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5 Tips for Conducting Successful Hybrid Events

By Leon Papkoff, EVP of Enterprise Apps for Inpixon

Hybrid events are here to stay. Even long after the pandemic has subsided, it seems this style of event featuring both virtual and in-person components will continue to be the preferred format. One study found that 73% of event planners predict hybrid events will become increasingly common in the future.

Events today look a bit different than the days of strictly in-person gatherings, but the overall goal remains the same: to connect people with brands, facilitate learning, and create networking opportunities. But when it comes to hybrid events, this is easier said than done. 

A recent study of event organizers found that 46% reported their speakers "had difficulties engaging a virtual and in-person audience simultaneously." This finding was echoed by virtual attendees, 39% of whom remarked that they didn't feel included in the event. Other challenges included connectivity issues (32.9%), scheduling for multiple time zones (49%), and the sheer amount of effort required to put on a hybrid event (38%). 

With this in mind, let's explore five strategies any company can adopt to ensure their hybrid event goes off without a hitch. 

1.  Focus on event experience cohesion

The study referenced above noted that 71% of event organizers said that connecting their in-person and virtual audiences was a top challenge. Whether on-site or not, attendees should have every opportunity to network, communicate, and experience all an event has to offer.

The key to experience cohesion is having everything attendees need in one place that is easily accessible. The number of applications required to conduct a hybrid event can be staggering, so it makes the most sense to consolidate everything into a single platform. Attendees can use this platform to do anything and everything related to the event: register, check in, arrange meetings, schedule presentations, and network with their peers.

It's important to note that the visual representation of the platform-whether on mobile or desktop-should align with the company's core values and message. This includes support for brand-specific colors and themes, logos, and other representations. Additionally, what event-goers do in one environment should be reflected in the other. For example, if a remote participant uses their desktop computer's web browser to add a session to their agenda and they decide to attend in person, they should be able to easily locate that session in the event's mobile app, too - and vice versa.

2.  Find unique ways to keep people engaged

Keeping remote attendees focused and engaged with your content can be a challenge. It's critical to break up live sessions with stimulating activities like polls, games, writing exercises, and videos. Special thought must be given to how virtual attendees can network and connect with each other at hybrid events. How will they be included in sessions, and are they truly experiencing the same things as on-site audiences? 

Virtual breakout rooms-where audience members are divided into smaller groups and given a task to complete-are a great way to keep off-site attendees participating. In these rooms, they might be given a fun pop quiz, a small project to tackle together, or even just a few prompts that will spark discussion with their peers. 

Gamification is where teams of attendees are involved in mini-games or more interactive sessions to give the experience more dimension. For remote attendees, this may look like incorporating small, easy-to-access mobile games throughout sessions. For in-person, this may entail a scavenger hunt where participants scour venue rooms for items in order to win prizes. Games are a solid way to get participants talking with each other and minimize outside distractions both on and off site. 

3.  Always do a dry run

One major mistake events teams make-especially while transitioning to hybrid-is not doing a dry run. Dry runs should always be done from the perspectives of both virtual and on-site attendees in order to identify any potential problems and iron out logistical issues before the day of the event.

Conducting a dry run allows companies to experience the event, venue, and booths as a remote attendee would, providing a picture of what they'll see, hear, and feel while attending. In doing this, a company might discover that it needs additional cameras for on-stage presentations. Or maybe its technologies are experiencing malfunctions, like no audio or poor feedback, that can then be addressed before the event kicks off.

Organizers can have a tendency to only look at things from the perspective of an on-site attendee. Then, when virtual attendees take part in the event, things go awry and it becomes clear that the program wasn't designed with them in mind. Companies can avoid this by doing dry runs to ensure that the virtual experience is fun, immersive, easy to navigate, and technologically sound.

4.  Let the event live on after it takes place

Oftentimes, both virtual and on-site attendees have other obligations that cause them to miss important sessions or tracks. By recording the entire event and adding that content to an accessible, on-demand portal, the event becomes evergreen.

Attendees can go back to the content at any time to continue their education or revisit sessions that were especially interesting or pertinent to them. This content can also be broken down into smaller segments so that attendees can consume the information in a way that's easy to digest and doesn't take up too much time. 

Companies might also consider adding extra content to go along with each segment or discussion. During live presentations at the event, speakers can make it known that there's helpful bonus content available through the event app or portal.

5.  Prioritize attendee feedback

It's critical that companies gather feedback both during and following events in order to refine strategy over time. This can be accomplished in several ways: by sharing online polls, conducting surveys at the event, or by simply asking attendees what worked and what didn't. 

Another valuable question to ask attendees is whether they've recently attended any hybrid events outside of yours, and what made those events memorable or successful. Also, while the event is underway, real-time polls can be used to promote engagement or guide conversations if audience members are polled live during a keynote, for example. This allows attendees to influence key conversations happening live.

Most importantly, attendees need to feel like they have a voice and know that their feedback will be taken seriously. If their suggestions or concerns can't be alleviated while the event is underway, the company should assure attendees that it will in fact be addressed for future engagements.

Planning and executing the perfect hybrid event comes with a unique set of challenges. But by implementing the strategies above, companies have the best shot at hosting an event that's engaging, memorable, and will keep attendees coming back for more, even after the event has concluded. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Leon Papkoff, EVP of Enterprise Apps for Inpixon

Leon-Papkoff 

Leon has over 22 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies to build personalized, interactive, mobile, customer experience programs. He is passionate about helping businesses design the future of work and believes it is rooted in mobile-first touchpoints that connect people with each other, physical spaces and things (IoT) within their environments.

Published Thursday, June 16, 2022 7:31 AM by David Marshall
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