No, virtual attendees and virtual reality are not the same. If you missed it last week, we covered the quickly progressing trend of hybrid events in the event planning industry and the doors of opportunity they open for attendees, sponsors, and event planners.
The concept of virtual attendees isn't as futuristic as it sounds—it mainly takes place in the form of live streaming educational sessions and speakers over an internet connection.
Planning a hybrid event may seem overwhelming. Not only do event planners need to account for both the physical attendee experience and the virtual attendee experience, they also have to connect these experiences by leveraging the best opportunities for each to create a successful hybrid event.
If your head isn’t spinning yet, then I’m impressed. There are a lot of moving parts in coordinating hybrid events. The process requires the same planning of a live event, with the additional planning and technology required to support a virtual event on top of it. We’ve got the short list on how to plan a hybrid event. Nail these, and your hybrid event will be a success every time!
Nail these tips and your hybrid event will be a success every time!
Top Tips for Planning a Hybrid Event
1. Remember that the virtual experience is also a type of “event.”
Your virtual attendees aren’t just passively watching a session through their device. They need to feel engaged and have a great viewing experience, in the same way you plan the event experience for the physical attendees.
Never leave virtual attendees looking at a blank conference room. Keep continuous content such as interviews, feedback, and behind-the-scenes content streaming when the live event is on break.
2. Encourage the virtual attendees to interact with the physical audience.
Don’t just let them watch; engage them! Make sure you first acknowledge the virtual audience when starting a session and let the live audience know that this unseen audience is a big part of the event as well.
"Encouraging the virtual audience to interact with the physical audience benefits everyone."
Promote the conversation between the virtual and live attendees by having a host or virtual “emcee” who moderates the discussion. This will facilitate ongoing feedback, questions, and comments between the groups.
In the case of GFC 2016 Global Finance & Credit Conference & Expo, currently planning a hybrid event for the end of August, one of the biggest benefits to attendees in planning a hybrid event was the opportunity to collaborate with global finance industry partners for enhanced education sessions.
"There is a huge opportunity for enhanced education at hybrid events which combines the live attendees with virtual attendees. We have overseas attendees who desperately need the information that our partners are providing, and by being able to participate in real time over their web connection, they become actively engaged in the live discussions," said event organizers. "It’s hard for many types of employees in many industries to get away from the office to participate in person, and we’re offering a great alternative for those who need the education piece and the CEUs (continuing education credits) but because of their jobs, can’t be out of the office."
3. If a particular topic or presentation does not translate to the virtual audience, don’t do it.
You want virtual attendees to have a great experience, but not at the cost of making sure you get everything online. For example, there may be keynotes or presentations that take place in a dark room, have loud noises, or elaborate lighting. This will not translate well online and your virtual audience will just be frustrated that they cannot see it clearly.
Another example is the clothing that speakers or presenters wear. Avoid plaid, patterned, or striped clothing, as it does not look good online and may be a distraction to virtual attendees.
4. Use online tools & technologies that are reliable & easy for your virtual audience to use.
The tools may vary depending on the target demographic of your event, so adjust accordingly. The key is to make it simple and convenient for your virtual attendees so that they do not get frustrated and quit.
Reliability is also extremely important. You will need enough on-site bandwidth to support the interaction of your live attendees with your virtual audience. This means redundant backup on-site and an excellent connection online. If your connection is cutting out, or virtual attendees cannot gain access, they will quickly drop off.
5. Prepare your speakers for hybrid events.
You will need to prepare your speakers in two ways. First, set deadlines and get their presentation material well in advance so that there is time to load and test it in the virtual presentation. Next, educate speakers on the technology and make sure they are comfortable with it. They may even want to run through a rehearsal with the cameras to practice their positioning in the room while giving their presentation.
The future is hybrid.
Hybrid events pose many challenges for event planners, but they also create the opportunity for a bigger attendee audience than ever before. While there’s nothing like attending an event in person and shaking someone’s hand, the ability to connect people created by hybrid events is physically impossible. The technology is available; now it’s up to the event planners to use it in a way that creates a great experience for everyone!