Hybrid events have been growing in popularity over the past few years and the industry scene would indicate that this is set to continue throughout 2018 and beyond. Not only are streaming technologies becoming more advanced and reliable, we’re seeing a rise in web based hosting platforms that cater to a wide range of meeting needs.
But whilst the ability to combine traditional live meetings with online virtual components means that location is now less of a barrier for collaboration, hybrid events present their own unique set of challenges. So we’ve put together a list of key considerations to help ensure your hybrid event runs smoothly and with success.
Be clear on your objectives
Understanding your end goal and how best to achieve it is key to the success of any event but when we move to a hybrid format, setting clear objectives in the early planning stages is crucial. Remote attendees’ present challenges for engagement – their attention is much harder to retain – so it’s imperative that the sessions you choose to present virtually are the sessions that will allow you to achieve your event goals.
Having clear cut objectives from the start will also allow you to streamline your key messages, allowing for shorter sessions more likely to hold the interest of your virtual delegates.
Consider each audience perspective
Hosting a hybrid event is essentially catering to two distinct audiences. Whilst your live attendees will have an agenda that runs for the duration, don’t forget to tend to those not physically present. It’s highly unlikely that their attention will be devoted to the whole event but prepare for this as a possible eventuality. Ensure they have access to quality content on demand for breaks in streamed sessions and keep them updated on live activity – never leave them with a blank space or keep them in the dark about how your live event is unfolding.
Also consider each audience perspective when it comes to formatting your sessions – research shows that most virtual attendees prefer a TV show format over a traditional lecture style but will this work for your live audience? For a successful hybrid event, you need to find a balance that suits both audience types.
Interact with your remote attendees
Whether they are in the room with you or participating from afar, your audience are the heart and soul of your event and should be acknowledged as such. Your conference chair, presenters and guest speakers should all be well briefed on interacting with both audiences – it’s often all too easy to forget that there are remote attendees out there with just as much invested in the event.
Encourage questions from both live and virtual attendees and develop a plan for addressing a combination of these in your broadcasted sessions. Also bear in mind that the responses of your virtual attendees are likely to be subject to slight delay – factor this into your session timings to allow for sufficient interaction from both audiences.
Having a dedicated moderator or facilitator and making use of online social platforms (or internal networks where necessary) will promote participation and allow your attendees to connect with each other to a greater degree.
Encouraging delegates to submit their own content (photos, videos, thoughts, observations) using a dedicated hashtag will unify the conversation and increase engagement, particularly among your remote attendees.
If using a facilitator to act on behalf of your online audiences, be sure to have clear procedures in place to enable them to contribute effectively without causing confusion or disruption.
Rehearse and be strict with timings
With the added pressure of ensuring the online audience feels connected, it’s crucial that all presenters are fully prepared and well-rehearsed. They should be comfortable with your AV team, understand how and when they will be seen in an online capacity and be made aware of planned camera positions for the duration of the event. And of course, a technical run through is an absolute must to ensure successful transmission.
Running to schedule is also crucial to a successful hybrid event. Your online audience will be working around your given timings and if you’re behind schedule, you run the risk of losing their attention. Equally, if you are ahead of schedule, your remote audience may miss out.
Choose the right team
Both your online and live audiences will expect high quality audio visual delivery as a bare minimum so make sure you use reliable equipment and take on a production team with plenty of hybrid experience.
It’s vital that you plan your set up well in advance and make sure that your chosen venue has the capability to support your event needs. Many venues do not offer wired internet connectivity as standard, which is highly recommended for reliability. A good AV company will liaise with your venue directly to ensure the required specifications are met.
Whilst there’s no denying that live events offer a deeper level of engagement and an experience that cannot be fully replicated online, hybrid events have certainly made their mark on the industry and offer a host of benefits when planned and executed correctly.
The ultimate key to making your hybrid event a success is to view the virtual components not as an add on, but as a compliment to your live sessions, using each individual element to enhance the other and increase the impact of your event message.
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