Hybrid events – what you need to know

Very few of us are planning for face-to-face events in the first two quarters of 2021, but if you want to keep ahead and maximise opportunities, you’ll need to know what your options are when lockdown is eased. Whilst many organisations and companies initially responded to the global pandemic by putting all events on hold, many of the organisations we have been speaking to have now moved to a place of exploring and using online event formats.

This space is much bigger than just large groups on Zoom or MS Teams, with a growing number of platforms and systems that can enable lots of user autonomy and productive engagement opportunities for people gathering in meaningful ways.

However, the future is about how we can harness the power of mixing online and in-person experiences.  With so much benefit to be gained from larger audiences and reach, minimised travel, increased accessibility and greater environmental benefits, as well as wider options to programme speakers from around the planet – a hybrid event model is well worth your time and attention.

Digital experiences are going to be part of the event experience, potentially forever, so how do you set up an event to do this well?

Our 6 top tips for hybrid event planning

1. Plan to use a physical space that says “This is a live experience”

Whether your attendees are in person or online, use a venue that tells the visual story of a live event – a stage, a lectern, lighting – these give everyone taking part the visual cues that this is happening for real and in a very different way to the everyday video meetings we’re all so tired of.

2. Ensure solid connections

You need a venue with a solid wifi connection so that you can stream your video and audio feeds to your online event platform without interruption, and enable in-person attendees to engage with online attendees through their own devices or interactive booths set-up within the venue.

3. Tech is your friend

You can’t avoid the need for tech, so embrace it and hire professional suppliers using professional equipment, so everything looks and sounds good online, as well as in the venue. You don’t have to understand how it all works – that’s their job – just ensure the set up does what it needs to do, to enable interactions and connections.

4. Use an online events platform that enables autonomy and video-based interaction

Too many online events are broadcast based, sending out information to “viewers” as if they’ve just tuned in for one-way traffic. Instead, make sure the online events platform you choose enables your online attendees to engage and take part in-person, ie with their camera and audio, in the appropriate areas. In the same way attendees at face-to-face events can’t just walk on stage during a keynote, there is a time and a place for taking part, but it’s essential online attendees feel they have interacted, connected and contributed in as many ways as your in-person attendees have.

5. Thought-through programming is key

It’s not enough to just try and reproduce what you used to do at events pre 2020, hybrid requires thinking about the attendee journey, both in-person and online. Make dedicated time for visiting virtual exhibition booths and networking functions – you want to intentionally funnel people into connecting with others and prevent them drifting to checking their inbox. Gamification approaches and mixing up types of content and interactions is also key, to keep people engaged.

6. A good host can make your event

If your event has hosts of different sessions, make sure they are good on camera, confident in delivery and give them clear key messages they need to say from the front. When people are in new environments i.e. a hybrid event, they need and respond really well to clear instructions and a warm personality. In turn, attendees get so much more out of the event, engaging more and feeling the benefits. So coach and brief your hosts to get things off to a great start.

Final thoughts

Events aren’t just about the positive benefits of gathering and socialising, (although many of us would happily revel in just that right now), they are about achieving outcomes, sharing vision, moving things forward, spreading knowledge, shaping future actions and building community. A hybrid event approach can enable you to do just that, and that is good news for many organisations right now.

It’s also important to note that digital events provide incredible data that can be added to your in-person data, providing valuable insights into what content, functionality and processes attendees liked or disliked. This can accelerate how you can maximise attendance rates, minimise drop-off, and effectively engage attendees at future events.

Want to know more? We’re happy to help you achieve your goals and organise a hybrid event that meets your needs.

Further info:

If you want some great sources of info on this topic follow:

Technical Director and Lead Consultant @ Autumn Live Ltd

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