What to Consider When Planning a Hybrid Event

You probably don’t need much guidance when it comes to what hybrid events are. In the months following the unprecedented outbreak of COVID-19, virtual and hybrid events have become a staple of the event professionals’ lexicon. But, for clarity’s sake, let’s just go over the premise to make sure we’re all on the same page: hybrid events are and will continue to become an increasingly popular event format that combines both live, in-person and virtual, online components. For event organisers, across the world, the hybrid event is becoming the go-to solution to get their future event strategies back on track.

With lockdown measures slowly easing and the return of face-to-face events edging that little bit nearer, we take a closer look at some of the crucial points to consider when planning a hybrid event.

Be Audience Aware

Gone are the days when a basic live stream of an in-person event was enough to draw in and captivate an online, remote audience. Now, more than ever, there needs to be careful consideration and smarter thinking surrounding how a hybrid event is approached and executed, to successfully engage and promote interactions with audiences, who are tuning in digitally from around the world.

It’s always imperative to think about the experience of your event attendees and what their journey will be with your brand. This approach should definitely be extended to planning a hybrid event; what experiences will physical attendees have in the live environment? How should a virtual audiences’ journey be mapped to ensure their experience is optimised throughout the programme? It’s important to recognise that these are two audience segments, who will have different sets of needs and requirements.

Those online will need a continuous feed of captivating content, to beat those pesky external life distractions: behind the scenes exclusives, interviews, gamification, networking opportunities, and virtual exhibition halls are just some ideas that can be used to keep attendee energy and participation high. Perhaps you’ll also need to consider the use of subtitles and/or simultaneous translation to accommodate your audience; ensuring they are able to absorb all the information you have worked so hard to create, curate, and deliver.

Ultimately, when building a hybrid event, it’s really important to think about the ways you can fuse real-world and online elements together, ensuring your digital audience isn’t left feeling like a second thought.

Preparation is key

This is a rule that applies to events across the board, but deserves a mention here, as inevitably running a hybrid event will add another dimension and complexity, versus a purely physical event. With that in mind, content and collateral including slides, videos, supporting information (e.g. polling questions), need to be created and submitted well in advance of the event. Ensuring all content is successfully loaded onto virtual platforms and tested before sessions go live is imperative to ensure smooth delivery.

It’s all in the Timing

Stick to the agenda as closely as possible. Of course, event organisers are well-versed in the importance of running events to tight timescales, but with hybrid events, this becomes even more important. There will be some delegates signing into your event for specific sessions and content and therefore these should start and end in-line with the advertised schedule to avoid disappointment, frustration, and delegate attrition.

And while we’re on the theme of time… When using tools to promote engagement and interaction with audiences, both on and offline, you want to create an inclusive experience. To help do this, remember to factor in time for virtual attendees to respond and participate; by virtue of being remote, audiences may need longer to think, act, and submit their responses. Small but important considerations like this will support in fostering successful engagement opportunities with audiences.

Think About Formats

When thinking about what formats to use for your event sessions, consider how appropriate they are for both physical and virtual attendees. For example, if opening a discussion up to the whole audience is part of your segment, how will information gathered be fed back to everyone in attendance?

Do you need to consider including a confident and briefed facilitator who can act as a bridge between live and virtual delegates? Or as well as a conference host, is there a requirement for an additional host who can support in the commentary with virtual delegates?

If opting for two hosts, their roles will need to be clearly defined. Outline who will be saying what and when. Agree clear guidance on how they will interact with each other to successfully bring together comments, questions and thoughts from across the two audience pools.

Within live sessions, polls, voting, and Q&As are techniques that work brilliantly to encourage interaction from all audience members. Harnessing the right technology can quickly and effectively deliver contributions from delegates: providing a sense of inclusion and unity between audience groups.

It’s key to promote interactivity in all events, but when it comes to hybrid events, the way sessions are constructed have to really work hard for all involved; otherwise you may risk isolating and losing your remote delegates altogether.

Social Connection

Don’t forget the power of social media in an event setting. Used well, with a clear strategy, social media can facilitate conversations and provide an outlet for feedback and engagement for both in-person and virtual delegates. Social channels can really contribute to creating a sense of community for your event, which is particularly important for those participating from afar.

Top tip: Rehearse

This tip may seem like we’re covering the basics but stick with us… Hybrid events need to be set up mindfully, for both the people in the room and for those out of it. Therefore, checking camera placements, and ensuring your presenters are aware of any areas on stage where they may slip out of camera shot is essential – hearing a speaker but not being able to see them on screen, could be disconcerting for audiences online, and highlights a lack of consideration for their viewing needs.

Speakers and presenters will no doubt be very experienced and have no trouble with commanding the attention of a large room of people. However, some of them may not be overly familiar with streaming to a worldwide audience. Bear this in mind and work with your speakers to thoroughly brief them, introduce them to the technology being utilised in their segment, and where possible, schedule in rehearsal time ahead of the event, to make them even more comfortable and confident.

It’s also worth letting your speakers know what clothing doesn’t work well on camera. Busy patterns and striped garments may interfere with cameras, causing visual disturbances and distracting audiences away from the content being shared.

While face-to-face events will always remain the most powerful way to connect with your audiences, there’s a whole host of incredible opportunities to be realised with hybrid events: extended audience reach, increased exposure, improved diversity, and richer data insights.

You might be interested to know that virtual attendees can also go on to convert into loyal in-person delegates. So, take the valuable, not-to-be-missed chance to capture the personality of your event and showcase the advantages and benefits of attending, and actively drive future physical attendance for years to come.

Ready to discover the possibilities of hybrid events for your business? Call: 02392 320 581 or email: info@in2events.co.uk