Hybrid events are changing. They began as an alternative way to connect a remote audience to a live, in-person event. However, organizations soon realized that providing remote attendees “a seat in the back of the room” does not translate to a compelling online experience. Sitting isolated at one’s computer is vastly different than attending a session at a nice facility, engaging with other participants.
My association is pursuing hybrid events. What are the initial steps to planning a successful program?
Increasingly, hosts of hybrid events are investing more time and resources into understanding the needs of the remote attendee and designing creative/entertaining formats to address their requirements. Our CommPartners hybrid event expert & virtual emcee, Emilie Barta, elaborates and recommends the following considerations during the early planning process:
- Treat this as one event with two different audiences united to form one cohesive community…as opposed to being planned as two separate events, or as a physical event with a virtual component afterthought.
- Understand your audiences and give them what they want. Start with figuring out the “who” and the “why.” Then you can start thinking about “what” to give them based on their personality, needs, learning styles, attention spans, and technology aptitude.
- Work with a trusted hybrid event consultant to oversee and facilitate the entire project. This person is responsible for designing an experience for the virtual participant that enables them to feel like they are in the room, even though they are not physically present, through proper consideration of program and partner development and customization.
- Include an online learning community to foster synergy between peers, stimulate engagement, and share information. Individuals attend in-person conferences to learn, connect, and have fun – a virtual audience demands the same. Tip: “Open the doors” several weeks before the event to get everyone excited about your upcoming conference and let them know what to expect.