Hybrid events—whether they are conferences, expos or training courses—are meetings that can be accessed in person at a physical location, or remotely via an online platform.
The beauty of hybrid events is that they are incredibly accessible, and they can transcend barriers of scale and geography, while still offering opportunities for meaningful social connection. They are especially useful these days, as people grapple with Covid limitations.
But just as we had to learn new skills to master hybrid work, we must evolve our approach to event planning and execution for success in the hybrid era. Here are my top tips for maximizing attendee engagement and delivering an event that offers real value for all participants.
Invest in excellent hardware
Are you producing your own video and audio content to stream or share with hybrid event attendees? You need to accept that there’s a pretty strong correlation between the quality of the equipment you use, and the level of engagement with the finished content.
Don’t pour your efforts into an excellent script only to neglect the production process! Your virtual content needs to look professional and be enjoyable to engage with. This means that you ought to invest in high-resolution cameras, high-sensitivity microphones and aesthetically pleasing lighting. Can’t afford this purchase outright? Consider renting or borrowing.
Put accessibility front and center
Think carefully about how every attendee can be supported to get the most out of the event. This might involve adapting your physical venue for less mobile attendees, providing printed transcripts, or using the special features offered by your live-streaming software to build closed captions and audio description into your video content.
Make audience input easy
If you want your event attendees to actively engage with your event, you need to provide channels that make this possible at every juncture.
During the registration process, ask people what they expect or want to get out of their attendance; allow audience members to submit questions to speakers in real-time using question boxes or chat functions; use feedback tools to capture audience input at various points during and after the event.
Help participants connect with one another
The secret to facilitating meaningful social connections is to provide spaces and channels for formal and informal interaction to flourish. In the physical event space, this could look like cafe areas, networking receptions, or themed discussion zones. In the virtual space, this could involve XR avatars “meeting” in virtual breakout rooms, or communicating through a multi-participant instant messenger or video chat.
Present unique and thought-provoking content
Everyone likes to feel as if they are getting something out of attending an event and providing attendees with individualized or high-value content is one of the most effective ways to deliver this.
These features can encompass e-books, white papers, video tutorials, training simulations or study guides. Consider the wants and needs of your audience and use your event platform to easily share accessible content that will truly excite them.
Don’t try to replicate in-person events
Newsflash: if you want to run an excellent hybrid event, throw out the old rulebook. There’s no reason why you should be trying to replicate the format and conventions of in-person events in a hybrid space—this will only box in your imagination and creativity. Instead, embrace the new opportunities that hybrid event-hosting provides.
Allow virtual attendees to drop in and out of sessions at will; build beautiful virtual and physical spaces for people to enjoy; offer networking activities that are actually fun; mix up live and pre-recorded content; introduce interactive games and quizzes; make your attendees feel like they are the main characters driving the event creation and execution.
Harness the power of social media at every stage
Events are all about building and celebrating community, and social media platforms are a natural complement to this. From LinkedIn to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, make sure you’re using these resources to their full potential. Begin by advertising your hybrid event via your social media platforms. Include teasers of the content, which can be available and set up forums on which participants can start getting involved beforehand.
During the event, share real-time updates and go “live” on your social media channels for additional access points and to increase real-time engagement. Participants will also be able to communicate and contribute on these platforms, helping remote attendees feel more engaged and a part of the live event.
Make post-event outreach a priority
The event isn’t over when the last person leaves the room (real or virtual). Post-event is one of your most important points of engagement with your audience.
Encourage or incentivize attendees to complete digital feedback forms so that you can improve the event for next time. Make recordings and transcripts of the sessions available to download and share. And follow up your event with a call-to-action: ask attendees to join an online group, follow you on social media, register for your next event or share their learnings online.
With these tips under your belt, you’ll be prepared to make your next hybrid event a huge success. Good luck and enjoy!
Author Bio: Dr Alexander F Young is a surgeon, and CEO and founder of Virti. Passionate about improving human performance, Alex is on a mission to help organizations get the very best out of their remote and hybrid teams.