As we enter a new world of events, it’s safe to say that hybrid events are here for the long run and after a couple of unsettling years due to the pandemic, audience expectations are higher than ever.
We have all seen the full potential of virtual events and their unique ability to engage global audiences. As we start to see pandemic restrictions lift, there is an increasing demand for events to maintain the benefits of both in-person and virtual experiences.
A hybrid event is a combination of both and enables two channels for event content and programming with two audiences: onsite at the venue, and remotely online. The experience for each channel is very different and managing both can be challenging. So here are top tips to help ensure your next hybrid event is a stellar success and a positive experience for all parties involved.
TIP 1: Focus on Engagement
The key to successful hybrid events is the engagement between guests that are participating online remotely and in-person at the venue. Providing opportunities for your remote audience to interact and participate at the event and with the onsite guests will ensure no one feels like they are getting the short end of the stick. Remember, the virtual component of your hybrid event is more than just a video call, it’s a unique experience. Explore ways that your audience can participate and engage in the event equally, no matter where they are.
TIP 2: Production Quality Matters
Good quality content production will really help elevate the event experience and brand perception for remote and onsite attendees. Think creatively about how content is delivered, particularly for those that are participating online. Adding some spice to the program will really help keep them engaged and interested from afar. Much like a television production, set design, camera angles, motion graphics, music and voice overs can all play a part in your hybrid event. As event producers we need to think differently and pay closer attention to the engagement possibilities when exploring ways to enhance the overall delivery of event content.
TIP 3: Two Channels, Two Experiences
Hybrid events have two channels and two audiences which mean a suitable experience needs to be created for both. The content you produce for your onsite audience should be crafted specifically for an in-person experience and the same concept applies for your remote audience. The likelihood is that not all in-person programming and activities will make sense for your virtual audience. The content you produce for each of these channels is consumed differently and therefore, you will need to create suitable programming for each specifically while adhering to the same overarching themes and messages for consistency.
TIP 4: Know Tour Audience
Before you begin planning your hybrid event, take time to fully understand your target demographic. Knowing your audience will help determine what they like and dislike, how they prefer to consume content as well as how motivated they are to participate online. This process will also help identify suitable content and programming aspects of the event. Attention spans for remote attendees are generally short, so factor this into your overall program design. Finally, understanding the personas of individuals that make up your target audience will highlight behavioural traits and the factors that help them decide whether to attend in-person or participate online.
TIP 5: Don’t Be Afraid of Technology
Developing a virtual component to your event may seem overwhelming and highly complex, however knowing the technical details about how the systems work should not be your priority. Don’t worry about understanding the technical jargon, just be sure to allow yourself time to explore the various platform and streaming options available to you. Do your research and make informed decisions about selecting vendors that are suitable for your event. There are solutions available for all types of events with various budgets. Afterall, working with experienced and reliable professionals in the field will ensure your event goes off without a hitch.
TIP 6: Aim to Build a Community Not Just an Audience
I heard this line at an event a few months ago and it struck a chord with me because often we are tasked with growing audiences and generating more interest in events, which is particularly true for annual events. Shifting our mindset and planning from the attendee perspective will help uncover ways to develop engagement ideas that will spark more conversation, provoke thought and intrigue audiences to partake in healthy discussions.
Remember, hybrid events provide an opportunity to deliver high-quality content and are truly successful when you focus on boosting engagement for all participants. Understanding how your target audience consumes content will help determine the best delivery of the program across two channels and ultimately create a positive experience for both the virtual and in-person audiences.
Ruby Sohi is founder and lead event planner at Royal Blue Events Management. She has more than 15 years experience in event production and marketing. Actively involved in the community, she has served as a board member for American Marketing Association (Toronto) as VP of programming & events and International Live Event Association (Toronto) as VP of marketing & communications. Ruby has delivered events across Canada and is experienced in producing virtual and hybrid event formats.