Like them or not, hybrid events and meetings are here to stay … at least for the time being. The good news is there’s a lot to like about them! They allow more people to attend who otherwise might not, they give attendees the ability to share and re-watch content, and they offer valuable data and metrics. But they also require a whole new set of considerations for the planner.
Here are four tips of planning a hybrid event to keep in mind:
While hybrid events might feel new and intimidating to plan, we’ve been attending them all our lives -- we just haven’t thought of them that way! And if we’ve been attending them, we can certainly plan them.
Think the Olympics. The Kentucky Derby. The Tour de France. March Madness. In-person attendees have always had one experience, while at-home attendees have always had another. One isn’t necessarily better or worse. They’re just different, and making hybrid events an equally good (though different) experience for all attendees first requires a change in the planner’s frame of reference.
Everyone’s tired of Zoom. So how can planners keep things fresh for those who are tired of online meetings but will be attending the event online? The hybrid-event experience is still new; you don’t want it to feel same-old, same-old. Nobody wants to attend yet another online meeting, but a “virtual extravaganza”? Sign me up!
Of course, if you promote it as something special, it actually has to be something special. Look for creative ways that virtual attendees can pair up with in-person attendees. Find the right tech tools to create unique opportunities for each group. Envision what you want the experience to look like for all types of attendees and build to that.
Virtual attendees face social media distractions that in-person attendees don’t. Planners can fight that fact or deal with it. Better, they can make it a cornerstone of the experience.
Imagine — really imagine — a virtual attendee ensconced in their makeshift home office. Without a doubt, there are five tabs open on the computer screen, only one of which is your virtual event.
How can you honor that person’s reality? Social media is a great way to engage virtual attendees with the event, especially since they may already be checking their latest Twitter and Facebook feeds during the event. Create a Facebook group open only to virtual attendees. Ask them to post a “view from their window” and tag the event’s Instagram page or to post a selfie wearing an event T-shirt that they were thrilled to receive beforehand and which made them feel like they’re not relegated to second-class status. Hold a chat-room happy hour or conduct a virtual icebreaker. You’re competing with the pull of social media anyway, so find ways to incorporate it into the event itself.
Remember, you’re not alone. Your peers are facing similar challenges, so take advantage of their knowledge, experiences and learnings. Reach out for both ideas and encouragement. You’ll be glad you did.