The event industry has had to adapt like never before in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. One particularly exciting development has been the increasing number of ‘hybrid’ events, a trend that seems likely to continue even after live events are allowed to return. Below are our top tips for making sure your next hybrid event is a success!
What is a hybrid event?
Hybrid events are ones that are held both in-person and virtually, meaning attendees can opt to be in the room or to beam in from somewhere else! This innovative new event model allows for greater flexibility for attendees, scalability and an ability for organisers to transcend the limitations of time and space. Pretty neat, huh?
But there are a few things to consider when planning a virtual event that will be vital to ensure it is as much of a success as a live event.
1. Pay attention to your virtual audience as much as your live one
Hybrid events may be one event, but there are two different experiences happening simultaneously: live and virtual. It’s easy to get carried away with the excitement of the in-person event, but paying attention to engaging your virtual audience will be vital to your hybrid event’s success. Adopting a digital-first approach when planning your event is key in this instance to ensure consistent remote audience engagement.
What does a digital-first approach entail? It can begin by acknowledging your virtual audience throughout the event and could extend into other areas, such as hiring a virtual Emcee. Focus can also be placed on offering in-demand content for those who join at later times (particularly when tuning in from different time zones) as well as offering opportunities to connect via social media or separate virtual breakout sessions.
2. Ensure your event venue is tech-ready
Selecting an event venue that is both suitable for your in-person-event audience as well as technologically-enabled is a very important consideration when planning your hybrid event.
For an in-person audience, the actual live event experience should surprise, delight, energize and excite in order to make the audience feel like it was worth them getting up off the couch and into the venue. This can include touches like ensuring there is a great food and drink selection and a chance for interactive experiences at the venue.
For virtual audiences, make sure that the technology available inside the venue includes high-speed Wi-Fi connectivity that has the bandwidth to cater to a large remote audience. One of the biggest killers for your hybrid event will be issues with the internet while your virtual audience is tuning in. It’s also ensuring that you’ve sorted out any sound issues and ensured that any audiovisual content will be streamed to the audience at home.
3. Consider your content
As we mentioned previously, there are two different experiences happening simultaneously during your event, which means the actual content of your event must be adapted to keep both the in-person and virtual audience engaged throughout the entirety of the event. With that said, don’t try to adjust your content so that it works for both audiences, you’ll have to provide different content experiences for both.
Some considerations here include:
- Offering additional content for your virtual audiences during breaks in between each in-person session, including:
- Behind-the-scenes content
- Access to pre-recorded Q&As
- Virtual breakout rooms to promote interaction with fellow attendees
- Twitter polls or other ways to join in the conversation
- Facebook or Instagram live streams with guests.
4. It’s never too late to communicate
Juggling both in-person and virtual audiences will place extra significance on the pre-event planning and promotion as well as communications during your hybrid event.
As it relates to your event marketing, you’ll need to ensure all promotional materials mention that there will be both live and virtual components to your event. This transparency provides your attendees the choice on how they’d like to experience your event based on comfort or ability to be there in person.
Before your event, your virtual audience should be made well aware of how they can access the virtual portal, with specific instructions on how to log on as well as how the virtual agenda will play out. Perhaps you may consider hosting a brief Q&A with virtual attendees in the lead-up to your event so that all questions are answered ahead of time.
During the event, consider reiterating to your live attendees that there are virtual components as well as how both the live and virtual agendas will play out differently. This will provide some added clarity and ensure that your live audience doesn’t feel that they’ve paid more money to be there in person while others can simply access the same event virtually.
5. Don’t forget to test!
Hosting a hybrid event is tough to pull off, but incredibly rewarding when it does go right. Rehearsing and testing ahead of time will ensure you’re well prepared for any technological mishaps which are always bound to happen.
Make sure you fully understand the technological capabilities of your venue and how to troubleshoot in case of any emergencies. The best way to do this is to do a full run-through of the entire event and test the technology so that you’re aware of any pre-event adjustments that need to be made.
You will also need to ensure presentation components such as slides and videos are loaded onto your chosen streaming platform and tested in advance so that you are fully prepared come time for the event. Testing should also be required of your speakers and special guests to ensure they’re familiar with the technology and have all their presentation needs addressed ahead of the event.
Finally, make sure you consider accessibility issues. Virtual events present a great opportunity to add in extra layers of accessibility, for those unable to leave the house or who can follow along more easily with live captions. Check the needs of attendees well ahead of time and do your best to accommodate them.
Humanitix can help you list your next event. In as little as two minutes you can make your event live, delight your guests, and change lives through supporting education projects. [Link to Humanitix list event]
Em Meller lives and works in Sydney, Australia on the unceded lands of the Gadigal people. Her work has appeared in places like The Lifted Brow, Cordite, and Going Down Swinging. She has studied creative writing at the University of Technology, Sydney, and at Oxford University.