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Five ways to keep your hybrid events engaging

Opening up your live event to a digital audience allows for global reach to overcome travel or time commitments for both speakers and participants.

Hosting your event from a single location – especially if it has integrated streaming technology – is also much simpler and looks more professional than hosting a conference from your living room.

So, how exactly can we guarantee success when planning and delivering engaging hybrid events?

Choose the right hybrid events space and platform

A hybrid event exists in two spaces – the physical and the digital – and both must be equally suited to your event.

Your physical venue, in addition to usual criteria such as quality catering and location, needs strong WiFi capabilities and a technical minded team.

Choosing a venue with integrated hybrid capabilities and a dedicated AV team means that you can leave the technology to the professionals with no need to worry about whether it will all work on the day.

When it comes to a virtual platform, don’t overcomplicate it – a user-friendly and reliable platform that sticks to the core goals of the event will be more effective than an all-singing, all-dancing virtual render of your venue.

Know your audience

At a hybrid event, you are dealing with not just one audience, but two – and both have different needs. Virtual audiences will need breaks between each session to keep their focus on the content, so take this into account when planning your speaker programme.

Your speakers will be familiar with the ins and outs of giving live presentations and may have developed their experience with virtual events too – but speaking to both audiences at once is a completely different skill.

It’s a lot easier to read the room in person, so making sure the speaker has a good idea who their virtual audience is too, is imperative.

Consider running speaker workshops and rehearsals before your event to ensure that they feel confident in delivering a hybrid presentation and maximise engagement for both audiences.

Ensure virtual audience can network

A key component of live events that virtual delegates may feel they are missing out on is the opportunity to network.

To avoid this problem and make your virtual audience feel just as connected to their fellow attendees, both live and virtual, ensure they also have the means to network.

  • Appointment scheduling software can be helpful in adding structure and maximising the opportunities for your virtual audience.
  • Online forums can also provide a central location to mimic the chance encounters that you would experience at a live event.
  • Offering a delegate list or a matchmaking service can help your online participants to find the perfect people to network with.
  • Provide breakout spaces at your live venue away from the main room for delegates to video conference with virtual participants away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the event.

Interactive elements

It is crucial that hybrid events are not just live-streaming an in-person event – virtual delegates must feel as though they are a part of the event just as much as the live audience does.

Ensure that your virtual attendees actively participate in your event with the use of interactive elements, including live polling, speaker Q&As, and virtual breakout rooms.

A member of staff should be on hand to act as a virtual moderator for Q&A sessions to ensure that these run smoothly for both sets of delegates.

Providing the same mobile touchpoint for both audiences allows them to feel more connected to one another, and encouraging the use of social media with a dedicated hashtag will enable all delegates to connect and share their thoughts on the event.

Give your virtual audience something special

No matter how engaging and interactive the virtual experience of your event may be, your virtual delegates may feel that they are missing out on the atmosphere of the live experience.

Counteract this by paying extra attention to your virtual audience and providing them with exclusive content. For example, you could arrange add-on virtual sessions for Q&A opportunities.

You can also gamify the virtual experience with a rewards system on your digital event platform, with prizes or special discounts from your sponsors.

If budget allows, send something to your virtual attendees’ addresses – perhaps the same lunch as your live audience will receive, or some branded merchandise – to make them feel more included in the atmosphere of the whole event.