We recently discussed a dozen items that virtual audience members need from meeting planners when it comes to hybrid events. Satisfying these needs lets viewers feel as if they attended your event, even if they didn’t do so person. To be clear, hybrid events are those that include an in-person event and a virtual event that happen simultaneously, with the two audiences participating as one.
Now, let’s dig deeper into specifics with the first six needs. The main question is, do you want virtual viewers to watch and walk away, or participate and stay?
NEED 1: Combine shared and custom content so virtual attendees participate in the experience and have an experience all their own.
- Use communication tools and generate buzz by crowd-sourcing topics to discuss and soliciting help from industry experts for Q&A sessions.
- Selectively choose which sessions to livestream based on the urgency of topic, its audience appeal and the ability/willingness of the speaker to go virtual.
- Provide dedicated virtual content before the shared program, during on-site breaks and when the shared program ends.
NEED 2: Provide crisp audio, visually stimulating video and a user-intuitive virtual venue so that virtual attendees don’t get frustrated and walk away.
- Choose the appropriate microphone for the task, and train every single person who will use it in proper microphone etiquette.
- Make sure camera operators have live-broadcast experience and follow the action at all times.
- Don’t choose a virtual platform for its bells and whistles or cheapest price. Do make sure it has a clean user interface, that the communication tools make sense and that it works consistently.
NEED 3: Make sure speakers present content, ideas and discussions to the virtual audience not around them.
- Speakers must make natural eye contact with the camera as if it were another set of eyes in the room.
- They must reference virtual audience viewers periodically throughout the session and ask for their input.
- They must make sure that questions from the virtual audience are answered directly to the camera.
NEED 4: Provide someone to be the virtual viewer’s eyes, ears and voice standing in the room (not sitting remotely at a computer).
- Select a virtual emcee (on-camera) or a virtual moderator (off-camera) to be the one point of contact for virtual attendees.
- Provide the virtual emcee/moderator a stage, studio, news desk or corner to call home during the event. Make sure it is branded for the event but also has a look that separates it from the rest of the action.
- Make sure the virtual emcee/moderator is constantly connected to the wants and needs of the viewing audience and in constant communication with them throughout the program. This includes early birds and stragglers.
NEED 5: Make sure virtual viewers’ comments are heard and their questions answered so they feel like appreciated participants, not unwelcome guests.
- Remember that the virtual audience changes and evolves throughout the program, so repeat information and instructions constantly and consistently (like radio disc jockeys do).
- Make sure there’s a plan for communicating virtual audience questions to speakers and how unanswered questions will be handled post-event.
- Address every comment and concern individually, and be prepared to adjust on the fly if something isn’t working for the virtual audience.
NEED 6: Provide a 360-degree view of room so virtual viewers know what they’re missing but don’t feel like they are missing out.
- Provide local flavor and color commentary so they know what’s happening at all times and long to be on-site.
- Pan the camera and provide a tour of the room while pointing out unique or event-specific people, places and things.
- Give them a behind-the-scenes look at who’s responsible for letting them be a part of the event so they better understand how it’s happening.