Hybrid events are here to stay
2020 has been a year of intense change in the events landscape.
We are all trying to figure out what the future of events will look like and when we will be able to meet face to face again. There are a few things that are certain. First, we will meet again- as human beings we are social creatures, and we all see the need to meet with people face to face and to gather. Secondly, with the advancements in virtual platforms and the comfort level of people with technology – virtual meeting components are here to stay.
I firmly believe, that as we move forward, all programs will include a virtual component. The advantages that it provides are far too numerous to ignore. So how do we create a hybrid event strategy? What do we need to ensure that it includes? How do we create a seamless experience for in person and virtual? As with any strategy regardless if it is virtual. in-person or hybrid, you need to start with the following questions:
What Is The Purpose Of The Event?
What Are The Goals Of Hosting This Event?
What Do You Want Your Attendees To Take Away From This- Both From The Knowledge And The Experience?
Once you have that information at hand, then you can delve into the details to develop an effective hybrid event strategy.
Here Are A Few Areas That We Feel Are Key To Creating A Successful Hybrid Event Strategy:
#1 Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.
Create a detailed communications plan and remember with hybrid events, there is no such thing as over communicating. You want to ensure that everyone knows how to access the event and what to expect during the conference. The details and logistics are just as important with virtual as it is with in-person attendees. attendees need to feel comfortable with the platform and/or the venue. They need to know how to get there or how to get onto the platform and where to go for assistance.
#2 Do not duplicate.
Your virtual experience will not mimic your in-person event. Do not forget your lessons learned while planning virtual events. You cannot expect your virtual attendees to sit and watch eight hours of content. You need to determine where the two will come together and where you need to make things unique for each attendee group.
#3 Establishing registration fees.
The question of how much to charge to register has been at the forefront since the big drive to go digital. The key question is do you charge the same for in-person versus your virtual experience. In my opinion, no you do not. The reason for this is that the attendee experience is going to be vastly different. You really need to be planning two events that will have some overlap. The in-person event should be more expensive to cover cost of food and beverage, physical location, staffing etc. The virtual event experience will likely need to be shorter than the in-person event and there are some components that you may choose not to include for your virtual attendees. Pricing should reflect that. However, word of caution is that you do not want to undercharge for your virtual component which then could drive down your in-person attendance.
#4 Engagement and inclusion.
This is going to be key. You need to develop your agenda and experiences in conjunction with each other so that you can understand how each attendee will engage with your speakers. exhibitors, staff. and other attendees. Those that are participating digitally should be brought into the conversation during sessions as much as possible. A simple way to do this is to use a mobile app and have all questions for the speakers submitted via the app so that those that are not in the room are not at a disadvantage.
#5 Event hosts and Emcee’s play a vital role.
One guaranteed way to keep both attendee groups engaged is to have a host or an emcee that pulls everything together, keeps the crowd hyped and provides that constant touchpoint and summary. For hybrid events the best practice here is to have two hosts/emcee’s one for the physical group and then another one for the virtual attendees. This is a great idea to make sure that both groups are getting the most out of their conference experience.
#6 Work with your speakers/presenters.
Make sure that they are aware of the two audiences and experiences. During the presentation design stage and when they rehearse that they include both sets of audiences in their presentation. Talk to the camera to address the virtual group. engage those online and in-person in the questions, polls etc.
We can help!
Hybrid events are going to be an increasing trend so we need to ensure that we are building in the right strategies to provide the best experiences for our attendees, regardless if they are in person or virtual. Once you have your event objectives established, you can then ensure that you have the right platform selected to host your hybrid meeting. Another area that you will want to pay attention to when planning and developing your is your project team. When you are creating a hybrid event it is similar to planning two events at the same time. Your project team will need to reflect this. Look out for our follow up article on Hybrid Team Roles.
Need help developing your hybrid event strategy or planning your event? Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to see how we can help.