Make Hybrid Events Worth Every Dollar for Virtual Attendees

A vector image of two people high-fiving through smart phones.

 The average price for a paid virtual event is $443. Are virtual attendees seeing value?

It depends.

 “To demand a fee, digital events must boast compelling content and a seamless experience. According to Kim Myhre, founder of Experience Designed, in “Attendees to Virtual Events: To Charge or Not to Charge?” published by the Virtua Events Institute. “Audiences will pay for quality content. We know this from the rapid growth in music, entertainment and game streaming subscription services. Organizers can, should and will charge for virtual events, but they will need to be very high quality experiences.”

 Approximately 80% of virtual events are free, according to the Evolution of Events Report. With so many attendees used to free events, expectations are high for paid events.

 “They [online audiences] are far less captive and will have increasingly high expectations around the quality and value of these experiences. Online events are easier to leave if the experience is not relevant, is uninteresting or poorly produced,” notes Myhre.

 So how do event and meeting planners make sure attendees see value in attending a hybrid event virtually?

 Below are six ways to add value so virtual attendees feel a hybrid event is worth every dollar.

Read MoreVirtual and Hybrid Meeting Tech Updates You Need Now

Include a Virtual Emcee

A man sits at a desk with a laptop, microphone, and headphones.

Your virtual audience will feel more engaged and seen if they have a dedicated emcee.

The emceeing for the virtual audience can be different from the on-stage emceeing for the in-person audience. The virtual emcee speaks directly to the virtual audience, providing a more personal experience for those that are not at the in-person event.

Give Backstage Access

It is impossible to allow hundreds or thousands of in-person attendees backstage, but you can give virtual attendees a peek backstage. While in-person attendees are settling into their seats before a program, provide virtual attendees with a backstage pass. Feature live interviews with speakers, entertainers and organizational leaders.

Show virtual attendees a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into planning and producing a program. Let virtual attendees see the rush of activity backstage as presenters get ready. Give virtual attendees a view from on-stage. Let virtual attendees have a private tour of the facility and gain access to spaces closed to the general public. A peek backstage goes a long way in helping virtual attendees feel valued.

Provide exclusive content

In-person attendees receive a lot of perks that virtual attendees might not, including gift bags, food and entertainment experiences. However, virtual attendees can have their own bonuses in the form of exclusive content. Exclusive content could include private Q&As with speakers, pre-event workshops or live interviews not available to in-person attendees. Exclusive content can be packaged into a daily show that is live streamed from the event location each day.

 Produce High-quality Video

Two women work at a table with laptops while a man speaking through a video call on a screen.

A web camera and web conferencing platform are not enough to keep a paying virtual audience engaged. Paying virtual attendees expect more than the dreaded “screen share” webinar presentation. Instead, video content should be highly produced using multiple cameras and live switching between different camera angles and pre-recorded content.

Fill in-person transitions on stage with high-quality pre-recorded video so the pause is not awkward for the remote audience. Next-level virtual events also leverage moving shots and branded backgrounds. Live streamed video should include motion graphics, such as lower thirds, animated slides and picture-in-picture graphics. All streamed at full 1080DP up to 4K video.

Read MoreTech Tips From the Top: Breaking Barriers and Defining Hybrid

 Offer Private Networking

Networking connections are one of the most valuable components of an in-person event. Don’t let a paying virtual audience feel like they are on an island. Schedule structured networking opportunities for virtual attendees. Review the in-person run of show to understand when to schedule virtual networking.

How will your virtual audience network during the lunch hour? Remember to flip flop networking and tradeshow times for in-person and virtual audiences so that exhibitors will be available for both audiences. Allow virtual attendees to schedule online meetings with exhibitors throughout the event. Schedule specific time in virtual spaces for online attendees to network with each other. 

Connect In-person and Virtual Audiences

Leverage web-based polling, surveying and Q&A tools to engage in-person and virtual audiences for feedback on presentations. By using the same tool, your entire audience feels more connected to each other and allows stage presenters to easily acknowledge both virtual and in-person attendees.

 The more virtual attendees feel seen, heard and connected to other attendees, the more value they will perceive. In turn, perhaps 80% of events in the future will be paid and only 20% free.

Scott Williford is the founder and CEO of vLink Solutions, a video and live streaming total outsource provider with a best-of-breed live streaming and on-demand video platform for one-of-a-kind virtual event experiences. Williford is a serial entrepreneur and angel investor with more than 30 years of experience in the technology industry. For more information, visit vlinksolutions.com.

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