Hybrid events are quickly becoming the “way forward” for corporate events during this pandemic. Whilst some health restrictions have lifted, there are still a group of people who (for various reasons) do not feel comfortable to attend events in-person. Hybrid events allow businesses to get their message out to a wider range of people than possible with a traditional in-person event. Yet, they can be quite difficult to plan and keeping the attention of the audience can be a challenge.
Read on to find out how we approach the planning of hybrid events. Ensuring both audiences are engaged and participating fully in the experience.
1. Make it Short, Sharp & Interesting
Pre-Covid your event may have run with many 1-2hour presentations. Your main breaks may have only been lunch. When planning a hybrid event schedule, you need to completely reconsider your event. Converting your event to a hybrid event does not mean throwing a video camera into the room and broadcasting to Zoom.
Planning the actual event schedule can be difficult. Online audiences work better with shorter session times broken up over multiple days. This needs to balance with the needs of the in-person audience. They may need to travel long distances to attend the event. It’s a delicate balance that needs careful consideration.
When planning the sessions, we recommend an average presentation time of 30mins. This allows the speaker time to cover their key takeaways, without losing the attention of their audience. You also need to consider the speakers chosen for the event. Unfortunately not all speakers are skilled at hybrid events. It can be challenging to present to an online and in-person audience simultaneously. This needs to be discussed with your speaker before booking. Break up your speaker sessions with interesting interludes. A quick fitness session gets everyone up out of their chairs and allows the mind to reset ready for the next topic.
Shorter sessions, sharper presentations & interesting breaks are key attributes of hybrid events. They make it easier to hold the attention of your audience. When you are planning an event for an online audience its important to remember that online comes with it’s own unique set of distractions. The audience doesn’t need to climb over the laps of their co-workers and slink up the aisle to exit if they are bored or need to take a phone call. When planning a hybrid event you need to make it short, sharp and interesting. An experience that they will not want to leave.
2. Customise for the audience
People pay more attention to the things that specifically interest or impact them. Maya Angelou once said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Including personalised data in your presentations encourages the attendee to engage further.
This can be done in many ways. Before the event reach out to your audience and ask them what they want to take away from the event. Which areas do they need help with? Are there certain skills they want to learn? What are they interested in? Asking these questions before the event allows the organiser to plan the sessions around what the audience want to hear.
Gathering data on the attendees before the event can also be another effective method of customising the event. Research their job roles & recent achievements. Survey some of their customers on what they feel is being done well and what areas need improvement. Including personalised data in a presentation encourages the audience to implement the learnings.
To customise the event experience on the day use live surveys, questionnaires and polls. These allow the presenters to receive real-time data on whether their presentation is meeting it’s goals. Whether the audience is understanding the content. Whether there is an area which requires more focus.
When you look at your outcomes for the event, you will find that many will revolve around the key takeaways from the event. Why not ask your audience what they would like included?
Human interaction is a key element to a successful event. But how do you encourage interaction between an in-person audience and an online audience? We need to ensure that the online audience for your event are not the forgotten people. We need to give them a face and a voice and allow them to interact as they would if they were present at the event.
There are a few good ways to encourage interaction between the two audiences. The first is to introduce them to each other. This can be done by showing the online audience video panels on the main screen at the beginning of the event. Then show a video pan of the in-person audience to the online group. This technique helps each audience to remember that they are not the only ones consuming the content and broadens their thoughts.
Another solid way to encourage audience interaction is through the use of live Q&A’s and polls. Live Q&A’s work best when the facilitator can hear the question directly from the person (whether that be online or in-person). If this is not possible it can be done through the use of a moderator. Showing the live data coming in from the use of polls is also helpful. It reminds people that they are not the only ones consuming the content. It also offers alternative viewpoints which can lead to greater discussions around the topic.
Finally, the use of smaller breakout rooms with a mix of both audiences can be a really powerful tool. It’s a great way to start conversations and delve deeper into the content being addressed. Another variation of this is to have a “Hang Out” room available. This is a room where both audiences can go to have a chat with other attendees, like what they would do in the break session of a normal event.
4. Incentivise their attention
Everyone loves a good prize right? If you knew that a random prize draw could be held at any time during the event would you:
- A) Leave to go answer the doorbell or do another job
- B) Remain online for your chance to win
Random prize draws are valuable elements to introduce in a hybrid event. It encourages the participant to involve themselves more deeply in the conversations. It can also serve as a perfect sponsor moment if the prize was to be donated by a sponsor.
Virtual scavenger hunts are also popular. Some online expo events use a passport type system where they get a virtual stamp for each stand they visit. Other events may spread the virtual scavenger hunt out across the event. Including elements/images at random times throughout the event with a prize for the first person to identify all the elements.
And finally gamification can also take place as a quiz. For example: the first person to be able to identify the key product specifications in the sponsors presentation wins a prize. This option not only encourages the attendees to stay online. It also encourages them to engage with the presentations and recall key takeaways.
5. See, Touch Feel
Engaging all 5 of our senses allows attendees to experience the event in different ways. This can be difficult to do for your online audience but it’s not impossible. We want your online audience to be able to engage in the event to the same level as the in-person event and thus walk away feeling enlightened.
When planning the in-person elements of your event, consider how those elements could translate into an online experience. This is where you can get creative and we have seen some fantastic ideas in this past year. Your in-person audience are having a break for morning tea which is catered. Why not send your online audience a morning tea package? Or a voucher for a food delivery service so that they can order their lunch to arrive at the lunch break? This allows them the time to enjoy and hang out with other attendees over lunch.
When we spoke above about making the event short, sharp and interesting we mention creating interesting breaks in the sessions to allow the audience to reset. Some of these creative break ideas may include using a physical item (i.e. a yoga session may use a yoga mat). Why not send your online audience a pack before the event containing the physical items they can use during the event? Providing audiences with a physical item that they can see, touch, smell, hear (and maybe even taste!) encourages them to engage further with the event and other attendees.
Hybrid Events need to be well planned, customised to the audience, encourage interaction between audiences & incentivise the audience to participate fully. The event needs to be engaging. We need to provide a compelling reason for the online audience to ignore the doorbell or call of their emails. We also need to provide a compelling reason for the in-person audience to leave the comfort of their home/office, take time out of their day and travel to the event.
When you are planning your next hybrid event, remember to consider the audience experience as one of the main factors in your planning. Looking to make your next hybrid event unforgettable? Reach out to Events Outsourced and we will work with you to plan an event that is truly engaging.