep the conversation going and prevent any awkward silences.
Interact with your online attendees
Face-to-face interactions have a charm of their own. But that doesn’t mean virtual event attendees cannot equally enjoy interacting at your hybrid event.
Using features like live polls, virtual booths or breakout rooms, you can create an opportunity to constantly interact with your online audience – replicating the in-person event experience.
Also, setting up virtual social walls at a hybrid event can enhance the event experience for your online attendees. In this blog post, we have talked more about the concept of virtual social walls and how it plays a significant role in making events social.
It’s evident now that with the right set of hybrid event strategies and using a reliable event technology platform, you can level up engagement with your virtual attendees at a hybrid event.
Now, let’s take a closer look at how you can do so when it comes to in-person attendees.
Hybrid event engagement ideas for in-person attendees
In-person attendees at a hybrid event are looking for great networking opportunities as well as engagement that would make their visit to your event worth their time.
As an event organiser, you should take this into consideration and deliver an event experience to your in-person attendees that they would always remember.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways in which you can do so.
Include speed networking
Offering speed networking opportunities to your in-person attendees can generate a lot of excitement. This is because it allows more people among your audience to know each other and exchange valuable information.
Consider scheduling speed networking as part of your agenda or even in between the sessions.
Set up numbered tables and encourage two to three attendees to sit together for a conversation. You can make these groups based on attendee data received during the registration process — to put together people with similar interests or industries.
Since it’s speed networking, encourage them to keep their conversation short and then motivate them to move to the next table to network with more people.
Keeping content concise
In 2022, grabbing people’s attention is a challenging task. And to ace this when it comes to events, you need to strategically provide content that is both succinct and valuable.
So to ensure that your in-person attendees are able to enjoy and remain on the edge of their seats, keep your event content as concise as possible. No one wants to sit through an hour-long presentation when they could have watched it later on-demand.
Before your hybrid event, take a look at the event content and reflect on what value would your in-person attendees derive from it.
Here are a few questions to ask to ensure that your event content can live up to the expectations of your live audience.
- How long is the event content? Can it be shortened to make it more digestible?
- How will the event content benefit the in-person audience?
- Is there any extra resource that can be shared with the in-person audience to make the event content more interesting and valuable?
- What sets this event content apart from those available at other events?
Analysing your event content based on the above questions will help you create event content that will be of value to your in-person attendees. After all, it’s important to ensure that you are able to host a hybrid event that is both unique and worth your attendee’s time.
Effectively timing your main sessions
Every event planner wants to achieve maximum engagement at the main session of the event. Given that at a hybrid event, you can expect to see attendees and speakers joining from different corners of the world, it’s worth taking note of the time that suits everyone best.
This is even more important when it comes to considering in-person attendees. It’s a given that even if your speakers are from a different time zone, your in-person attendees would be looking forward to attending the session at a time that they are comfortable with.
So schedule the main sessions of your hybrid event such that your in-person attendees can attend comfortably – without having to stay up late at the venue.
At the same time, ensure that the sessions wrap up within the timeframe that you had mentioned on the event agenda.
In our latest report, we have uncovered some data-driven insights about engagement at events and how to improve it.
Incorporate immersive experiences
Today, immersive technologies are helping event planners take their events to the next level. Especially at hybrid events, these technologies can totally transform the way your live audience engages and explores the event.
Not only are these technologies useful in boosting hybrid event engagement, they also allow your in-person attendees to get some additional information about the topic being discussed.
Technologies like Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are useful in providing a one-of-a-kind experience to your in-person attendees.
To know more about the role of immersive technologies in events and how to get started with them, watch Episode 5 of Event Exchange.
Exclusive masterclass access
Your in-person attendees would love to get some special surprises once they enter your hybrid event. One such surprise is to give them access to an exclusive face-to-face masterclass in between sessions.
These masterclasses will create excitement around your hybrid event, and at the same time, allow expert speakers or presenters to interact with your live audience. So instead of the same-old breakout sessions, a masterclass would provide more value to your in-person audience.
Offer event pods
Also known as huddle pods, event pods are a great way to boost engagement at hybrid events.
These pods allow your in-person attendees to connect personally with exhibitors, sponsors or other attendees face-to-face. This in turn leads to more people networking and driving value out of your event.
Generally, these pods are not too heavy and can be set up at any corner of the venue with limited manpower.
Owing to the flexibility it offers to all event stakeholders, hybrid events are becoming popular. As the world reopens once again and more people feel comfortable stepping out, hybrid events will unfold new opportunities for the event industry.
As event organisers, it’s important that your hybrid event is one that can be enjoyed by both your online and in-person attendees. Using the above-mentioned hybrid event engagement ideas will help you to cater to the expectations of both these audiences in 2022 and beyond.
See how Gevme helps top companies around the world host successful hybrid events here.