As the COVID-19 pandemic escalated back to alarming levels with the spread of the delta variant, companies are looking to utilize the benefits of virtual components by planning more hybrid events. These events still have an in-person community aspect but also incorporate virtual components, allowing attendees of varying comfort levels to participate. There are no fixed rules in hybrid event planning, but considering these questions can make a difference in the audience engagement, efficiency, and originality of your next hybrid event.

1. What marketing strategy will best fit the goal of your hybrid event?

Social media, email marketing, and digital and print advertising can all be used to garner interest for both live and virtual components. Changing how you use these marketing channels by increasing social media promotions or partnering with other organizations can help your event reach a wider audience. Be sure to mention the varying ways that attendees can participate, regardless of whether they are in-person or virtual, to emphasize the accessibility of your hybrid event. 

It is important to know your audience and build a cohesive theme in your hybrid event promotion based on that knowledge. Your audience should have a realistic idea of what to expect, no matter if they are attending in person or virtually. Acknowledging the differences of virtual and in-person attendance in your marketing strategy can help the audience arrive with accurate expectations of the hybrid event. Some considerations for event planners may include: 

  • Are you prioritizing the virtual or live audience? 
  • How many attendees are in both types of audience? 
  • What hybrid event elements can be used to help these audiences interact with one another? 

2. What timing considerations should I take into account? 

In a study by markletic, they found that marketers for small virtual events generally need between 3-6 weeks to promote the event successfully. For large virtual conferences, event marketers require 6 weeks or more to achieve the desired amount of registrations. These timelines are shorter than the average hybrid event planning schedule because hybrid planners have to consider more details like booking venues and navigating travel requirements. Check out these blog posts for more accurate virtual and in-person timelines for your event. 

3. How do I keep both in-person and virtual attendees engaged?

You may think it is more difficult to keep a virtual audience engaged, but there are many ways to improve engagement. Gauging interest and participation virtually can prove more challenging, but these are some options can help boost virtual engagement:

  • Have the chat feature available for virtual participants to contribute throughout the event, even after a session has ended.
  • Encourage social media interaction from virtual and in-person participants (live tweeting, sharing Instagram stories, posting under a hashtag, etc.). Incentivizing participants with prizes for the amount of posts shared or giving them shoutouts and mentions on social media can help with this kind of involvement. 
  • Have a Q&A portion where in-person and virtual participants can ask questions in real time. 
  • Use polling features and gamification activities to encourage participation and build community.
  • Have networking opportunities by breaking into smaller groups to create intersections of connectivity.

Event professionals can also improve engagement by choosing speakers who are the right fit for your event’s format and subject matter. AAE is focused on the needs of the event professionals we work with and won’t stop until we find the perfect speaker for your hybrid event. 

4. How should I prepare specifically for the online portion of the hybrid event?

Live streaming can be an effective way to build community and make the audience feel like they are watching something together in real time. This format, however, may not prove effective for every event. Planners can also opt to use pre-recorded elements to make the event more efficient. These elements can be streamed live for all attendees,  limiting the chance of technical issues, and also give the speaker the ability to focus on engaging in the chat while their session plays.

If the budget for your hybrid event has room for a host, emcees can be a useful tool when it comes to keeping engagement up with an online audience. Emcees are a visible connection point for the audience and an engaging host motivates the audience to interact more during discussion. Volunteers are helpful for monitoring these discussions in the chat and can help keep questions moving in Q&A formats. 

Before your event, test and run through all A/V queues for the pre-recorded content. Run through how the live streaming will work with any moderators (if you choose to have them) and have a back-up plan if technical difficulties begin to occur

Online participants tend to be more distractible, because their environment is not controlled like it would be at an in-person event. Consider adding multiple break times and shortening your live sessions to cater to these differences. 

5. How should I gather feedback from all participants? 

Polls and surveys can be great tools at the end of your event to get feedback from virtual and in-person participants. Links and QR codes directing the audience to a short survey can serve as an interactive way to get ideas for improving your attendee experience going forward. 

A series of follow-up emails after an event can also serve as another touch-point for participants to voice how they felt about the flow or content of the event.

Ready to book a speaker for your next hybrid event?

Event promotion,  A/V queues, and audience engagement can be time-consuming considerations for hybrid event planning, but finding the perfect speaker doesn’t have to be. AAE has helped event professionals book keynote speakers for countless virtual and hybrid events.We know exactly what it takes to book the perfect speaker and make your event a resounding success. Browse professional speakers, celebrities, athletes, and more here.