Today, it’s never been more important to include a supplemental virtual event in addition to a traditional in-person engagement. And, thankfully, it’s never been easier. With a host of up-and-coming platforms, advances in streaming technology and a desire for participants to take-in the experience at their leisure, hybrid events aren’t a luxury any longer – they’re expected. But, with this new era of event production comes a leap into unknown territory for many of those involved in the industry, so they need to be equipped with the right tools to keep their attendees – both in-person and virtual – engaged throughout the process.
Whether you’re hosting a festival, business conference, trade show or training session, when it comes to pleasing ticket holders, you need to upgrade your approach. Let’s take a look at five key steps to engaging your hybrid event audience.
After the events of 2020, hybrid events have become the norm among professional communities across the world. And, thanks to the expanded reach and convenience provided by a supplemental virtual option, it will likely stay that way. Overall, it lets attendees experience event content when they aren’t able to travel, while making your job as the event host easier by reducing logistics, as long as you have the right hybrid event platform to do much of the work for you. Even as society begins opening back up, hybrid events are here to stay, and as such, you should know the ins and outs of crafting an engaging experience for two distinct, yet important types of attendees.
As a hybrid event specialist, you must learn to walk the line between two experiences, both live and virtual. When you’re trying to deliver content for both types of attendees, there are some small yet crucial details you’ll need to pay attention to. Make sure to check the following criteria before show time:
In addition to preparing the stage, sound system and lighting, make sure video and audio streaming has been tested and is clearly coming through your virtual platform.
Notify speakers that they’re being streamed so they can occasionally direct attention to cameras and engage remote viewers in addition to the live audience.
Increase staff so there are employees giving attention solely to a virtual audience, while the in-house team focuses on live entertainment.
Not every event can go perfectly every time, but a great staff will make your job of engaging in-person and virtual attendees much easier. In addition to a live event host, hire enough moderators to manage online users. This may depend on your crowd size, but at the least, use one virtual moderator for engaging user comments and one for engaging users as a traditional emcee would. This way, you provide person-to-person contact through the camera and will be able to announce key event presenters, break-out sessions and other happenings.
Using a hybrid event platform, whether you’re hosting an expo, conference, trade show or other type of function, gives you built-in tools that let you receive and respond to virtual user’s questions. For example, Second Stage’s hybrid event platform provides things like moderated Q&A sessions and one-on-one session chats. In addition, you’ll find our live chat feature known as “OneChat”, which allows event managers to easily implement direct messaging to respond to questions in real time.
Other ways to make the Q&A session easier is to implement a way to project sound and image of virtual users on the stage – this way, presenters can hear and see the virtual user asking a question. Or, consider a voting system, in which users submit questions to the online community and they give their approval or disapproval. The most voted-for questions then get asked by a moderator or emcee.
Keeping your hybrid audience engaged works best when you make it fun. That’s why gamification has become such a popular way to go about ramping up excitement for your various event activities. Those attendees who enthusiastically played along may qualify as sales leads for your organization or possibly become thought-leader partners who can help promote upcoming events or future content. The data that these games collect will be invaluable in helping you understand if your content was compelling, and will help you understand which of your attendees were interacting the most with your event.
Some ideas for gamifying your event include:
Scavenger hunts: From finding certain sponsor, speaker or topical information, give your attendees a list of tasks to complete so they can better connect with the various aspects of the event. Consider handing out some free tickets for next year’s event.
Prize photo competition: With this, you get added exposure through your event hashtags and relevant user social profiles. Have participants take and post their favorite photos, and give prizes to the ones you deem most worthy.
Trivia or quiz: Create a trivia game that’s centered around your event topics. This will help build awareness about your brand, while you award the winners with swag or other giveaways to keep them excited about the day’s activities.
Between speakers and other happenings, offer up more than a live camera feed on an empty stage. Instead, make your video content more interesting for virtual users to stay engaged, rather than walking away from their screen. Consider shooting some pre-recording content, like live product demos that allow you to showcase your brand or a sponsor, or behind-the-scenes footage that gives attendees a chance to humanize the people and brands controlling the event.