Best practices you can employ to host memorable hybrid events
As the ongoing global health crisis continues to change the way we go about our day-to-day lives, businesses and organizations are left with no other choice but to change the way they hold meetings and conferences. As MeetingsNet has noted, with the pandemic setting the limit for the number of physical participants a certain event can accommodate, multi-location hybrid meetings will become the new norm in the years to come.
Thankfully, the technologies needed to make this possible are already available in the market. Still, despite this fact, it is important to note that meetings such as these continue to present a variety of unique challenges, one of which is engagement.
That said, here are some of the practices you can employ to make hybrid events as engaging as they can be.
Encourage active participation
Encouraging participation, regardless of whether you are holding an in-person or a virtual event, is hard. So you can only imagine how much harder it could be if you are working on an event that combines both. One of the ways you can overcome such difficulty is by not limiting yourself to just discussions and breakout sessions. For instance, you can try running live polls for your virtual participants and, at the same time, have a quick Q&A session with your live audience. It would also be a good idea to speak to some of your virtual participants.
Another way you can encourage active participation is by adding a mobile touchpoint to your event, say, for example, a mobile app. Doing so will present an avenue for both live and virtual participants to interact with each other and talk about their opinions on the topics discussed during the event. Whatever strategy you choose, make sure that it will encourage not just one but both audiences to connect, learn and engage.
Coach your presenters
Of course, there’s only so much event organizers can do when it comes to making an event engaging. Presenters also need to do their part in making sure each segment is lively. Running frequent speaker training sessions allows presenters to learn the best practices when it comes to presenting in front of a hybrid audience. Case in point, Inc. recommends using a maximum of 10 slides as a way to keep things visually engaging.
On that note, speaker Jay Acunzo notes that utilising verbal cues and injecting humour into your presentations are invaluable when it comes to engaging audiences. The hard truth is that not everyone is comfortable presenting, so you might want to consider screening your presenters beforehand to see if they have the persona needed to make for engaging presentations.
Regardless of whether you screen your presenters or not, having a few coaching sessions beforehand can help ensure your event goes as smoothly as possible.
Keep timing in mind
Timing is also something to consider when it comes to creating hybrid events. Breaking your events down into 30 or 45-minute segments keeps attention high; after all, it’s difficult to stay focused when you’re sitting in front of your screen the whole day. From an organizer’s standpoint, breaking your event down into bite-sized segments also allows your team to recalibrate after every session and fix any bugs that might have come up. Such breaks will also afford live participants a few moments to walk around, stretch, take a bathroom break or get some refreshments.
This is also where coaching sessions come in handy. Running through each presentation beforehand can help organisers figure out just how feasible the current schedule is, and it will also help your team make the necessary adjustments should one of the presentations require technical help.
While you’ll want to avoid making any huge changes to the schedule, you might find that you’ll need to make one segment slightly shorter or longer depending on the practice runs.
Include meditation breaks
Just because it’s a corporate event doesn’t mean that every segment has to be business-related. Indeed, including a mindful meditation break in between sessions gives participants and speakers alike a time to realign. Pain Free Working’s list of wellness initiatives cites meditation as a top way to make workers more focused. This focus is necessary for hybrid events as you want participants to absorb as much information as they can.
Depending on how you want your event to go, you can also choose to simply start or end each session with a quick breathing break. This practice may seem unusual on paper, but offering these small mindfulness sessions sets your event apart from the rest.
You can even run through some short breathing exercises with your team to see which ones would work best with your event. There’s a lot of value in taking the time to deliberately pause everything and just focus on your breathing, which your team will probably notice right off the bat.
Ask for feedback afterwards
Our piece on How to Engage Virtual Audiences showcases the need to reward audiences for their participation, and to that end, asking for feedback after the event can give your company a roadmap to success for other events down the line. Before the event ends, give an announcement to remind participants to check their emails for a quick survey, or else hold one during the event itself. A mobile app can also come in handy here since such platforms will make it a whole lot easier to answer feedback forms for both audiences.
Whichever way you get this information, collecting feedback is a non-negotiable. Stacking up participant feedback against your team’s internal reports is a good way to help you see the blind spots in your operations.
If your event has sponsors, you might also want to consider partnering with them to give offers to participants who fill out the feedback forms. This can be in the form of discount codes or even free giveaways that will be shipped to the participants themselves. You’ll be surprised at how much feedback you will get once survey respondents know they’re getting something out of it!
Focusing on engagement early on will help you structure your event, narrow down your list of presenters, and more. The tips above work for any organization, and keeping them in mind throughout the planning process can help create the foundation for a successful event.
Article written by Sarah Ackley exclusively for e180.co
Sarah Ackley is a is a management consultant based in New York. She regularly attends events and conventions to learn about the latest industry trends. Outside of her work, she does volunteer work in her community and caring for her grandfather who has looked after her since she was young.