3 Ways to Increase Engagement at Your Next Hybrid Event
The events industry is changing, and organizers and managers have found creative ways to bring their events to life while keeping their audiences engaged.
Hybrid events — a trade show, conference, or other meetings that combine a live in-person event with a virtual online component — have become a vital part of the new normal and will continue to play an important role in the future.
One of the biggest challenges for event managers when planning for a hybrid event is figuring out how to keep both their in-person and virtual attendees engaged. While in-person attendees can still rely on traditional face-to-face interaction, your virtual audience requires a new strategy for keeping their attention and delivering relevant content.
A successful hybrid event incorporates elements to keep all attendees engaged so no one is left feeling left out if they are attending virtually. These are a few ways you can adapt to the digital evolution of consumer interaction and increase engagement at your next hybrid event.
1. Incorporate interactive elements.
While your in-person attendees have the benefit of being in a room with a speaker at the podium, your virtual audience can struggle to feel that same sense of community without being in the physical space. As a result, they can easily feel disconnected and disengaged from the content of your event.
Tools such as live polling and live Q&A are a way to bring together your virtual and onsite audiences and facilitate that idea of community without being in proximity to one another. During a keynote address or panel session, encourage your audience — in-person and virtual — to submit questions and participate in polls based on the session’s topics. This way attendees are engaged and can interact with each other.
2. Encourage conversation.
One of the most important aspects of your virtual booth is the ability for participants to engage in dialogue with fellow attendees, speakers, and exhibitors. Ensuring that all of your attendees have the ability to interact with one another is crucial for supporting the spirit of collaboration and connection that drives almost all events.
Take for example breakout sessions, the most popular forums for conversation between attendees and speakers. While your in-person attendees are in these sessions, give your virtual attendees the same opportunity to connect by creating breakout rooms within the online meeting space. This will give all attendees an equal chance to connect and build that sense of community.
Similarly, virtual trade floors offer remote attendees to learn from and speak to the suppliers at your event. Special chat features can be integrated into your virtual booth environment to enable dialogue between attendees and exhibitors, allowing for the free flow of ideas and information that is the hallmark of most events — whether they’re live, virtual, or hybrid.
Banking technology leader Jack Henry & Associates took advantage of the Hamilton EXTEND® platform to incorporate an Attendee Chat and Exhibitor Chat feature into their events with their annual conferences transitioned to a virtual environment. The features let participants interact with one another even though they couldn’t be together in person, allowing for the sharing of information and facilitating connection amongst attendees, speakers, and exhibitors.
3. Make your content accessible.
The core of any event is the content that is delivered to attendees — and hybrid events are no different. Arguably, your content is even more important during a hybrid event as it is more difficult to keep virtual attendees engaged in front of a computer screen.
During your event, it is important to consider both audiences when planning your content. Does your content translate well over video for your virtual audience? Are your sessions the appropriate length?
But more importantly, you need to think long-term about your attendee experience. How is your audience going to engage with your content after the event ends and they log off?
It is easier for in-person attendees to participate throughout your event, but virtual attendees may only be able to participate in select events or miss an hour or two while taking a break from their screen. Making your content available on-demand after the event gives virtual attendees the ability to access it at a more convenient time and all attendees a chance to revisit the information, increasing the chance they will engage with your content.
Jack Henry made use of their event website created in Hamilton EXTEND to give attendees and sponsors access to sessions, speakers, and exhibits in filtered lists both during and after the event. Exhibitors could also make materials like videos, PDFs, and other links available to allow attendees after the event. The accessibility of Jack Henry’s content made it easier for participants to engage with their content, leading to better results and a more successful event.
Improving your hybrid event
Hybrid events bring together in-person interaction and virtual environments, allowing event organizers the flexibility to adapt to the digital transformation in the wake of our ever-changing world. To keep audiences – in-person and virtual – engaged, your events needs to:
- Integrate interactive elements, like live polling and Q&A, into your event.
- Encourage conversation and information exchange between all of your participants.
- Make your content accessible during and after your event.