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Hybrid events are a big part of our future and we must get better at them. According to Northstar Meetings Group's latest PULSE Survey, 36 percent of meeting professionals polled said they are currently planning hybrid events, while 15 percent intend to host a hybrid gathering and 22 percent are considering them.
But preparing for a hybrid gathering requires extra effort, and planners cannot fall into the trap of thinking they are simply creating a live experience that will be broadcasted out to virtual attendees like TV. When done well, hybrid gatherings offer the opportunity to broaden your event reach and create new forms of engagement. Here are a couple of key points to keep in mind.
Treat each site (physical and online) as a separate event during the planning process. This mean adjusting the agenda and perhaps bringing in separate moderators to actively engage each audience. For example, during meal breaks at the in-person event, online attendees could have interviews with speakers or conversations with suppliers. In addition, on-site attendees could have sessions featuring localized content and speakers.
For the virtual portion, planners should embrace a two-way TV mindset. That is, as the live event is broadcasted out, online attendees need to be able to broadcast back so they feel like they are a part of the gathering. Speakers should include comments, questions and funny one-liners from the virtual participants, as well as those in the room. Showing video of some online attendees can also help to bring them into the live event.
Get Participants Involved
It's important to make sure both the virtual and on-site attendees are engaged throughout the event. After all, no one wants to just sit in a crowd and be spoken at for hours on end.
Speakers should invite participants to share feedback in real-time and create a space for audience members to discuss some of the things they've learned with others in the room or online. Another good idea is to ask attendees what they'd like to see at the event beforehand and incorporate their suggestions into the agenda, so they're more invested in the content.
Make it Last
It's tempting to simply share session recordings after the event ends and call it a day. But your attendees will appreciate if you go the extra mile to share additional content afterwards, such as a panel discussion the following month on what's changed or organizing regular networking sessions where participants can connect and learn from one another. Doing so can help extend the lifecycle of the meeting and keep attendees engaged all year long.
Warwick Merry is a certified speaking professional, dual certified virtual presenter and past national president of Professional Speakers Australia. He hosts and produces online events globally.