“The Times They Are a-Changin’” and many event professionals are producing hybrid events because they are all the rage. Some of the biggest hybrid benefits ensure increased accessibility to a global audience, reduced carbon emissions, and deeper consideration of attendee health and safety.
We find that more and more event organizers want to return to in-person events while simultaneously extending their reach to the new and ever-growing virtual audience. Recent polling shows that 60% of marketers plan to increase spending on a hybrid event model that includes both face-to-face and virtual audiences. Although hybrid corporate events offer unique marketing opportunities, they also present unique challenges.
In a recent webinar, Becky Fittro, Senior Director of Operations at Certain, discussed strategies with Miguel Neves, Editor-in-Chief of EventsMB, that drive cross-audience interaction and event engagement in hybrid events. In the webinar, Miguel suggested the following methods for increasing engagement between virtual and in-person attendees in a hybrid setting.
6 Ways to Encourage In-Person and Virtual Event Engagement
- Prepare the audience before the event. In the webinar, Becky Fittro mentions taking a 365-engagement approach to events: “Participation can start before the event; organizers can ask key questions on registration forms or in their mobile event app, and really crowdsource information from registrants for the questions that they want asked from the featured speaker.”
- Polls and other interactive applications. Use tried and true methods of engagement such as polls, interactive question and answer platforms, and interactive games and contests. Organizers can ask questions or take polls before the event and crowd source amongst registrants for the questions they want asked from the featured speaker.
- Get the timing right. Trying to always push virtual and in-person interaction during a hybrid event can fatigue your audience. The best time to encourage interaction is right after both audiences have participated in the same session, listened to the same speaker, or received the same content.
- Trained Speakers. Speakers should understand how to engage all attendees of a hybrid corporate event equally. With proper coordination, it can be effective to use a different speaker for each audience type.
- Chat rooms. A well-moderated, high-tech chat room can complement the content in the event, bringing together both the in-person and virtual audiences and sparking interesting new insights.
- Social media groups and forums. Encourage both audiences to engage in social media groups and online forums during the complete life cycle of your event. Integrate social media resources into your programming and make the affair a 365 event by continuing to post highlights and other content from the event. Email follow-ups and on-demand content can also be used to further support the 365 concept.
How to Get the Most from Breakout Sessions
Another effective method for encouraging event engagement and audience interaction is the strategic deployment of breakout sessions. Neves recommends using virtual breakout rooms where hybrid audiences are grouped together. This works well under the following conditions:
- Participants should be prepared and notified in advance about the breakout rooms
- Breakouts should be an integral part of the event
- Breakout sessions should be short with simple agendas
- Breakouts should be dispersed throughout the event
Encourage Networking Between Hybrid Event Attendees
Encouraging networking between virtual and in-person audiences might be the most challenging part of a hybrid event. Miguel suggests that event marketers look for “effective equivalents” instead of completely mimicking what would occur during a conventional face-to-face engagement.
“I don’t think it’s wise to look for the exact same [experience] in virtual. I think what works better for me is to kind of embed things into content. This idea of really content marketing and thinking of ways to get involved in the content, and then continue those conversations.”
To encourage better networking, he provides the following tips:
- Virtual technology presents unique opportunities and experiences. Play on its strengths.
- Maximize the use of targeted and customized content pushed through event engagement apps – content is king in virtual and hybrid events.
- Use micro-engagements; don’t expect too much of people right away. Measure out engagements throughout your event, building up in small steps with short gatherings.
Increase Engagement for Sponsors and Exhibitors
Because virtual audiences cannot experience sales booths like a live audience, engagement between sponsors and exhibitors can be tricky. There is a temptation for the virtual exhibitors to try to be “splashy,” but this can be annoying and off-putting. To help exhibitors and sponsors capture better event ROI, Neves suggests:
- Utilizing event data to push targeted content to interested attendees
- Playing targeted pre-roll video ads before relevant sessions
- Engaging interested attendees through email – but make sure your content contains actual value
Encouraging interaction between virtual and in-person guests can be challenging. Following best practices from leaders in the event marketing industry can help you leap over these obstacles and create memorable and valuable experiences for all of your hybrid event attendees.
If you’re planning a live, virtual, or hybrid event, ensure you capture the best event ROI by contacting Certain today for a demo of our full-featured event management software.