In early 2020 when corporate events went all-virtual by necessity, companies quickly pivoted and adapted to the new reality. In today’s world, companies have the choice between in-person, virtual events, or a hybrid approach. If you’re considering a hybrid event, we have a few insights and resources to help make the process run smoothly.
1. The Differences In Your Two Audiences — In-person Attendees Versus Virtual Attendees
It’s essential to think about how people attending your event in-person will have different characteristics, expectations, needs, and experiences than those attending virtually.
First of all, these two audiences will have different levels of investment in the event. People who take time away from work and possibly pay to travel to attend in person will undoubtedly be more invested in the experience. During presentations at the event venue, they’ll likely be completely focused on taking in the content. They may ask questions or share their perspectives during presentations, and they may discuss the content with fellow attendees during breaks. They’re also more likely to attend the presentations from start to finish.
On the other hand, people attending virtually won’t have invested anywhere near the same amount of time, and they may not have spent any money to attend. Because their investment is lower, their participation may be lower as well.
In their offices or at home, they’ll be free to multitask during the presentations. Often they’ll be listening with one ear while distracted by other things happening around them. The bottom line is that you’ll need to work harder to engage your virtual attendees because no matter how interested they are in the content, they won’t feel as invested as those who made an effort to attend in person.
Next, consider attention spans. In-person attendees will have an easier time focusing on your content for more extended periods, as speakers and screens will be right in front of them. They may also feel motivated to pay close attention if a presenter makes eye contact or asks them to answer a question or share a perspective.
Virtual attendees may start fully engaged but then begin to experience screen fatigue. The presentations won’t feel as immediate to them, as the presenters won’t be in the same room. They’ll be able to turn their cameras off, so they won’t feel the same need to stay engaged. And as mentioned, their attention can quickly shift to other work or household tasks.
Networking is an important consideration, too. People who’ve taken the time to attend in person will want opportunities to meet and talk with others. But while virtual attendees will understand that there are limitations to networking remotely, they may still want opportunities to connect with others online. That means you’ll need to consider offering virtual breakout sessions or other small-group meetings to foster those connections.
One more thing to consider is how both types of audiences will navigate unfamiliar environments. You’ll need to help in-person attendees find their way around your event venue and manage any processes around safety protocols, like social distancing, hand sanitizing, and more. As for virtual attendees, they may be unfamiliar with the digital environment or your particular event platform, so you’ll need to prepare them for a smooth experience by providing plenty of tips, guidance, and troubleshooting support if required.
2. The Differences In Technical Planning
For a live-only event, it’s okay to have standard internet service. For a hybrid event, you need to be able to stream your content live to your online audience with the highest-quality video and the fewest number of hiccups.
It’s also important to think about IT response times. What happens if the internet or A/V drops while the event is streaming? With a virtual audience present, it would be best to have IT support at the event venue to ensure that microphones work well and that video presentation and other displays run smoothly. You’ll want to be able to quickly respond to any technical issues that may hinder the live or online experience.
You’ll also want to plan for multiple video cameras and feeds so the online audience can see the event from more than one perspective to keep things fresh and engaging.
3. The Differences In Audience Experience
In order to create a meaningful experience for virtual attendees at hybrid events, it’s important to first understand what you can’t give them.
You can’t deliver the atmosphere of a live event. Virtual attendees won’t experience the feeling of being there in person, with the building of anticipation through music, video displays, and more. You also can’t give them face-to-face moments or eye contact.
However, you can do things to bridge those gaps. Use an emcee to bring energy and immediacy to your presentations. Use storytelling to connect with attendees across distances and bring a more authentic and intimate feel. And use chats, Q&As, polling, and gamification to draw virtual attendees in, make them feel part of the action, and bring them a greater level of satisfaction and connection to the content
Crawford Group’s event talent can help you Plan, Produce, and Execute your next Hybrid Event
Whether you’re looking to host one event or a series — or multiple sessions within a larger live, hybrid, or virtual event setting — Crawford Group has the expert talent solutions to make it happen. We empower organizations like yours to drive measurable results.
We have a dedicated event practice with expert talent to help with everything from pre-event planning to production to post-event management, and we work with you to determine the right level of support. We’d love to share our best practices with you and your team. Check out our website for more details on how we can help you with your next hybrid event.