Let’s face it, online events will never fully replace in-person experiences. Traditional event settings allow an opportunity to break away from the office routine, network, learn and promote your product in a natural, unobtrusive way. All of which can be a little more difficult to recreate in a virtual environment.
Although online events remain a secondary option for those in the business events industry, it is important to acknowledge their advantages related to hybrid events, which will be the new format combining live with digital. They are scalable, cost-effective, and make landing a big-name speaker much easier. The outcomes can be just as effective by recognising the benefits. Thoughtfully investing in your digital event experiences by carrying over traditional experiences into the digital space, virtual attendees joining live events may have in-person conference experiences.
In this article, we will be discussing four ways to give your hybrid event a live feel.
Create Networking Opportunities
During in-person events, networking happens naturally, as people wander from person to person or booth to booth. Exciting conversations and business opportunities happen organically with little help from the organisers.
It’s not so simple for virtual attendees at hybrid conferences, where some attendees are confined to the solitary of their screens which is perhaps the most significant challenge facing meeting planners. Arguably, networking is one of the critical values of live meetings and events and a key motivator for attendees.
However, webinar software, such as Zoom, Wonder, or Remo, provide increasingly effective features for breakout sessions that create space for spontaneous, small-group conversations. The virtual attendee of a hybrid event may need some encouragement, so it’s always a good idea to prepare topics of discussion or host icebreaker activities to avoid those potentially awkward silences and bring our guests closer together.
And don’t forget about networking for speakers. They, too, will benefit from virtual meetups and coffee breaks, as they also often see conferences as a way to discover new business opportunities and talk with like-minded people.
TIP: Hosting a virtual afterparty is a great way to give people some extra time and space to socialise. Spark it up with music, trivia, games, and giveaways to maximise engagement!
Promote Interactivity at your Hybrid Event
Sitting in front of a computer for back-to-back presentations can be tiresome, so to help motivate our attendees to feel like active participants rather than passive viewers, you can weave interactive elements into the sessions. Encourage people to ask questions in the chatbox, make polls and surveys, turn Q&As into active conversations rather than answers to pre-recorded questions.
TIP: Want to take your session to the next level? Consider creating a user-selected presentation path for smaller presentations and workshops. All you need to do is send a pre-event poll and let your attendees decide which topics they find the most exciting.
Take Care of Recording Setups
Though participants often forgive blurred backgrounds and static mics, any effort to bring the quality of well-organized formal events to online sessions is always appreciated.
To ensure the best results, you may want to discuss the technical setup with the speakers a couple of weeks before the event. Be upfront about your vision, tell them about the equipment that you and they have in mind, run a “dress rehearsal,” and be sure to discuss their technical needs ahead of time. While this may be an unconventional practice, all expenses are sure to be rewarded by delighted attendees who are excited to attend another seamless session.
TIP: Consider providing your speakers with quality webcams, lighting sets, or radio microphones, if necessary!
Provide Exclusive Value
People attend conferences to learn and expand their skill sets from industry experts. And while online materials, such as webinars and guides, may feel unnecessary, unique information from an industry leader is always valuable and sought after.
Like paid events, bringing exclusive value is especially important for our online events, as potential attendees will want to see the benefits to justify the cost and time commitment.
An excellent way to achieve this is by organising a small-group workshop or introducing participation awards that will provide access to an exclusive session with a speaker or unique educational materials. Make sure the materials have a premium feel, too. For example, tools like FlippingBook, let you replace standard PDFs with interactive online documents.
TIP: Refrain from re-using the valuable conference content for free marketing initiatives. If your attendees learn about this, they will feel frustrated and betrayed.
Though virtual events pose a unique set of challenges for meeting planners, there are still plenty of creative ways to provide your guests with meaningful and memorable event experiences. There are certainly many ways to achieve this, but we feel that these four points above cover the most helpful for bringing your traditional event experience online.
Visit IACC’s MultiPOD Multi-location Hybrid page for more detailed information on creating a new digital live event. Download information and checklists to help you navigate to an exciting new digital live business event format.