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4 Questions to Consider When Creating Engaging Hybrid Event Experiences

Hybrid events are becoming a popular event-planning solution because they provide a global reach for companies who wish to deliver across time zones and locations. Hybrid events can offer flexibility and cost savings but also present potential challenges.

We’ve seen many organizations give up on the idea of hybrid events out of fear or “analysis paralysis.” It’s not uncommon to get hung up on an idea of what a perfect event should look like, and those pesky, constant “what-ifs?” might creep in and limit your ability to move forward with planning.

But hybrid events don’t always need to seem so daunting. We created the following list of questions that you can ask yourself to ensure you deliver engaging and successful hybrid events.

What Is a Hybrid Event?

As the world continues to adapt to rapidly changing technologies and disruption, hybrid events offer a seamless way to connect and accommodate people with diverse needs and preferences. They make engagement easy for those who are unable to travel or prefer the convenience of virtual attendance. Hybrid events mean everyone can still participate fully, ensuring a more inclusive experience.

Key features of hybrid events may include:

  • Virtual Platforms: Hybrid events leverage various virtual platforms, such as video conferencing software, live streaming platforms, or virtual event platforms to facilitate real-time interactions with remote attendees.
  • In-Person Venues: Physical venues are selected to host in-person attendees, providing a space for face-to-face networking, presentations, workshops, and other traditional event activities.
  • Content Delivery: Presentations, keynote speeches, and workshops can be delivered both to the in-person audience and virtually, ensuring that remote participants have access to the same content and experiences as on-site attendees.
  • Interactive Features: Hybrid events often incorporate interactive features, such as Q&A sessions, polls, and chat functionalities, allowing virtual attendees to participate and engage with the event actively.
  • Networking Opportunities: The event may offer networking opportunities for both in-person and virtual attendees, enabling meaningful connections and collaborations regardless of physical location.

By embracing the hybrid event format, organizations can enhance their reach, engagement, and impact while adapting to the ever-evolving dynamics.

4 Questions to Consider When Planning Your Next Hybrid Event

Organizations should consider four fundamental questions when planning their next hybrid event to fully engage and captivate attendees.

While it’s important to have attention to detail and develop contingency plans, you don’t want to let fear or too many “what-ifs?” take over and prevent your organization from enabling a great experience. These questions should serve as a compass, guiding you to create immersive hybrid event experiences that leave a lasting impact.

What Technologies Are You Using?

Hosting a hybrid event isn’t as simple as setting up a Zoom or Teams meeting. Selecting the right platform and tool to meet your needs and objectives is necessary to create an engaging and interactive experience for both groups of participants.

Many event management platforms are readily available, so you’re not short of choices. Each platform offers different capabilities depending on your objectives. If you’re hosting a workshop with group activities, you’ll need a platform with tools and features that support group exercises, such as whiteboards and breakout rooms. If you’re hosting a seminar with an audience of a few hundred participants or more, you’ll need a platform that can support a large group and include some quick engagement tools like question-and-answer sessions or polling.

You should also consider what audio/visual (A/V) equipment you can access. Access to suitable microphones and speakers is critical to ensure that participants can hear and communicate, in-person or virtually. Additionally, you’ll want to consider how to display the visual components of the event. Ensure that both groups of participants can clearly view content without experiencing unnecessary complications. 

Once you’ve identified the right platform and determined what A/V equipment to use, become familiarized with the functionality of other tools at your disposal by carrying out a dry run of your hybrid event to ensure the platform and equipment supports your needs as intended.

What Kind of Support Do You Have?

Special attention should be brought to what and how technology is used, and having the right support team is critical for the success of your hybrid event. But remember: the expectation that an event must be perfect is long gone. Event participants are now much more forgiving of technical challenges or slight hiccups than before the world migrated to a hybrid or remote work environment.

Even so, appoint the following team members to ensure your event runs as smoothly as possible and  those inevitable hiccups are taken care of promptly.

  1. Technical Point Person: When selecting your support team, identify someone with the technical and system expertise to handle real-time issues with the platform and participant access. This could be someone from IT or otherwise well-versed in the technology. They’ll be responsible for troubleshooting any issues before and during the event and determining next steps.
  2. Virtual Producer: Some remote event attendees may need to become more familiar with the platform or the digital tools you’ve selected. A virtual producer can kick off an event by reviewing instructions and critical features the virtual participants need to know to engage fully. This person can also help manage the interactive tools, communicate with participants, and discuss technology issues with the technical point person.
  3. Facilitator: The facilitator’s role is to lead exercises and activities, keep the program on track with the agenda, and engage the audience to maximize participation. The facilitator and virtual producer will work together as a team and should conduct an alignment meeting to review roles and responsibilities before an event.

How Are You Creating Immersive Experiences?

A poorly planned hybrid virtual event can become dull and lifeless, making people switch off mentally and literally. Crafting an agenda, setting clear goals, and integrating engaging activities can help organizations overcome this challenge.

While crafting your agenda and activities, think of how this will be achieved for both groups of participants. If you’re hosting a small group activity, consider how this will be accomplished with both in-person and virtual groups. When mapping out your agenda, think through the frequency of audience interaction.

To keep virtual attendees engaged, you’ll want to interact with the audience more frequently than if it was an all in-person event. Thanks to virtual and augmented reality and gamification techniques, you can quickly connect, intrigue, and entertain the remote audience, but be sure to also identify tools that will help you keep your in-person audience engaged.

While interactivity is critical to engagement, so are scheduling and timing. Consider any competing priorities, time zones, or engagements that might hinder full participation. For instance, scheduling an event the same week as performance reviews are conducted across your organization might not be a good idea.

Combining all these aspects requires meticulous planning and organizing, especially when a team of producers, facilitators, instructors, and systems must be synchronized. However, by streamlining these elements, your event’s delivery management will ultimately succeed, and you’ll provide attendees with an effortless experience.

How Are You Collecting Feedback and Taking Action?

Feedback is a gift. As part of your planning process, consider how you’ll obtain feedback from both groups of participants. You can provide survey access in multiple ways. You can give surveys to in-person participants on paper, you can provide them a QR code accessible by phone, or you can send an email with a link after the event. You can also review your virtual platform functionality to see if a tool can help you collect feedback data for the virtual participants and if it has any reporting dashboards or reports.

After your hybrid event, pull together and ask the following questions as you analyze your data: What went well? What could be improved? When did we experience lower levels of interactivity? How can we create a more engaging experience next time? Use your answers to these questions to inform future events you host.

Another Option: Outsourcing Hybrid Event Delivery

Ideating, producing, and delivering events with specific needs and budgets can be difficult. For some organizations, outsourcing their event management can significantly improve their events’ effectiveness and results. For example, we supported a major aerospace organization with their hybrid summit and helped to make the event an engaging, interactive, and fun experience for all participants. Contact us for more information on delivering hybrid events, or learn more about our event management solutions.

About the Authors

Megan Bridgett
Megan Bridgett, a leader in training and talent development for over a decade, helps organizations implement, optimize, and increase capabilities in their learning management initiatives.

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