Hybrid events aren’t new, but they’re enjoying a post-pandemic revival. In fact, many people appreciate being able to remotely attend conferences, workshops, and conventions. At the same time, they expect their overall experience to be second to none whether they’re in person or online.
As an event organizer, your role is to make sure all participants have a world-class experience, and that requires quite a bit of planning. Otherwise, you won’t glean the benefits that come from a successful hybrid event like impressive registration rates and stellar brand recognition.
To help you avoid common hybrid event pitfalls, use the following tips to guide your event planning steps. Each suggestion will help you make the most of your resources while reducing foreseeable friction points.
1. Attend at Least One Hybrid Event
Never been to a hybrid event? Can’t remember the last hybrid event you attended? Sign up for one soon! Attend the event as a remote participant and go to as many learning sessions as you can. Then, start writing. Jot down a list of everything you experience, from the moment you register until the event concludes.
Your impressions will give you a good starting point for understanding what you liked—and what you didn’t. For instance, did the event planners treat the digital side of the event as an add-on? Were you able to participate, or did you feel more like a fly on the wall? Use your observations as you move forward with your own event.
2. Map Out Your Attendees’ “Perfect Journeys”
As you begin to flesh out the flow of your event, think about your different target audience journeys. For example, what will the touchpoints be for someone who attends in-person? How about someone who attends virtually? How does registration, check-in, and session attendance look and feel from each participant’s standpoint? Ideally, you’ll want everyone’s experience to align regardless of their geographic location.
You may need to take advantage of technologies to streamline guest experiences across all platforms. This could include giving remote attendees special digital badges that mimic in-person attendee ones. The overall goal should be to make certain that everyone feels like you’ve anticipated their needs.
3. Organize Hybrid Sessions With a Digital-First Mindset
A huge concern among remote participants at hybrid events is whether they’ll be able to integrate into the bigger experience. Too often, event organizers forget to make the event come to life for remote learners. In other words, make sure you’re not just livestreaming each session. Yes, live streams can be rewarding, but they lack a level of true interaction. As such, they can leave online participants cold, causing them to opt out of sessions prematurely.
To appeal to online attendees, you not only have to livestream but offer dynamic interfaces. Take our attendee engagement platform, for instance. It’s designed to encourage a wide range of participatory exercises. From one-on-one and small group video discussions to chat functions, attendees can feel like they’re part of the conversation. Additionally, they can boost their networking capabilities, which is an important part of events for many professionals.
4. Mentor All Presenters—Even Top Keynote Speakers
It might seem counterintuitive to think that your event presenters need a little help getting ready for the stage. Nevertheless, they might not be 100% comfortable speaking simultaneously for online and in-person audiences. Even speakers accustomed to all types of presentations may never have had to maximize their engagement levels at a hybrid event.
Consider putting together a tip sheet to help presenters understand their roles and expectations. The tip sheet could include ways for them to elicit responses from attendees, or recommendations for using technology. You may also want to share your vision of the ultimate participant experience with presenters. Being upfront gives speakers an opportunity to design their talks around your needs.
5. Ramp Up Online and In-Person Participation
It’s no secret that the more attendee participation you have at your hybrid event, the better it will be. Additionally, it will be easier to get participants to come to future events. Getting everyone to contribute during workshops and meetings can be tough, though. You may have to focus on creatively using a variety of ways to get people involved.
Think about the common strategies presenters rely upon to boost engagement. They may ask people to text questions or use a mobile app to submit questions. Alternatively, they may have audience members raise their hands or submit ideas before the session starts. Your objective should be to make it hard for your audience NOT to communicate. Remember: online viewers will get frustrated or distracted if they can only sit and listen. That’s not good for them or you.
6. Put Measures Into Place to Collect Hybrid Event Data
You can’t depend upon gut instincts alone to determine if an event was a hit versus a flop. Instead, you need to have some facts at your disposal. The easiest way to gather facts is by tracking data leading up to and throughout your event.
Case in point: Being able to track your attendees’ movements during the event can offer a wealth of raw data. You may realize that although you sold tickets to a record number of participants, most left workshops early. This could indicate that your marketing drove them in, but they didn’t receive the promised information. Without data, you may end up missing chances to find out what really happened during your event.
7. Conduct a Full-Blown Retrospective After the Event
Congratulations! Your hybrid event is in the rear-view mirror. Now, it’s time to plan your next one. Make sure you set yourself up for success by conducting a retrospective. A straightforward retrospective meeting can be a valuable tool for your whole team. Not only will you be able to discuss what to keep in the mix, but you’ll be able to evaluate what to avoid.
Even if you think that your hybrid event went off without a hitch, a retrospective can serve as an important wrap-up. Plus, it can help you brainstorm for other hybrid presentations and sessions that you intend to run.
Planning a hybrid event isn’t like planning an event that’s all in-person or virtual. It requires thoughtfulness, as well as a deep understanding of and commitment to the hybrid attendee experience. If you’re interested in partnering with a provider of hybrid event tech, get in touch with Expo Logic today. We’d be happy to walk you through some best practices for planning hybrid and other events.
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