Events are back in full-swing. And while most companies are now opting for fully in-person events, some are still interested in the use of virtual platforms to augment part of their event.
That could include a few sessions, the entire event, or just a pre- or post-meeting with your attendees. As we head into a year full of events, let's take a look at some top tips for your hybrid event.
Welcome to the New Age of Hybrid Events
A hybrid event is a mix of some live, in-person gathering along with a digital streamed or on-demand component. It can incorporate any number of additional aspects of a live event such as food, music, or networking.
Several businesses jumped on this trend in 2021, with some smaller in-person gatherings and larger virtual events. Now that most, if not all, live events are back, companies are deciding whether hybrid events still make sense.
There are a few advantages to hosting hybrid events. The virtual aspect of the event gives you the ability to:
- Host attendees from around the world, or those who cannot travel
- Reduce some costs such as travel or hoteling
- Create a more flexible agenda that works for your attendees
- Distribute content more widely before, during and after the event (plus, reuse it across your blog or social media platforms)
Let's take a look at what you'll need to make your hybrid event a success.
Hybrid, but Make It Business
So should (and how should) your business incorporate a hybrid event in your 2023 plans?
“Absolutely,” says founder and partner of GoGather, Dave Wagner. “We are hearing from more and more of our clients that they are looking at the hybrid model, especially for internal events such as Sales Kickoffs and training.”
Here are the top 6 recommendations for planning and executing your hybrid event:
1. Ask Why
As the wise Simon Sinek has said, “start with why.” (If you have not seen this, stop what you are doing and watch it!). Why are you doing this event? Is it to create deeper customer relationships? Are you looking to energize your team so they can hit your fiscal goals?
By focusing on the why, you can zero in on your goal, which in turn will inform both the form and the functional aspects of your event. For example, building teamwork and collaboration is unlikely to happen at a hybrid event if attendees don’t interact with one another.
When planning a hybrid event, you should also consider your organization itself. Does your organization have the need and ability to gather? Are you scattered across the world and able to travel, or does it make more sense to have centralized locations for your event? If your attendees are logging in from across the world, will you need to account for drastically different time zones?
2. Plan As If It's In-Person
Planning a hybrid event is almost, if not more, complicated as an in-person event. You will need to ensure your teams behind the scenes are set, that your content is strong, and that your speakers are ready.
There are a few aspects that may require new solutions including:
Choose your systems wisely. This is not a webinar. This is an interactive event that requires timing, engagement, and detailed planning. Think of it like SNL, where you have a mixture of live and recorded sessions, interactive audiences, music, and a headliner.
You may need to plan out the event as you would an actual TV show with a minute-by-minute plan, a producer behind the scenes orchestrating and staff prepping the next session.
Now add in the chat rooms, food delivery, and new content types and you start to get the picture.
We know content is key, but this is doubly so with hybrid events. You are trying to gain and keep your audience engaged when they have a million other distractions. Consider:
- Slides: Boring PowerPoints with terrible graphics just don’t cut it. Work with your design team to ensure that the slides will not only look great but will work in the technical environment you have chosen. Plus, keep in mind that people will be watching this on their home computers. What may work in a large-scale ballroom may not translate to their computers (AKA lots of graphics on slow WiFi).
- Add Excitement: Stories are 22x more memorable than just information. We are hardwired for stories since the CAVEMAN, so don’t skip them!
- Engage the audience: During the presentation section of your event, it’s a great time to get them involved. Do polls, do surveys, prompt questions, etc.
- Focus on what matters: It’s the same principle as a meeting that could have been an email. Don’t waste their time. You’ll lose them to the next nearest screen (or their dog just waiting to be play fetch).
We’ve all been in boring conference sessions or started texting during a lackluster speaker’s presentation.
In the hybrid world, there's no social pressure to stay off your phone, so it's a lot easier for attendees to lose interest. We cannot emphasize this enough: don't be boring.
- Add the jazz: Train with your speakers, jazz up their presentations, add a co-presenter, or if worse comes to worst, suggest that their content would be better served in a respected written form like a whitepaper as part of the event’s promotions or follow up.
- I’m ready for my close up: With most people now using digital meeting platforms, people are getting more comfortable being on camera. However, there is still a lot to be desired when it comes to the polish you would ensure at one of your in-person events. Help your team look authentic, but polished, with one-on-one dress rehearsals. Get the sound, camera, lights, and backgrounds set in plenty of time so if you need to send speaker kits, you can.
- For your in-person team: Decide how you are going to set up your in-person team. Do you need multiple cameras? Do you need to bring in a video team? How will you handle sound and transitions?
- Is this thing on: With our new normal, the world has seen some of the smartest, most accomplished people become bumbling and awkward when it comes to digital meeting technology. “You’re on mute…can you see my screen..." Help your speakers with a dress rehearsal and a tech to support them the entire presentation.
3. Get a Host
This is often an overlooked, yet incredibly vital part of a hybrid event: your host.
Whether hybrid or all virtual, you need a host to keep the show rolling, support speakers, bridge the event sessions, and keep the energy up. Many organizations are not only having their host do the basic MC activities listed above, but are also using them to facilitate networking and fun aspects of events.
A host can be an internal employee or someone you hire to keep the show rolling. Either way, make sure to run through the program carefully with them so they know what to tell attendees and when.
4. Get the Right Partners
Just like your regular events, your hybrid events will require an extended team to help you create an experience that is worthy of your brand and goals. A few top of mind considerations include:
From your streaming platform to your app to the cameras in your physical event space, make sure the technology you choose and the A/V partners you work with are well-suited for your event. There's nothing worse than trying to watch a live session and not being able to hear the sound without almost breaking your computer speakers.
Activities and Team Building
We love a good team building session. In-person events allow for those candid moments of connection that virtual events often lack. Consider how you can create those moments, and partner with businesses that can help you facilitate that. Think: wine pairing evenings, smaller local get-togethers, etc.
There's a lot to juggle when you're planning a hybrid event. It's taking two very distinct and complicated ideas and trying to sew them together in a way that makes sense. It's either going to turn out like a beautiful cake or like one of those baking fail videos.
With that in mind, it's important to consider whether you need additional support for your hybrid event. Finding a partner that is versed in virtual and in-person events while also being able to look at the full strategy with you will be key.
5. Connect, Connect, Connect
Organizations often choose hybrid events over all virtual events because they want their teams to be able to connect. Here are three ways to get the interactions going in-person and virtually.
Breakout sessions allow for increased engagement for your attendees wherever they may be. This could be in the form of smaller groups led by a host around a specific topic, a brainstorming session, or a Q&A with a SME.
For groups just forming or who need to gel a bit more, consider networking or get-to-know-you activities. With WFH still permeating the workforce, there is always a great intro - where are you joining us from, who is with you, and what’s in your office? (San Diego, just me and my chubby cat on my lap)
Don’t forget the joy! People come out of events on a ‘high’ of sorts. They are full of inspiration, new colleagues and camaraderie, and actions that they want to take back to their daily lives.
But they also have fun! Don’t hesitate to include moments of joy and laughter from upbeat music to funny videos, from virtual 5Ks to yoga sessions, from virtual happy hours to trivia games. Again a host here can really help you all from feeling awkward and bring out that post-event glow again.
6. Close the Loop
Communication is always key. Here’s how you can close the loop to make sure your messages stick.
Before the event
Be clear about how things will go, the time commitments, and the technical aspects of attending.
A secret best practice… have a happy hour networking session the night before the event so everyone will go onto the platform and work out their technical issues BEFORE the event.
This saves you and your team a lot of headaches.
During the event
Don’t leave anyone behind. Have a tech team standing by for both speakers and attendees who have issues during the event.
After the event
Make sure you have supporting collateral ready so your messages and goals are reinforced post-conference. Collateral can be ready for the in-person team via print and downloads for the virtual attendees.
Hybrid is Happening
Hybrid events are a wonderful mix of the old and the new worlds we live in. With good planning and a creative team, you can make them the best of both worlds.
Need a strategic consultation or an extra team behind the scenes to help you pull off a hybrid event? Contact us today to learn how GoGather helps you gather both in-person and online.