Are you keeping up with changes in the event landscape? In-person conferences, seminars, and other events were providing powerful outreach for many businesses while bringing in substantial profits. Then COVID-19 hit, and everything switched to virtual events. Now businesses in many areas of the world have the option of planning live events again, but a year or two of virtual event planning has changed everything.
Many people now prefer to attend events from home because they don’t have to get dressed up, risk exposure to a crowd of unknown people, and possibly spend time sitting in traffic. Many event planners also prefer virtual experiences because they can use pre-recording to include people who might otherwise not participate.
Put all of this together, and you see why hybrid events are expected to take the lead in 2022. You can plan a dynamic event that includes far more people than you could ever allow in person while giving participants the option to attend live or virtually. If that sounds like a win-win for your upcoming event, keep reading as we highlight some of the most effective ways to make your hybrid event a massive success.
Take Interaction One Step Further
In the pre-COVID days, event planners were all about introducing new interactive features for live events. You may have used some of those ideas yourself, including interactive games, billboards, and selfie booths. That focus on interaction transferred to the virtual event space with features like online polls and chat boxes.
Interactive features are just as important with hybrid events. You just have an added challenge: boost interaction between virtual and live participants. You want your virtual audience to feel like part of the live audience rather than like outliers.
One survey that included respondents from North America, Europe, Asia, and South America, identified this connection as the biggest challenge for more than 70% of event organizers. If you can find ways to bring both audiences together and encourage connections, you could overcome this challenge. You can create an event that participants rave about regardless of their location.
Backup Your Technology
Have you heard any horror stories about virtual and hybrid events? They’re floating around social media and are often discussed at parties while the champagne is flowing. There are also some business leaders and event planners who would prefer not to talk about select events in their past.
Technological glitches star in many of those stories, yet thousands of events are still held with no effort to create a backup plan. You can fix that by doing at least two things during the planning phase of your virtual or hybrid event.
The first precaution is to establish backup internet connections. Wired connections are best as your primary source of internet connectivity. You can use your Wi-Fi as a backup. Then take that a step further and designate a device that runs on a different internet network that will stay fully charged and available for tethering if needed.
The second precaution is to pre-record some live content for the event. If a major speaker cancels at the last minute or another unexpected event occurs, you can always go with your pre-recorded content.
Boost Content for Virtual Attendees
Remember the survey of international event planners and attendees that we talked about a moment ago? That research also revealed that nearly 60% of respondents favored live events over hybrid events. More than 70% believed live events deliver greater value.
Do you want to boost your virtual attendance for future events? Start by giving your virtual experience just as much thought and planning as your live experience. It’s easy to plan the live event and then create a virtual component for as much of that content as possible. Unfortunately, that is the approach that leaves so many virtual attendees feeling disconnected and unvalued.
You may have elements of the live event that don’t translate well to the virtual experience. That’s okay as long as you also create elements that are unique to the virtual experience. One way to do this is to create unique content that is only displayed online. We’re talking about fun graphics, interactive games, and pre-recorded interviews or talks. You may even allow live participants to snap photos that are shared virtually in real time.
Your virtual attendees will get more value out of the event when you cater to the strengths of virtual event technology. You can always provide links to some of the virtual content if your live attendees want to watch it after the event.
Don’t Stop at the End
Do you think of your final speech or breakout session as the end to your event? It’s time to correct that if you do. Many successful events deliver their best results days or even months and years after its conclusion. Think of the event as planting seeds that you hope will grow into healthy plants. Eventually, you want those plants to create beautiful flowers that allow your business to flourish.
You probably already collect contact information as attendees sign up for an event. Maybe you already have that information because you’re holding an event for employees or established teams. That information allows you to reach out to participants for marketing purposes, but you want it to go the other way as well.
We’re talking about giving every participant a reason to contact someone within your business in the future. Maybe you give a special discount on select products or services to everyone in attendance. Perhaps you offer smaller event tickets that will allow further growth and development related to the current event.
There are many ways to do this, but your goal is to keep the interaction going. You can even encourage participants to network between one another. That delivers another element of value that will lead to repeat participants in future virtual or hybrid events.
Erase the Screen
A successful hybrid event will somehow erase the screen that separates your audience. You can maximize participation by including a virtual audience, but that audience must feel included.
Even if the virtual attendees pay less to attend than the live attendees, they must get something of value for their time. You do that by creating an interactive, rewarding virtual experience that may differ slightly from the live experience. If you can do that while ensuring it all feels like one big event rather than two separate events, you’ve hit it out of the park.
Partnering with the right technology provider
With the right technology and a few proven approaches, you can create highly effective hybrid events. Find out how the Pathable event platform can help support the ideas in this article and more: Explore Pathable.