If they aren’t carefully designed, well planned and smoothly executed, hybrid events can face the same pitfalls as face-to-face events. A series of talking heads with no interaction between participants just doesn’t cut it in the real or virtual worlds.
Here are some tips to ensure that your hybrid event does not turn into a “snoozefest.”
1. Control costs by wisely selecting sponsors who will add value to the event
Suppliers who have technology that makes interaction possible in the virtual and real worlds are of particularly high value. Tech suppliers, venues and food and beverage suppliers can help event planners producing hybrid events save significantly.
2. Brief speakers about how to come across well on camera
If they are popping in and out due to extraneous movement or partially off camera, this will be distracting. Advise speakers to also avoid distracting patterns and backgrounds. Remind them that lecture is not the only approach that can be used for hybrid events, it’s possible to include exercise, games and discussions.
3. Never wing it
A dry run is a must to ensure that technology works properly and speakers can be seen and heard clearly. It doesn’t mean that they have to run through their entire presentation, but definitely do visual and sound checks and ensure that presentation visuals load without a hitch.
4. Create a virtual conference room where online participants can interact
For large meetings, explore Cisco WebEx, Onstream and INXPO can make it possible for virtual participants who are tuning in online to interact with each other, ask questions and have discussions in a virtual conference room.
For small meetings, technology such as Telepresence, Skype, Google Hangouts and Second Life. I mention Second life deliberately. While some may perceive it as old school, in the race to rush on to the hottest new technology, we are not exploring all of the possiblities in existing technology. Second Life is being used for many types of events like music festivals and concerts. And as virtual reality technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, even more immersive options will open up.
5. Provide pop-up venues where remote participants can take in the programming and network
Pop-up venues in tandem with live or virtual events bring hybrid events to a whole new level. Some participants will welcome the opportunity to pop into a local venue to view the live stream and interact with colleagues.
6. From the main (face-to-face) location, have a dedicated emcee for remote attendees
This is important to help online participants and those at pop-up venues feel included.
7. Provide a host facilitator for each face-to-face pop-up venue as well as the virtual conference room
Not only can they monitor for technical challenges but they can help get field questions and get discussions and networking going.
8. Offer a number of channels for participants to submit questions
Video feed from some pop-up venues, hashtags on Twitter and Instagram, and emails can all be used to facilitate the process.
Have a team monitor the submissions, field questions and get them to the speakers promptly.
9. Never schedule wall-to-wall content
A parade of talking heads is no more appealing for hybrid events as it is for face-to-face meetings.
- After the welcome and opening remarks, schedule time for participants at each location to introduce themselves to each other.
- Allow more not less time for questions than you would in a face-to-face session.
- Carve out a 15-to-20-minute block between each presentation for discussion in pop-up venues and virtual conference rooms.
- Allow 20-30 minutes for a wrap up at the end of the scheduled programming. This can take place simultaneously at the live location, in the virtual conference room, and in each pop-up venue.
10. End with a networking reception at each pop-up venues
Networking is one of the main reasons professionals attend events so this ensures that participants leave with the connections they value.
Here are some additional tips and takeaways: