Five Pro Tips For Creating Hybrid Events Your Attendees Won't Want To Miss
Updated: Apr 11, 2022
Hybrid events are all the rage, and for good reason. They provide brand event organizers the reach they desire with the flexibility attendees require. Velocity XD began producing hybrid events years before the pandemic era. In 2013, we designed and executed a global sales meeting with 600 live audience members webcasted to 2000 remote attendees. Then from 2013-2015, members of our team created E3 media presentations for a live audience of 5,000 broadcasted and streamed over MTV, G4TV, and Twitch to millions. And later in 2017, our team members produced a hybrid event for a tech giant with 12,000 live and 75,000+ viewers online. There are plenty more examples of our work in hybrid events since 2019. While the content, audiences, and technologies used for these events were different, each had one element in common – a great user experience for both live and digital audiences. Here are a few pro tips that will allow you to deliver meaningful hybrid experiences to your audiences - and keep them coming back for more.
1. Content is King, but so is Connection
How do you produce an engaging hybrid event? Create content and networking opportunities matching your audiences' interests and serve it up to them in ways they will want to participate. Sounds simple right? It can be if you can engage with your audience before the event. Survey your audience on the content they want most. What are your customers most interested in learning? What are your partners' pain points? What will help your sales team be more productive? Keep in mind that you probably have many subsets of your audience with specific needs. Armed with the survey responses, you can now craft agendas targeted to their interests. Market your content to each audience segment, so they have no doubt there will be topics covered that are meaningful to them. We once produced eleven different versions of a video invitation to give attendees confidence in the value of attending the event. The same holds true for enabling attendees to connect. While digital networking is still a work in progress, you can best serve your attendees by asking them upfront what type of connections they are looking for: one-on-one conversations, group workshops, persona-based meetups? Once you understand their preferences, you can deploy the right technology and craft experiences to foster high-value interaction.
2. One Event, Multiple Experiences
A hybrid event consists of two audiences, live and online. It seems simple. In our experience, hybrid event production can be much more nuanced. It may be one event, but you may need to create multiple experience journeys to connect with attendees depending on how they choose to engage: live audience, digital viewers participating in real-time, digital viewers participating on-demand, and a number of combinations of these. To deliver the best experience for each, map out a distinct attendee journey for each variation. We recommend creating a separate show-flow detailing what each type of attendee (live and digital) will experience in any given session.
3. Content Quality Matters
We can all agree that Zoom fatigue is real, and people are becoming more selective about what they are willing to watch online. People are also more sophisticated viewers of content. Your show will be compared to an infinite number of alternative viewing options – most of them broadcast quality. This new reality dictates that pre-produced content is better than live for your digital audience. There is a reason almost every TV show, other than SNL, is pre-produced. It gives you much better control over quality and message. It is also easier on your presenters. If you want audience participation, simulated live is a good option with a pre-recorded presentation followed by a live Q&A. Your audience will play along (unless you try to fake it by pretending the show is live). Low production quality can turn off your digital audience. It can be a barrier to receiving your message and make them feel unappreciated. Don’t skimp on cameras and lighting. Quality lighting and multiple cameras will drastically increase the visual quality for on-line viewers. Lastly, shorter is better. There is no need to follow the old structure with 60-minute keynotes and 45-minute breakouts. The best content is brief and powerful.
4. Don’t Just Present, Engage
People prefer conversations versus being talked at. Look for opportunities to engage your audience in the conversation. Peer-to-peer communication can serve as great proof points. The latest digital event platforms have done an excellent job of integrating gamification modules into the mix. Give the audience viewing options. Be intentional about when and where you want content consumed. It is okay to allow access to some of the content on-demand. You can reserve prime content for viewing live, or set time limits for viewing some content, but make no mistake the audience is in control. You want to make your content easy and enjoyable to consume. Think like a TV producer!
5. Choose the Right Technology for Your Audience
The good news is that multiple high-quality digital event platforms now exist to support your hybrid event. Earlier (pre-pandemic) digital event platforms circa 2009-2010 involved fake people (avatars) moving through fake trade-show floors and meeting rooms. Today’s event technology tools are much more sophisticated and flexible. They allow you to deliver content and create connections in a variety of ways and integrate more easily with the rest of your marketing tech stack. But instead of choosing a technology platform (or more likely a combination of technology tools) that is easiest to manage or most budget-friendly, first consider which technology will allow you to best serve your attendees' needs. This may require a little more work and investment, but with a much-improved ROI, you won’t be sorry. And remember the data will be there to back you up!
Velocity XD is a full-service creative strategy and experience design agency. For more information about Velocity XD, please go to: www.velocityxd.com