Hybrid events – mixing virtual and in-person attendance – present a great opportunity to reach your target audiences wherever they are, making participation convenient and appealing for them. These events also give your business the chance to create new and meaningful connections. The challenge, of course, is ensuring that your messages are delivered clearly and effectively despite the dynamic nature of hybrid events.
As a follow up to our initial set of crucial hybrid-event guidelines, here we focus on the communications aspect of such events. Our tips will help you attract the right audiences, encourage quality engagement and achieve your communications goals.
Create Separate Experiences
Keep in mind that the in-person or virtual environment can affect how information is received by your audiences, and that not all in-person experiences can be effectively conveyed through video messages.
For example, in-person attendees at a conference might be treated to roaming musicians and free ice-cream stalls as they stroll into a keynote address. This exciting buildup to the main event cannot be replicated virtually, so organizers may want to think of another way to delight their virtual attendees. One idea is to mail virtual participants a special pre-event “care package” that includes fun items to be opened at specified moments in the event’s agenda. It might be a challenge to ship even dry ice cream, but other treats, games and SWAG would survive nicely in a box.
In general, sending a pre-event package to all attendees is a great way to leverage the ramp-up phase before an event, when people are looking forward to gathering and may be interested in registering for specific sessions or purchasing event materials. Make sure that any website information is up-to-date with specific instructions for both virtual and in-person attendees.
Not all in-person experiences can be effectively captured via a video message.
Allow for Individualization
With thorough planning, you can provide a seamless experience for all attendees as they move through the agenda. Perhaps some participants plan to attend mostly in person but would like to attend some portions of the event virtually, or other individuals would like to be there in person but can only attend online.
Giving everyone flexibility can open the door to more interaction between virtual and in-person attendees – a key reason why many people attend events in the first place. For instance, you can offer your audiences networking opportunities, such as in-person or virtual breakout rooms, and they will not feel as if they have missed out on that important aspect of the meeting experience.
Stay in Touch
For event organizers, creating lasting and meaningful connections with attendees – and laying the groundwork for future engagement and events – is crucial. However, especially in the case of virtual attendees, leaving a lasting impression or keeping them engaged can be a challenge.
Create a sense of community among attendees before, during and after the event to keep people connected. Think about the programs, platforms and conversations that will outlive the event itself. For example, keep up engagement through a regular newsletter or email update that shares industry or company news, or share a countdown clock tracking milestones leading up to the next event. It goes without saying that an active presence on social media, perhaps celebrating conference spokespeople or following up with relevant developments, also goes a long way towards maintaining an engaged audience.
Communicating effectively and inspiring engagement among event attendees, both in person and virtually, is a universal challenge faced by organizers. The hybrid event model presents new opportunities and forces communicators to think outside the box when it comes to sharing information and developing connections with your audiences.