44’s Jo Williams explains how technology gives us a great chance to engage colleagues across multiple locations by running must-attend hybrid events.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve all adjusted very quickly to online events – whether it’s a social quiz night, helping the children with virtual lessons or attending work meetings. We’ve all had to embrace new behaviours and expand our knowledge of technology. As we begin to normalise our lives and resume in-person events, how do we take forward what we have learned and deliver the best hybrid event we can?
Hybrid events: the best of both worlds
It’s no secret that hosting a virtual event can reach a greater number of participants, or that it will lower costs and help towards sustainability targets, but it’s hybrid events that are high on the agenda of many of our clients who want the best of both. Recent research from LinkedIn suggests nearly 75% of events will be hosted with both physical and virtual audiences over the next 12 months.
But it’s a balancing act to get the experience right for both in-person and virtual attendees, and for many this can seem like an impossible task. Research undertaken by Eventsforce shows that understanding how to blend the virtual and in-person experiences tops the list of challenges that event planners are facing. Successful hybrid events aren’t just about planning and organising but design and production. We need to shift to an ‘event producer’ mentality and here’s a few pointers to help you on your way…
Before you start
Whether you are trying to deliver a particular message, inform and update or bring colleagues together, you need to be clear on the objectives and create an agenda with a tagline and key themes that align to your strategy to drive the purpose. We know two heads are better than one, and three are better than two, so by developing these ideas collaboratively with senior stakeholders and willing colleagues from around the business, you can create a framework for your messaging that will support buy-in and create a buzz. A strong brand identity that underpins every part of the event is also key in binding it all together and bringing consistency to all communications.
Content is still king
Creating this kind of engagement for both in-person and online attendees can be tricky. But you’re not alone – a Markletic study showed that 46% of event organisers acknowledged difficulties engaging a virtual and in-person audience simultaneously. But how do you make sure planned activities, presentations and speakers are inclusive and engaging for all?
Encourage interaction for all
People joining online often struggle to feel part of the conversation during hybrid events and attendees in the office can no longer ask questions from the comfort of the chat function. Why not incorporate live polls, surveys, quizzes or host your Q&A through platforms such as Mentimeter, Slido or Poll Everywhere to add interaction? These are often available as an easily downloadable app, so the in-person audience can get involved on their phones.
Time for a snack-break
If you are including a coffee break or lunch, don’t forget about those joining remotely. For example, a client recently asked us to send lunchboxes to employees that were home-based. Though, it doesn’t have to be a whole picnic, something as simple as a snack bar would work just as well to allow virtual colleagues to feel part of the event.
Reflect your audience in your programme
Feature a combination of in-person and online speakers and include both live presentations and pre-recorded video. Hiring an external speaker from agencies such as JLA or NMP Live can be an event highlight, bringing insights and experience from the outside world. But don’t forget to include your own colleagues too. The power of storytelling from colleagues across all levels of the business can reinforce messages in a real and relatable way.
Build an online buzz
Thinking about your post hybrid event plan and the power of imagery in this Insta-era, a photo backdrop underpinning the event theme for both physical and virtual attendees will bring energy – this may mean for virtual attendees a list of props or locations. A hashtag always works well and don’t forget to promote an address or your preferred company social channel to share them to.
During the hybrid event, to help with post-event engagement it’s easy to grab some vox pop quotes from in-person attendees, but during a break or just after the event ask a few virtual attendees for a quote too.
And to close the event, a call to action. This could be something to share, such as a pledge around the event theme or something more personal like a request to write a specific goal, to revisit in six months.
Keeping momentum after a hybrid event
First of all, congratulate yourself, you made it through your hybrid event! But now the question is how to keep colleagues engaged after they walk out the room or click the leave button. The important thing here is to start thinking about this early as part of the planning process as it will need to be built into the event content. Below are our top tips for follow-ups:
- Create a micro-site with the content from the day: presentations, quotes and videos
- Include your preferred company social channel to capture photos, pledges or comments
- Share the stats gleaned from the live interactivity with a company response
- Answer any unanswered questions from the chat or during the Q&A
- Ask for formal feedback via a survey
- Send a thank you to attendees and a ‘sorry you couldn’t attend’ message to no-shows.
Talk to us
Whatever you need help with when it comes to hybrid events, we’re more than happy to help. From delivering engaging content to deciding which platform is right for your needs, let’s have a conversation (we’re available in person and online, of course!).