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Don’t Neglect Them: How to Engage Hybrid Event Attendees

Hybrid events are great for expanding attendee figures and audience reach. But it can be difficult to ensure that both in-person and online event attendees enjoy comparable event experiences. Most often, it’s the virtual audience that comes off second best. These hybrid event engagement ideas can help ensure that doesn’t happen at your next event.

Why Virtual Engagement Can Suffer at Hybrid Events

Hybrid meetings have a wide range of potential benefits. When audiences can choose to attend either in person or online, it typically translates into:

  • Higher attendance figures
  • A broader audience demographic
  • Extra opportunities for exhibitors and event sponsorship
  • More options for monetization

But do those benefits come at a cost? One of the biggest challenges with hybrid meetings is the need to provide valuable experiences for both the online and in-person audiences. While it’s impossible to create experiences that are identical, it’s important that they both provide plenty of value. If either audience feels slighted or neglected, they’re likely to become disengaged. They may even leave.

Most often, this is to the detriment of the online audience rather than the live audience. When formerly live-only events pivot to hybrid, they can struggle to create value for their virtual attendees. This may leave the online audience feeling like an afterthought.

The issue is compounded by the fact that it’s already inherently harder to engage a virtual audience. Combine this difficulty with poor hybrid planning, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

hybrid event engagement ideas

How to Develop an Engaging Hybrid Event

There’s a better way to approach hybrid planning. This involves bringing in engagement ideas for hybrid events that target the remote audience. By doing so, you can create an event that satisfies hybrid audiences.

Don’t Try to Create a Single Event Experience

It’s impossible for remote attendees to have the same event experience as people who attend in person. They’re two completely different environments. Instead, aim to create two parallel event experiences that have a similar level of value.

In practice this means:

  • Offering the same (or similar) content to both audiences
    • Don’t create a huge content schedule for the live event and only a fraction of that content for the virtual audience.
    • If you can’t livestream a particular presentation, record it. You can then provide it on-demand for your online audience.
    • If you’re offering swag to in-person attendees, make sure to send digital swag to your digital audience.
  • Tweaking content so it’s engaging for both audiences
    • Create a schedule that fits in extra breaks during and between sessions.
  • Tweaking content so it’s engaging for both audiences
    • Create a schedule that fits in extra breaks during and between sessions.
  • Providing both audiences with ways to participate
    • Allow attendees —both virtual and in-person—to ask questions during live presentations.
    • Run polls where both audience groups take part.
    • Use the hybrid event app to provide more options for both audiences.

Take Advantage of Tech that Improves the Virtual Event Experience

Tech problems can ruin any event, but online events are more vulnerable. Your virtual attendees are relying on your tech to enjoy the event. When it comes to virtual event technology and software, don’t cut corners, especially if it means disadvantaging your online audience. Choose a solid virtual events platform and good recording and broadcasting equipment.

hybrid event engagement ideas

Set Realistic Expectations for Hybrid Audiences

By now, most people who regularly attend events have attended at least one event online. Even so, it’s important to make sure your audience knows what to expect when they attend your hybrid event. Whether they’re attending in-person or online, they should have a good idea of what their experience will look like. For instance, if the online content schedule differs from the live one, make this information available before the event.

Implement Hybrid Event Ideas That Target Your Online Audience

Your content schedule and hybrid event platform are an important framework that lets you create an engaging digital event experience. Within that framework, you also need to look for ways to engage your online attendees. Whatever kind of event you’re planning, you’ll have no shortage of options for this:

  • Implement a gamification system that encourages participation – For instance, award points for using different features of the virtual events platform and for participating in polls or Q&A sessions.
  • Online audiences typically lose engagement when sessions are too long – Around 30 minutes is a good length of time for a session. If you need to go longer than 30 minutes for a session format, add a short break in the middle.
  • Use pop-ups to invite online attendees to explore the virtual platform or check out features they haven’t used yet. But don’t use them for advertising—that’s a sure path to annoying people.
  • Include active participatory sessions, such as workshops and education sessions.
  • Make sure to include sponsor booths in your online event experience – Sponsors will appreciate being able to reach the online audience, and attendees will get more content to explore.
  • Integrate your event app with the virtual events platform so people can choose to receive live updates and other notifications – The app can also be a good place for contests, polls, and other content because it lets both audiences participate equally.
  • If your app includes a matchmaker or networking tool, make sure it integrates both audiences, rather than treating virtual and live audiences separately – You can then give virtual and live attendees the option to connect via video chat.
  • Stream behind-the-scenes clips, interviews, or event venue tours to let remote audiences experience some of the atmosphere of the physical event.
  • Integrate social media on your virtual events platform – This gives remote attendees more to do, plus another way to interact with live attendees.

Virtual Attendees Aren’t Second Best at a Hybrid Event

A hybrid event is like two events in one, but it shouldn’t feel that way to your attendees. Everyone who attends, whether in person or online, should feel like they’re valued and getting good value. A good place to start? Implementing a range of hybrid event engagement strategies to increase event value.

hybrid event engagement ideas

Take your virtual event to the next level and Go Beyond

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