10 Tips for Planning Impactful Hybrid Events

November 12, 2020
Alisha Womack

A hybrid event combines a traditional “live” in-person event with a “virtual” online component. Without the option of every attendee meeting face-to-face, planning hybrid events have become a necessity for every planner.

With the ability to unite people remotely, audience reach surpasses levels ever imagined, breakouts become virtual roundtables with engaging tools and return on investment sets event marketing records.

Whether you are a meeting planner strategizing a clients’ hybrid event experience or a speaker preparing for a keynote with an online audience, think carefully about how you will communicate and engage.

Communicating effectively and engaging remote participants — as well as those in front of you in the room — will ultimately determine the overall effectiveness of the event’s mission.

 

Here are my 10 Tips for Planning an Impactful Hybrid Event:

 

1.  Start with an Event Mission + Aesthetic

A strong, clear event mission + brand ensures that your audience will remember and talk about you– whatever the size of your business. Whether you are presenting a talk or exhibiting at a virtual trade show, event branding can significantly help your event marketing goals.

A strong message and memorable feel give the audience an image to remember, takeaways to latch onto, even a name or a motto to type into Google later.

 

2.  Prioritize Pre-Event Marketing & Hype

Building anticipation is a crucial event success factor, especially in today’s virtual times when content is accessible at our fingertips, 24/7. Events are a little bit like Christmas — the day itself has the most attention — but the lead up to the event almost plays the most vital role.

Just as kids get excited about decorating the tree and leaving cookies out for Santa, event attendees get excited about what’s in store for them. As planners, we help to build up this same type of excitement through strategic pre-event marketing.

 

3.  Engage Professional Show Management

It is the show manager’s job to help their clients meet business goals, which means that they have to carefully plan and coordinate events to ensure these goals are realized.

This role becomes of utmost importance when planning hybrid events. How do you ensure your event is successful?

Event professionals are typically responsible for performing show research, leading site visits, promoting the show, choosing the most impactful platform for virtual attendees, securing required bandwidth + technology, managing expenses, organizing rehearsals, securing the final agenda, calling the show, ensuring the budget is within parameters, supervising event debrief and analyzing ROI. Phew! That’s a lot to have on your plate.

Engaging a professional show management team to help accomplish your event goals is a great way to ensure your metrics are realized.

 

4.  Invest in Impactful Content Creation

The lights and cameras are on. The mic is hot. Thousands of in-person and virtual attendees await your speaker’s first words. The big moment has arrived. Is it impactful?

The difference between a standard presentation and an excellent presentation is — content. What are the visuals? Did the speaker rehearse and prepare? Is the presentation dynamic with videos, animations, and other graphic elements?

Data shows that viewers retain 95% of a message when watching it in video, compared to 10% when reading it in text.

Meetings are a critical component of your company’s success, and engagement is paramount.

 

5.  Think About Audience Engagement & Interaction

A hybrid event is the combination of an in-person audience and a virtual audience. Audience engagement (or the lack thereof) can make or break your event.

However, my definition of a perfect hybrid event is when lines are blurred — a blending of these two audiences together — where they can interact with each other like never before.

The idea behind it is that they are intertwined. A virtual attendee says, “I had an incredible experience at that event.” And, at the same time, an in-person attendee says, “I had an incredible experience.” The beauty lies in the ability to share the same experience. However, the vehicle to arrive at that experience lies in your event’s ability to foster connections.

Things like polling, chat, Q& A, emoji response, whatever it may be, allow both audiences to engage and respond.

 

6.  Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse!

Okay, you’ve invested time and money into pre-event marketing & hype, engaged the best show management and creative teams in the industry, finally secured that perfect keynote speaker to ensure your event messages are delivered in just the right manner. Now, what’s next?

Rehearsals, of course! Scheduling a rehearsal — or two — or three — will not only allow your speakers to get comfortable with the room and look + feel of the virtual platform but also with your production team.

After a rehearsal, your event participants will be more at ease knowing what to expect, understanding the transitions, and resting assured they are in good hands – the confidence they will need to succeed and impress your audience.

 

7.  Use Social Media

Social media is an invaluable marketing tool for planning hybrid events. Its organic reach is massive, and there is no better way to increase engagement between your brand and event attendees.

Adopt an event-specific hashtag to promote your conference on social channels, and consider partnering with sponsors and influencers to boost your message. A social media manager can track the event hashtag and share posts from online participants.

 

8.  The (often missed) Event Close + Recap

Just as opening your event with a powerful message sets the tone for the overall experience to come — closing your affair in a similar, strategic manner ensures your overall event mission resonates with attendees and establishes next steps as they part ways back into the real world. In planning the conclusion, you need to consider the sort of hybrid event you’re running.

What might work as the end of one event might not be right for another. Based on your audience, you might end your conference with one last big keynote speech or presentation — or — you might opt to end your event by providing some entertainment, either a large party or perhaps a performance by a band or other entertainer. Engage your show management and creative teams to strategize the right approach for your event.

 

9.  Post-Event Marketing & Hype

It’s not over yet. Every post-event marketing strategy will look different from the next, depending on your event’s goals. Still, I believe that there are certain elements every successful post-event strategy should include.

These can be mixed (and matched) or supplemented with anything else your company does after your events:

    • Send thank you emails (small gestures can go a long way).
    • Send ‘Sorry we missed you’ emails to no shows (let them know you missed them, and then show them everything they missed).
    • Create a post-event webpage (Let your guests relive the entire experience (or see what they missed).
    • Ask attendees to fill out a post-event survey (what worked, what didn’t, what their favorite part was, etc. That way, you can make your next event even better).
    • Have your sales or customer teams personally follow-up (use analytics to strategize an approach).

 

10.  Analytics + Analysis

The virtual components of hybrid events track each behavior — registration, login, chat, view, download, and share. These numbers are instrumental in determining the number of people who attended the event and the quality of their engagement + experience.

Being able to monitor event attendees’ level of engagement makes post-event follow up more valuable than ever before since you can segment people based on their engagement scores.

Sharing relevant content with attendees post-event is far more potent in capturing leads than a historical — in-person only — follow-up strategy.

 

There’s More…

I hope you found these tips helpful! Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing even more design, strategy and production tips for planning and executing hybrid events. Have a question? Please visit our Hybrid and Virtual events page or fill out the contact form below.

 

Alisha Womack
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