The world is changing rapidly, driven by the Internet age and the introduction of smartphones. Modern events are riding on a tide of technological advances that bring information to our fingertips; however, while technology can now easily connect groups of people from across the globe, studies show that face-to-face events continue to offer distinct advantages that virtual meetings do not. Happily, we live in a world where Event Planners can offer both options!
In many ways, hybrid events offer the best of all worlds—sometimes literally, since they can easily connect offices and individuals that are located on opposite sides of the planet. A hybrid event opens up a vast range of potential participants because the format allows for different levels of involvement, and it removes many of the limitations from location, scheduling, and budgets. Here are just a FEW situations where a hybrid event offers a valuable solution:
- Students bring eager questions and fresh perspectives, but they’re unlikely to have the resources to attend a professional conference in their subject.
- International events offer valuable insights about global markets, but the travel distance requires a disproportionate amount of time and money for many interested parties—hybrid events make participation possible, globally.
- For busy professionals, their current job schedule may prevent them from attending personally—but a hybrid event still gives them the opportunity to digest relevant material and connect with colleagues in their industry.
- For companies that exhibit at trade shows or whose team members are speakers, hybrid events allow employees left at the office to still follow the action!
The benefits work for Event Organizers and sponsors as well. Hybrid events increase the number of participants, while keeping costs down. They cast a wider net, bring in fresh ideas, and add a more realistic perspective to surveys, polling, research, and conversations. A broader audience means more impact for sponsors, as their message is distributed to industry-minded individuals at more levels and locations.
- Use social media to round out coverage and fill in connection gaps between people and content. Social media channels provide an extra layer of backup and enhancement for material.
- Use a dedicated web page, an event app, and a web streaming portal to supply virtual attendees with multiple access points for information and connection.
- Provide extensive background information on all slides, videos, and speakers.
- Hire a dedicated staff member to facilitate the linking between live guests and virtual attendees.
- Be certain to have presentations and speakers verbally acknowledge the virtual audience. Consider if it’s possible to mention and discuss information about how many virtual attendees are participating remotely, and mention specific locations where the virtual audience members are located.
- Remember to allow for delay in response from virtual attendees.
- Use Twitter to help “even the playing field” in dialog between in-person and virtual attendees—it’s difficult to tell the difference in tweets between those onsite and those abroad.
- Find methods that keep virtual attendees present during audience breaks—such as games, live blogs, live video feed, photo displays, discussion forums, and chat centers.
Technology and Techniques:
For hybrid events, use the following technology options to supplement the traditional technological foundation of your conference or trade show—providing the best experience for both the in-house and the “at home” audiences:
- Video Conferencing—equip breakout sessions and meeting areas with video conferencing capabilities that allow smaller, more strategic and direct gatherings to include long-distance participants.
- Polling –for sessions, speeches, breaks, lectures, or presentations, polling is useful for gathering information and for keeping an audience engaged and interactive. This technique is particularly useful for hybrid events—polling the audience and giving specific note to the results from the virtual attendees is an excellent way of helping those guests feel that they are involved, heard, and appreciated!
- Staging and Audiovisual—excellent lighting and audiovisual is a critical feature of live presentations, and it’s even more important for hybrid events. The right staging and sound make the best impression for traditional events, as well as creating the best situation for the videography needed to carry event material out to the virtual audience.
- Touchscreen Monitors and Kiosks—use these components to set up interaction stations forsocial media, email, texting, video, and games between in-person and far-away guests.
- WiFi Boosters—the successful integration of onsite attendees and virtual participants depends heavily upon excellent bandwidth and WiFi access. With the increased volume of virtual connections and streaming videos, it’s even more important to have this vital connectivity securely provided.
- Video Walls—since visual content helps people connect more easily, consider using video walls to display Instagram photos, Twitter feeds, and event attendee content generated on Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, and Skype Qik or other group video messaging.
By putting a little extra effort into the digital side of an event, Event Organizers can create opportunities that expand their audience, enhance their research, extend the reach of their event, and help ensure their success!