COVID-19 has forced the event industry to pivot from a traditional meeting or conference to a virtual meeting or virtual conference. In some places we are now able to host a live event but only with a limited number of attendees. One way to boost your audience is by adding a virtual component to your physical event, otherwise known as a hybrid event.
If this is your first time hosting a hybrid event, then you are likely looking for recommendations on how to run a safe and successful hybrid event.
Hosting a successful hybrid event is no easy feat, but there are some useful tips that you can implement to improve online attendee engagement, grow brand awareness, and reach your event goals.
Grow and build upon any past hybrid meeting experience you may have to create something bigger and better this time around!
If you want your next hybrid event to be truly successful, consider the following 7 tips:
1. Find a reliable event technology platform
Because a hybrid event has a lot of moving parts, it’s important that you work with your event planner or event organizer (or the brand, if you are the event organizer) to find a system that works for the specific event and provides a seamless experience.
Since a hybrid experience has a physical component and a virtual component, you’ll need a reliable event technology platform as your remote audience will be relying on that technology.
If you have a lot of remote attendees (and with the new normal, chances are that you will), you can’t afford to use a faulty event platform. Doing so will create a negative virtual experience and prevent your event from being a true success.
With a reliable event technology platform, you will be able to seamlessly integrate the virtual event and physical event components through a live stream or video upload option, live chats, lead generation and retrieval techniques, ticketing and registration systems, an event app, and much more.
With an event technology platform, you can also store and upload recorded live streams to be used in future content profiles and in a future webinar.
2. Do a dry run of the event technology
Given that your event will be mixing in-house physical technology with sophisticated virtual event technology, you’ll most likely need to figure out how these technologies will work together and how your event will flow. If this is your first time running a hybrid event, logistics may be a bit hard to manage.
Hosting a dry run of your event will allow each presenter to test the equipment, navigate the virtual platform, configure how the online audience will interact with the platform, and ensure that each session flows seamlessly into the next.
Make sure that you involve all participants, anyone working a booth during a hybrid trade show, and anyone who might need to upload content for the digital event portion of the event.
This test will ensure that everyone feels comfortable performing the necessary tasks required for their participation and will look like experts once the hybrid event goes live!
The dry run should also test components like how the event management team will access information about attendees and live chat features. And if you are working with a lot of staff or event management professionals, then a dry run will help the team work through the event strategy.
3. Don’t overwhelm your virtual audience
When it comes to hosting a hybrid event, you might struggle to contain your excitement. Or, if the event is large in scale, you may be tempted to try and engage your virtual attendees with every single available aspect.
The truth is, a remote attendee is not likely comfortable enough with the hybrid format to take in every single solitary event component. Even though they may have attended virtual events in the past, they may have only done so through a live event feed on social media or a conferencing app like Zoom.
Because your event, and the platform you are using, is more involved than that, you will need to slow down a bit and make sure that all guests are aware of the information that is most relevant to them.
Let your online participants know how to log on and give them clear and concise details with regards to the timing of each session so they know when to be there.
It’s okay for things to run a little slower from time to time, especially since you won’t be able to gauge reaction and receive audience feedback in real-time.
Allow for more breaks in the programming than you are accustomed to and monitor chats for feedback so you can make small adjustments when and where possible.
4. Be prepared for lead generation and analytics
If you’ve used online ticketing or online registration in the past, you will be familiar with the software’s ability to collect information about guests and provide some analytical feedback.
Recognize that a virtual event platform will be able to see much more than simply the contact information of those who attend. A good virtual event platform will be able to see the attendees that attend an educational session, where they go in a virtual exhibit hall, how they interact with the keynote speaker, which event elements they interact with and for how long, and who answers polling questions.
This is vital information for presenters and they may not be aware that this is available. Be sure to study these features before the event so that any relevant information can be shared with sponsors and presenters.
5. Ask sponsors for help
Sponsors are a great way for your event brand to garner funding. But, even though they are providing this funding, it does not mean that they can’t help out in other ways.
Your sponsor should be intuitively involved in event marketing, brand management, and overall event experience. After all, a negative attendee experience will reflect poorly on them as well as on your event brand, and you don’t want to give off any bad impressions, especially if you are hosting a corporate event that is meant to impress industry competitors or colleagues.
Keep your sponsors accountable and get them involved in other aspects of your event. This will help keep things running smoothly, help legitimize your event brand, and provide sponsors with a maximum return on their investment.
6. Promote on social media
Before, during, and after the event, remember that social media is your friend!
Social media platforms are a great way to connect with your current and prospective audiences. You want to promote your hybrid event online because that is where people are and one of the ways that people might connect with your brand.
During the event, designate a team member to live-tweet the events so that people can stay up to the minute with the goings-on via Twitter. This glimpse into the event may even encourage people to sign up for the online event portion if you have enabled late registrations.
After the event, post-follow-ups, images, videos, plans for the future, to keep engagement levels high. Post to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. You want people to remember their experience and posting to social media does that AND helps them easily share that experience with their peer group.
7. Don’t stress
All in all, an event is supposed to be fun and informative! After all, events bring together wide ranges of people around a central theme—who doesn’t love that?
If you’re hosting a hybrid event, remember that everyone is there for their own reasons so try not to stress them out. Provide them with the information they need, trust your experience, and let the event unfold. You may find the most success in places you hadn’t even thought of.
Hybrid events are still new to event professionals and you could be forgiven if they still make you feel a little uncertain. But remember, each time you host a hybrid event, you become more knowledgeable on the subject.
Apply these 7 tips to your next hybrid event and you will easily look like an old pro!