While many event professionals have focused on virtual events since the global COVID-19 pandemic began, planners are now starting to prepare for the future. In fact, 62 percent of event planners say that the future of events is hybrid.
Hybrid events combine the best of both: engaging in-person physical experiences with virtual elements, giving attendees options to participate – however they feel comfortable.
However, for planners, keeping remote or in-person attendees engaged has its challenges. And when it comes to hybrid audience engagement, challenges are amplified. There are opportunities for either group to interact with those participating in the same manner, and they can also interact as a larger, single group – all of which need careful planning to maximize engagement.
Evenium developed a series of best practices and ideas to engage hybrid event audiences, whether they’re participating in-person or virtually.
Plan with your audience in mind
Most attendees come to events for education and networking. Just as audience engagement strategies for physical or virtual events are planned with these priorities in mind, do the same for hybrid events.
It also goes without saying to plan audience engagement strategies around audience familiarity and comfort with technology platforms that enable interactivity – like surveys, polling, chat, Q&A, live document collaboration, and more.
For example, to ensure maximum participation between both audiences, look for an audience engagement platform that can be used either through an in-person event app or online from any device or web browser without downloading software so both groups can interact and respond simultaneously.
Design the content and experience thoughtfully
Simply streaming the same content from an in-person event doesn’t take remote attendees’ needs or attention spans into consideration. Remember: if a presentation is boring in person, it will come across even more so virtually. And chances are high that remote participants can be lured away from the event by other distractions.
To keep audiences engaged, both in-person and remote attendees benefit from fast-paced, highly visual content presented by dynamic speakers who are comfortable both in front of live audiences and the camera (a rare combination!).
Keep the virtual component of your hybrid event from feeling like a passive television broadcast by building in audience interaction moments throughout. For example:
- Structure sessions to no more than 60 minutes (45 minutes is ideal), with recharge and meal breaks too.
- Find ways for both groups to communicate with each other, such as through facilitated chats.
- Use breakout room sessions to pair both in-person and remote attendees for discussions and networking.
Coach presenters on engagement best practices
When audiences aren’t in the room, it’s easy for presenters to overlook their virtual presence.
Ensure both audiences remain engaged by reminding speakers to address the live audience in front of them and regularly address the camera broadcasting to remote attendees.
Other engagement best practices for speakers include:
- Using shout outs or callouts to acknowledge participants in the room and behind the screen.
- Inviting remote attendees to send in questions and comments via your technology platform or social media and have speakers respond to them live.
- Pushing out polls or surveys at regular intervals, and reminding both groups of attendees to answer.
- Facilitating group work between in-person and remote participants to annotate documents, slides, or images.
- Presenting a challenge and setting up a virtual brainstorm between both groups to collaboratively develop new solutions.
Add bonus experience moments for remote participants
As it isn’t possible to fully recreate the in-person experience virtually, incorporating additional bonus experience moments offers value and keeps remote attendees feeling included.
- Surprise and delight by sending exclusive swag boxes to remote participants. Invite everyone to join a virtual unboxing pre-event experience.
- Leading up to the event, crowdsource agenda items, or discussion topics and incorporate them into the agenda.
- Create exclusive “behind the scenes” breakouts for remote participants to hear from and ask questions directly to presenters.
- Offer special prizes or incentives for those who participate in Q&A, polls, and other audience interactions.
- Don’t forget to survey remote participants on their experience too, and incorporate lessons learned into future hybrid events!
Hybrid events are the future, but it takes a plan and preparation to keep both in-person and remote audiences engaged.