The best of both worlds
They're here to stay - hybrid events have secured their place among event formats. So, from the right way to address your online audience to how to awaken your participants' more playful instincts, these tips will help to make your corporate event, conference or congress a success.
The pandemic has changed the rules of the game in Austria's MICE sector. After being banished to the virtual world for months, corporate events, conferences and congresses are starting to take place in person again. But not exclusively so: hybrid events are tenaciously defending their position among event formats. And rightly so, because a solution whereby some of the audience is present in person and the rest are connected online combines the best of both worlds. The participants in the room experience the event physically, with all their senses – including the networking and catering. But a hybrid event also enables people to take part who would otherwise have had to make a very long journey, with all the associated effort and expense. Furthermore, hybrid events have a far greater reach.
The downside is that they entail significant organisational effort, not to mention the financial considerations – after all, you are actually planning two events, to meet the needs of different participants. The benefit for you is that if the in-person event has to be cancelled, for example because of anti-covid measures, then you already have a usable back-up plan for an online event to hand. We are learning that, in times like these, it's absolutely essential to plan your event really thoroughly. Then, if you can meet the requirements of both worlds, you as the event organiser will benefit and also create a lasting positive impression among your audience. So here we hope to help you out with the following five questions, which you should ask yourself right at the start of planning for your hybrid event.
1. Is the event suited to being a hybrid event?
Determine in the very earliest stage of planning whether your event is actually suitable to be run as a hybrid event. Neither the online participants nor those present in person should be disadvantaged. Controversial topics in particular, where there is likely to be some debate, may be difficult to handle satisfactorily in a hybrid format. What are especially well suited to a mixed in-person and online event are corporate celebrations, product launches, conferences and presentations.
2. How do you select the right location for your event?
A professional studio, a centrally located hotel or a conference centre with high-end technology – the choice of venue naturally depends on the nature of your event. Find out in advance how well-equipped technically your desired venue is to meet your requirements, and how much experience your point of contact has with events of the kind you are planning. Ideally, you would already have existing relationships with service providers who know the relevant people and the facilities at the venue and so can ensure that it all runs smoothly.
3. Who are the main players at your event?
Concentrate on your own core capabilities and the actual content of the event, and outsource everything else to the professionals. If you leave certain tasks to experienced service providers, then your clients, partners and employees will remember you for the content of your event, and not for blurry streamed images or nervous moderating.
4. How do you make your online audience feel like first-class participants?
While being connected online certainly has some advantages for your audience, the risk remains that the participants you only see on the screen do not feel really involved. After all, for them there is no real sharing of ideas, no catering and no evening entertainment or social events. That's why you must do your best to involve both your in-person audience and the people watching at home. Use the chat function for questions or surveys, offer the option of social events that can be enjoyed online, or you could even send in takeaways for people participating from the office or their home office.
5. How do you maintain your audience's attention?
Hybrid events need to grab people's interest even more than physical events, otherwise their attention will wander and they'll soon be reaching for their phones. So make sure your content is concise and full of surprises to keep your participants interested. The best way to do that is by "gamification". Appeal to your audience's more playful side by organising competitions, rankings and progress bars. Find creative ways of motivating your audience both at home and at the event venue to attend as many panel debates or presentations as possible.