You’ve just sold tickets to your hybrid event. Congratulations, marketing works!
Of course, the goal is never just to get people in the door or connect online. You don’t want them to be sitting there, yawning their way through the day.
Executing an event using today’s hybrid event best practices makes a lasting impression on your audience. One that gets them thinking, talking, and coming back for more.
What is the most successful hybrid event?
The best hybrid events are a perfect blend of both worlds, providing each audience a different-yet-equal feeling of visceral inclusiveness, whether your attendees are in the second row from the stage or at home, snacking on Oreos in their pajamas.
Engage participants in a meaningful way to make a long-lasting impact.
1. Master Successful Event Planning
Create a good plan for each audience, sharing experiences where it makes sense and providing separate ones when applicable. Do this and be off to a great start!
Rely on your creative and technical partners to do a lot of the heavy lifting! It’s our job to make sure these things go right, and we know the tips and tricks to get there.
A successful hybrid event requires that guests are fully engaged with the event from the very beginning.
How is that achieved, exactly?
Here are our secret ‘attention-grabbing’ suggestions for planning your next hybrid event.
2. Powerful Event Content is the Key to Success
As obvious as it may sound, the ‘meat’ of your event – the content itself – needs to be memorable. It’s got to be clear, incisive, interesting, funny, and perhaps above all else, actionable. The glut of distractions that exist today means you can deliver the most absorbing presentation possible, only for it to be forgotten by the weekend.
By prompting your audience to take real-world action and implement what they’ve heard, be confident your content will have a long-term impact on both your in-person and virtual attendees.
How can make your content actionable post-event? Here are 10 ways to increase overall engagement and interest in your event:
- Conduct audience surveys before and after the event to get a real understanding of their needs and expectations
- During the event, focus on more engagement like live polls, breakout sessions, networking sessions, AMA with the speaker, and more
- Include additional organic content that audiences can review during and after the event
- Besides your speaker, consider bringing in entertainment, local musicians, and other interesting surprise guests to spice up the content
- Offer attendees an exclusive product or discount code
- Mix live presentations with interesting pre-recorded content, interactive audience activities, social media discussions, and more
- Contests, social media competitions, photo and meme contests, and raffles are great ways to keep audiences engaged and invested
- Host a post-event networking session and continue to prompt attendees to nurture new contacts made during the event
- Ramp up your website blogs with updated info post-event, fun shareable posts and memes from the event, testimonials, event highlight montages, and more
- Host a moderated forum post-event where attendees can build a strong community
We understand that the biggest challenge of hybrid events is keeping audience members from shutting off, especially online members. You don’t want attendees to forget about what they learned, or worse, go to a competitor.
Want to know another way to keep your audiences interested and invested post-event?
After your event, competition for attention can be fierce. How can you keep your event goals fresh in the mind of participants days, weeks, or even months after your hybrid event ends?
How can you keep the spark alive?
3. Experiential Marketing at Hybrid Events
Many marketers today have incorporated experiential marketing techniques into their hybrid events toolbox. What is experiential marketing? An experiential event not only educates participants, but the event also entertains and actively engages them in an innovative and unique way.
Believe it or not, virtual reality offers hybrid event organizers a truly immersive experience that involves both in-person and online participants. For example, maybe your organization collects donations to reduce deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia. An immersive virtual environment where attendees “explore” affected rainforests themselves and see the damage in real-time provides a unique firsthand experience that engages audiences well after the event has ended.
Experimenting with experiential marketing brings content to life!
Unleash your creativity. For example, offer to 3D print original designs created by attendees at an engineering conference or start an engaging interactive social media hashtag campaign and photo contest around your primary event goals. Try to break a world record or conduct an unforgettable surprise viral PR stunt.
Veer away from the standard talking head format and show how innovative your organization can be.
Build positive experiences that create an authentic lifetime connection to your organization with original engaging marketing.
Pro Tip: During the 24 hours after your event, take the opportunity to really push your conference goals. For example, if your non-profit organization was raising capital for a cause through donations, share out your donation goals and encourage attendees to continue to donate or match financial contributions immediately after the event. Coordinate a targeted email and interactive texting campaign to meet donation goals. Stay fresh and relevant in their minds.
4. Big Picture Content Adds a Human Touch
Don’t be afraid to share some of your ethical values when building out your content. Social justice, climate change, health, and safety – there is seldom a bad time to raise awareness of such big-picture issues. Not just because they are important – human topics of this kind will often resonate with your audience and help establish a sense of trust with your event.
Your event has the opportunity of providing the personal connection of a like-minded community. Build a safe, open space that fosters deeper relationships and lifelong partnerships. Attendees will feel a sense of belonging that lasts well after the conference ends.
Use a variety of methods to encourage fruitful conversation and action like AMA sessions with the keynote speaker, opportunities for ask/offer exercises, networking sessions, surveys, and honest moderated discussions about what participants hope to get out of the conference.
Breakout Sessions to Enact Real-World Change
Breakout sessions where an experienced virtual emcee moderates a discussion on pressing specific social issues like abolition, food security, or homelessness can help build meaningful connections that can orchestrate change in the real world. In fact, this real-life application of conference content ensures your attendees will stay connected to your organization and mission.
Your hybrid conference need not be limited to two days. Instead, your hybrid conference can have long-reaching effects that reach the far corners of the world.
Connecting Across the Digital Divide
One of the key promises of hybrid events is that barriers don’t exist. No matter where someone lives, their finances, or their abilities, they can actively participate in your event if you plan it with everyone in mind. This means that individuals attending online can build relationships with in-person guests with careful event planning.
Make the extra effort to foster relationship-building
between online attendees and those physically present.
You never know. Your event may launch the idea that will ultimately transform the climate crisis, find a way to get fresh water to struggling cities or enact meaningful prison reform. But you need to take the time to build safe communities across all platforms.
Social media, virtual reality meeting places, interactive photo boards, and networking sessions are all ways to encourage collaboration between virtual and in-person audiences.
Many times event organizers become bogged down by the great number of tasks before them. That is understandable. Depending on the scope of your event, you may be involving dozens or even hundreds of moving parts to make a successful conference.
No matter how large your event, make the extra effort to personalize outreach efforts.
What does this involve? You can personalize everything from emails to invites. Are there specific organizations or community groups you want to involve? Reach out to them with a personal invitation that highlights how their organization’s values and mission align with your event. Other ideas include:
If possible, take the time to find out the names of key actors in an organization, community, or movement. A personalized letter, meeting, or call builds a meaningful connection with your organization. They will remember that you took the time to personally reach out. In our impersonal digitized world, that human touch, connecting across communities, will make a world of difference.
5. How Do I Choose the Best Keynote Speaker?
Everyone has found themself in one of those tedious talks where the speaker is rambling on for what feels like weeks, and you’re doing everything in your power to keep your eyes open. Yawn! Without a seasoned speaker who can reach all audiences – virtual and in-person – you might find that all your planning falls flat.
Besides choosing content that has real-world value,
don’t forget the power of hiring an engaging keynote speaker.
Needless to say, if you want your audience fully locked in, then you don’t want boring speakers. On the contrary, the stars of your show need to be compelling, on stage and in front of the camera.
Admittedly finding speakers that are equally adept at both isn’t always straightforward (though they’re definitely out there), but you can always give your chosen speaker training in their areas of weakness. In fact, that’s something we highly recommend. Not all speakers understand exactly what a hybrid event is and how it is different than a live conference.
The value of your speakers goes beyond just what they do on stage – as fountains of knowledge, you want to extract as much as you can out of them. That could mean recording separate interviews/talks prior to the main event, which could then be posted exclusively online. Or even involving them in virtual breakout sessions, where your online audience has the choice to watch different talks where and when they please.
What Makes a Good Hybrid Event Keynote Speaker?
Good keynote speakers at an on-site event know how to truly take hold of an audience and keep that hold while they ride the wave of their presentation through to its conclusion. The best can make a 45-minute discussion feel like only 15, and yet attendees still come away with the full book of knowledge just imparted to them.
Good online speakers can do the same thing, but it’s only the rarest of individuals that can appeal equally to both audiences at the same time.
Thankfully many of the best keynote speakers and corporate executives used the opportunity presented by the pandemic to pivot their stage skills to the webcam and now have experience with both.
Taking moments to point out [consenting] members of the local audience –, followed by the same thing but from the gallery view of the virtual audience – is a great way to win points from both angles.
Speaking to the cameras as often as one speaks to the local audience earns more rapport than most realize. Making certain primary speakers and panel moderators are comfortable relating to two audiences at once can go a long way to making everyone feel included. A good production provider can help train the less confident speakers.
How to Coach a Speaker for a Hybrid Event
Check that your speakers know how to work with a hybrid audience and understand the technical requirements needed for the session. The reality is that a lot of speakers have specifically mastered the art of talking to live audiences. They may also have given online presentations. But addressing two separate audiences at the same time? They may need extra coaching to help them successfully engage all of your conference attendees.
If possible, take the time to meet with the speaker ahead of time to test audio, video, and the internet connection. Tweak any problems ahead of time. If the speaker is virtual, have them test their microphone, speaker set-up, and settings.
Some great tips for your speaker:
Time to Take a Break
That feeling of inclusion shouldn’t be placed on the shoulders of presenters alone. Taking breaks is important, whether sitting in a cold hotel ballroom or at the kitchen table at home.
Why do hybrid event attendees need a break in the first place?
In-person participants, of course, would want time to go to the bathroom, socialize, and catch a bite to eat. For attendees at home, distractions can lead to much lower participation. Additionally, attending an event in person leads to greater engagement, more meaningful interactions, and perks like cool swag, interactive demonstrations, testing products, and even free samples.
Make your virtual attendees feel as special and important as your in-person guests.
Avoid hitting participants over the head too much with intellectual lectures and hours of non-stop content. Rest will leave people feeling more energetic and excited about your event. Always leave room for organic interaction, socializing, and free unstructured time. Overloading participants with too much data can lead to a painful brain overload.
Be creative with your activities during break time. Offer a variety of interesting options like:
Keep your participants active and engaged when you give them an opportunity to take a break and breathe.
6. How to Host an Exciting Hybrid Event Experience
Your in-person audience is naturally going to have a more “intimate” experience than your virtual crowd. We’re talking about rubbing shoulders with old and new acquaintances, interacting face-to-face, and possibly having a round of drinks, versus sitting behind a laptop while a toddler cries in the background.
It’s not comparable. And really, it shouldn’t be.
Virtual participation is its own thing – attempting to recreate the on-the-ground experience via web stream is unrealistic. Instead, give your online attendees the best possible experience that they can have.
The goal should always be to put on a hybrid event that creates an equally lasting impression for your two audiences. It’s a tall task, but by putting yourself in the shoes of each, and paying extra attention to the little details, you increase the likelihood of your event being an incredible success.
Easy starting packages • Advanced options • Proven results
7. How Do I Captivate My Audience?
Community is a big part of what makes live events so rewarding, and with hybrid, it’s no different. The “buy-in” of your combined audiences is usually reflected in the communal atmosphere of your event, so it’s your duty to facilitate easy interaction between everyone at the party.
Online discussion platforms and private chat communities are an ideal way to bring physical and virtual attendees together while the event is taking place. Other ideas include:
In many ways, it’s appropriate – and even necessary – to treat virtual and on-site audiences differently. But it’s just as important to make them feel included in the event as a whole. The bonding experience of presenting polls that can be answered regardless of location cannot be overstated.
A successful hybrid event gives virtual participants the same benefits and opportunities as their in-person counterparts. Enabling your online audience to interact with the onsite event is a great way to show you have them in mind, and reduces any sense of FOMO that they might experience.
8. Hybrid Events Best Practices for Connecting Audiences
Admittedly finding ways to connect people attending in person with those sitting at home remains one of the biggest challenges for hybrid events. What should be your goal?
Focus on connecting like-minded participants into a single space regardless of location.
But how can you help online audiences meet and connect with your physical audience?
Use existing platform technologies so all participants can exchange contact information through user profiles no matter how they choose to attend the event. Provide additional reference materials and downloads through the platform’s social hub or by way of QR codes. Post-event, encourage meet-ups and online community.
And try these interesting interactive experiences to encourage long-term relationships.
Foster Connection and Community with Conversation
Many virtual tools will include ways to create small breakout sessions. Create a variety of breakout sessions of no more than a dozen participants each. Sessions should combine both in-person and online attendees. Organize sessions around anything from topics to specific goals to geographic regions.
Use Virtual Reality Tools and Technology to Create Engaging Virtual Spaces
Virtual reality continues to play an increasingly important role in hybrid events. In fact, even social media megaliths like Meta have shifted to create interactive virtual reality meeting spaces for the very purpose of connecting people across borders and communities. Creating an interesting digital space where in-person attendees and online audiences can connect and communicate in real time can provide extra value and engagement for all involved.
Try Speed Networking Sessions to Connect Participants
A popular concept – speed dating – can be applied to your hybrid event. In speed dating, randomized participants have a few minutes to interact with someone before switching to another person. While this concept for dating might yield uneven results, a quick “speed networking” session between online and in-person participants can create a fun and meaningful opportunity.
Pro Tip: Inclusivity not only helps all the participants, but also helps to gather far more robust analytics, which can easily translate into better future attendance numbers, gross ROI, and increased sales and contributions.
9. Different Audiences Have Different Needs, and That’s Okay
Try as you may, you’ll never be able to provide a completely uniform experience for your two audiences. And that is okay. It’s almost expected. But instead of thinking of this as a challenge, see it as a welcome opportunity to truly create an unforgettable interactive experience. Think about catering to the specific needs of each audience.
For example, one of the main selling points of virtual attendance is that it’s meant to be convenient and accessible.
Having the virtual participants mirror every activity of the in-person audience (or vice versa) is not practical or engaging.
Compromise by having them join the same session at alternative times, or giving them the chance to rewind and catch up on any action they may miss via video and social media.
10. Hire an Experienced Virtual Host
Compared to being on the ground with a name tag, virtual attendance can become a little boring. Don’t make your virtual audience log on and just sit there feeling lost – you need a charismatic, professionally trained host to make them feel part of the event.
A virtual emcee gives the online audience true representation and helps bridge the gap between virtual and live events. They’re here to answer questions, connect with the venue host/speakers, and really just ensure that anyone participating in their slippers will be heard.
The virtual emcee does more than speak into a mic and moderate events. In many ways, the virtual emcee is your events coach, encouraging participants and speakers to have meaningful interactions and stepping in when things get a little bumpy. Some things a virtual emcee might do include:
- Conduct a sound check with the speaker
- Encourage the speaker and ensure they are comfortable
- Warm up the audience for the speaker
- Check camera angles and work with the team to ensure the best experience for all
- Coach speakers, especially those new to hybrid events
- Capture the attention of online participants
- Instruct audiences on how to use the event platform, log in, create a profile, etc.
- Moderate and encourage good discussion in the sessions and breakout rooms
- Hype up the audience for the next event
- Create a personalized experience for attendees
A virtual emcee has several challenges, not the least of which is keeping individuals engaged that might be ready to tune out after an hour or two of video conferencing. An experienced virtual emcee can help make your event unforgettable and exciting.
While in-person participants often plan to attend each event and often have traveled a long distance specifically for the conference, many online participants are busily multitasking. They may have multiple commitments and distractions occurring offline. Additionally, they might be half-listening in their pajamas or have the event playing in the background while they work.
A virtual emcee realizes engaging virtual audiences involves an entirely different dynamic. They have mastered flexibility and communication across all platforms.
In fact, hosting a conference virtually may have more challenges than hosting a traditional event. Because of this, be sure that your host has significant experience with hybrid audiences and has the adaptability, skills, and likable personality ideal for your event.
11. Maximize Replay Views & Post-Event Engagement
Didn’t get ‘em the first time around? That’s why recording your event is so important. The longevity of your content depends not just on how good it is, but on its continued existence out there on the web.
Allow your attendees to go back and rewatch as many times as they need. Encourage them to comment on videos, ask questions, and share on social media. Use hybrid events best practices for making the most of event recordings and maximize long-term engagement.
A good event takes on a life of its own, even after everyone’s flown home or logged off. Replays are GOLD! Just because folks have been offered a choice to attend in person or via the web doesn’t necessarily mean those dates and times worked for them.
Being able to go back and watch the programming later is a huge boon for those who missed it, those who want to clarify a topic, or even those who found out too late. This is all capturable data as well as being perfect hype material for the next event.
Pro Tip: Make redundant recordings in case one gets interrupted. We usually make one recording online and one locally.
12. Always Rehearse On-Site to Prevent Technical Challenges of Hybrid Events
Technology is great, as long as it is working! The best bet is: assume nothing is working properly and don’t panic. Test everything before the show. Sound, lighting, audio equipment – it all needs to be tested with both audiences in mind.
Technical difficulties are no fun for those in the venue and can be an even bigger source of frustration for the virtual crowd.
A hybrid event depends on your networking platform functioning correctly, so check that it works and is a positive user experience for virtual participants.
Ensuring your venue’s bandwidth is up to the task is also critical to your event’s success. If attendees can’t connect or keep getting kicked off the network, say goodbye to that glowing feedback.
Pro Tip: One of the biggest problems with virtual events is clipping speaker audio. Clipping occurs when the sound in the mic is so loud that it distorts the audio. Clipping audio not only makes the speaker unintelligible, but the audio can also hurt listeners’ ears or even break computer speakers! When you test speaker audio, if the sound distorts, ask them to lower the mic volume and move the mic further away from their mouth. If they often yell or speak loudly, move the mic much farther away. An inexpensive pop filter can also help reduce clipping.
13. How to Keep People Engaged After the Event is Over
But what about when it’s all over?
You need to make it easy for attendees to stay in touch. Use the technological tools available to you. Make it easy for your audience members to create an online profile in your event hub and share their social media/contact details with others. QR codes with said information are also money in this situation – giving attendees the ability to easily create and share them makes networking that much simpler.
Segmenting content is another plan for keeping up the momentum. If you keep to the adage of “record everything!” the potential is there to create short training pieces, social media clips, and teasers for later content. Keep that ball rolling!
14. Survey Your Audience & Speakers to Design the Best Hybrid Event
Unless the audience is adequately tended to and nurtured, it won’t bear fruit. The impact you make on your audience comes down to the details. Leave no stone unturned! Your hybrid event doesn’t need to be perfect, but there is always an opportunity to learn and make improvements before the next one. With that in mind, don’t forget to collect feedback after the event – your attendees will usually tell you everything you need to know!