Many of you have experienced the benefits that virtual events can bring, maybe it surprised you to see your attendance grow higher than ever, or that people were willing to engage in a virtual setting. As we are all able to start hosting events again in person with less risk of the looming COVID monster around the corner ready to shut it all down, it might occur to you like it did to many others that …… “wait a second … why don’t we do both?”
Hybrid, or blended, events have been the path many have chosen to follow in the coming years. But let’s face it, there are a lot of ways to produce a hybrid/blended event and not all of them are going to be right.
Each and every event is customized, bespoke, unique to the audience, messaging, and intent that drives them. Because of this, we have a few learned tips to help steer you in the right direction and away from having to wonder why something that seemed brilliant might have flopped in reality.
1. Really understand the basics of why people attend
At the core, your event was created for a reason, but it’s always possible that the reason people attend, and the reason it was created are different. Understanding the current state of what the most important thing this event does for your organization, and what attendees find to be the most important reason they attend, is crucial in designing a blended event. Understand clearly that if you don’t hit both these markers for the in-person attendees and the virtual attendees you might fall short, risk losing your audience and in doing so, possibly affect your attendance for the next year.
2. Design your event technology for the right audience
Before you dive deep into the plethora of options that are virtual event software solutions, make sure you have outlined the basic criteria it needs to fulfill. Maybe your target audience of attendees are typically aged 45-70 or maybe they are in the tech-savvy Millennial 20-35 range. This may change the type of tech you select and the level of online engagement you build into your event. Another consideration is location. If some, or many of your attendees, live in rural locations where internet connectivity might be a problem, design around that. Not sure how? Contact us and we can help walk you through your options.
3. Embrace opportunities for virtual and in-person attendee collaboration
This can be done in a variety of ways and is actually quite simple and can be designed to be highly engaging. The simplest setup is by asking people to participate by responding via their phones. Built-in questions get launched mid-presentation that engage attendees on the topic, flow and presenter, and provide a quick gauge on the response within the room. A great way to get a sense of what is being received well by the group, and where the presenter should move on from. Explore this and don’t be afraid to get creative if your audience is more tech-savvy, there are so many online tools that can be translated into the in-person component of your event.
4. Plan for easy access to tech support
Making sure that your virtual presenters and attendees have easy access to tech support is essential. This can, and should, be done in a minimum of 2 ways. There should be an option through the virtual software to chat with tech support as well as a pre-published tech support email address that attendees receive prior to the event launch date. Think of it as your ‘event concierge’, or the dedicated and proactive solution to the tech challenges, that we hope wont, but always seem to happen.
5. Be mindful of timezones
You may have noticed that your virtual attendees have conquered distance by extending your reach to corners of the planet you would not have ever expected. We love it! We celebrate it! But let’s make sure that we are making this an easy event to attend by having your timezone locked into the event registration software with the option to adjust to other timezones selected so that you leave no man behind.
1. Use an iPhone on a stand to FB live your event
We get it. How easy, why not? Well, let’s start with the intent…. If the intent of your event is that you want people to be able to have a one-way interaction, meaning just watch it and not participate actively at the event, this is the solution. However – the video quality is horrible! And that is NOT what you want for any live streamed anything. You could just as easily have a professional camera crew film your event, edit it, and publish it online to your audience. Not to mention that now that it’s not live, there are fewer opportunities for glitches or …. Heaven help us if someone knocks the phone over and you lose the feed.
2. Assume that your speakers will be able to navigate the software
Speakers are amazing in that they are subject matter experts in their field. Their field however is likely not virtual event technology. Never assume that they will be able to figure it out the day of. This is almost always a losing plan. This may mean if you have many speakers and they have different schedules that you have to have one-on-one program run-throughs with each of them. Time-consuming? Yes. Worth it? YES!
3. Plan to emcee and also run the virtual components of the event
This is simply too much for one person to navigate, especially if…when…. there is any mid-event troubleshooting required. As professionals how often do we need to troubleshoot things? Often enough that we discourage this idea. If you are planning to emcee, hire a tech professional to handle the rest. Trust us, it’s worth it!
4. Host the virtual content for longer than 3 hours a day
You might be thinking, but my in-person conference is 8 AM – 5 PM and 3 days long? We get it, but realistically your virtual attendees will not have the attention span to handle that. Make sure that your highest-value presentations are condensed in the mornings or mid-day and that those are the sessions open to virtual attendees.
5. Underestimate the value of a well-done event website
Especially when you have both in-person and virtual attendees, having a comprehensive and easy-to-navigate event website is important. The days of just sending out an email invite with all the details and no event website are over. Attendees expect that you as an organization will provide all the event info at their fingertips, and with that, you can help set expectations for what’s to come. Need help with your event website? Time for a refresh to build something new? We can help.