How to Connect with Attendees Through Hybrid Events
Understanding what your attendees want from a hybrid event to meaningfully integrate both virtual and in-person experiences is key to developing a successful, interactive, and engaging event.
As the country slowly starts to reopen, event teams are looking ahead to hybrid and in-person events. There is still uncertainty about hosting live events due to safety measures, costs, travel, and audience participation, and virtual events are forcing the industry into a blended reality.
Hybrid events offer a safe and integrative method of driving connection with your attendees without having to fully commit to a single format. In fact, moving to hybrid has the potential to expand audience reach, increase engagement, create more unique experiences, and provide the benefits of both virtual and in-person events.
What is the hybrid event experience?
Hybrid events do not separate the virtual elements from the in-person ones. They actively integrate the two, so attendees can get the best of both worlds for an inclusive and interconnected experience.
Whether experiencing the event virtually or in person, the goal is for every attendee to find the event relevant and valuable. That end goal doesn’t change for a hybrid event — the event experience needs to create impact for all attendees, and hybrid events call for us to think about how we can connect virtual attendees into an experience that also has an in-person component, so they feel completely included.
The goal is to create an experience that engages your audience, no matter where they are — engagement is the essential ingredient in hybrid events.
Integrate virtual and in-person attendees into a shared interactive experience.
Adopting a hybrid approach means designing meaningful solutions that showcase the best of both disciplines and bridging the gap between physical and digital by removing points of friction. Just like any other event type, hybrid events put the audience journey first – for both audiences. It’s critical to treat your live and online audience equally to maximize the event’s value and impact, planning the program and activations for virtual and in-person attendees together rather than treating them as completely separate audiences. A hybrid event is not just streaming an in-person event online for viewers at home. Humans are social creatures that crave connection, so face-to-face, virtual-to-virtual, and face-to-virtual connections are all hybrid experiential realities. And the event’s purpose is to create that connection by driving attendee engagement.
The keyword to remember for virtual event venues is spatial volume. The goal is to allow the space for virtual attendees to access the live experience and enable them to feel as if they’ve gone somewhere, escaped the norm, and can enjoy interaction from within the experience. An experience with spatial volume allows attendees to network and connect with others who are interested in similar ideas and engage in lively discussions to learn more and become inspired.
6 hybrid event ideas that can create a dynamic experience.
Here are some ways you can create a hybrid experience that engages everyone involved:
Host viewing parties
Content is still king and sharing moving stories fosters human connection. Host in-person viewing parties where small groups of attendees can watch from various remote locations together. Build in ways for the different small groups to interact with each other virtually to drive inter-audience engagement.
Panel discussion breakouts
This could happen after a keynote to give every attendee, in-person or online, a chance to feel involved and ask questions. This may look like small, individualized groups that break off from the keynote to connect and discuss their new knowledge and how they can apply it. Drive inclusion and participation wherever possible.
Create on-site avatars for virtual attendees
Guests attend events for connection and interaction. From Beam robots to iPads and webcams, use technology to allow virtual guests to roam the in-person event and experience the activations. Take grand opening events, hold virtual tours for remote guests where they are personally walked through the space by an event host who can stop and answer questions along the way.
Conversations with company executives
This could focus on a central event with the top executives of the company at their headquarters or another location, but the experience can be broadcast and shared with employees across the world through regional “watch party” events. These could be hosted by regional executives who build on the global event with a local component to engage their employees and answer key questions and concerns.
Create an internal summer camp for a company
Whether exploring online or in-person, this concept allows attendees to discover the different activities offered, anchored in creating moments of interaction between the digital and physical attendees. They could go see music, participate in interactive games DIY sessions, or try out another type of hands-on experience.
Live stream a celebrity concert
A concert with a celebrity musician could be streamed to both attendees watching from home and in-person attendees watching together from a park. This both saves on production costs and provides a similar experience for both attendee types. You can give an even more intimate experience to everyone by hosting a live fan Q&A chat that allows all attendees to talk with their favorite celebrity after the show.
Hybrid is going mainstream in 2021
Virtual events had their moment in 2020. As the world gets ready to open back up, you need to be ready to respond with unique and appropriate types of experiential engagement. The beauty of hybrid events is that there are so many ways to approach them, but the bottom-line goal remains the same — to create engagement for your attendees so that they feel connected and valued, no matter where they’re attending from.
There are many benefits to creating a hybrid experience. Make sure your event works to achieve the following:
- Creates shareability for viewers around the world
- Allows attendees to choose how they want to participate: virtually or in-person
- Connects with people’s interests and emotions
- Drives scalability in order to increase the number of attendees and increase revenue
Using the right strategies can turn a downsized in-person event into an incredible hybrid experience that both in-person and online attendees can enjoy.
Designing a way to merge the in-person and virtual worlds, developing strategies to allow all attendees to interact with the event, and creating relevant and inclusive integration require support with expertise in both strategy and production. Connecting with experienced event strategists can give you the support you need to achieve your event goals and give attendees the experience they want.