Hybrid events have quickly become a popular option for organizations nationwide. Not only do they offer attendees flexibility, but they also allow organizations to come up with more creative ways to drive ROI. 86% of B2B organizations see a positive ROI from their hybrid events within 7 months — all types of organizations can see similar benefits, but success hinges on keeping guests engaged from start to finish.
But hybrid events are complicated to pull off. They have a lot of moving parts: managing an in-person and virtual audience, coordinating activities, running technology, and so much more. With these complicated logistics keeping event planners busy, engagement can often fall by the wayside, making it difficult for in-person and virtual guests to stay attentive.
However, hybrid event engagement doesn’t have to be a major challenge. With the right planning and engagement tools, you can host a great event that keeps your attendees invested until the end. In this guide, we’ll help you better engage guests during your hybrid event by exploring the following topics:
- What is a hybrid event?
- Top tips for hosting an engaging hybrid event
- Hybrid event examples
- Final thoughts
Mastering hybrid event engagement is well worth the effort. It will ensure that your guests have a positive experience, increasing their involvement in the long-run. Plus, the easily scalable reach and reduced costs of these events will help you continually increase your event ROI over time. Let’s get started!
What is a hybrid event?
A hybrid event is exactly what it sounds like: a mix of two different event options. During a hybrid event, your guests can either attend in-person or virtually.
According to the OneCause guide on planning hybrid events, there are a few important factors to consider when selecting a hybrid event option. First, determine how you can effectively accommodate in-person guests based on your location and venue options. Next, determine whether you have the right tools to drive engagement with your virtual guests, like Q&A features, polls, networking tools, and gamification options. Identify key stakeholders and determine their event preferences so that you can accommodate their needs.
As we all continue to navigate the pandemic, hybrid events offer the unique opportunity for guests to gather in the way that they feel most comfortable. Plus, you’ll increase the chances of connecting with people from various locations by providing a virtual option that gives guests the flexibility to stay home.
Along with their benefits, hybrid events come with unique challenges. Planning an in-person or virtual event is already difficult enough, so combining the two requires even more preparation and organization. Rather than thinking of the in-person and virtual components as two separate events, you should view them as two types of experiences for the same event. This approach ensures that the whole event feels cohesive instead of disjointed.
Top tips for hosting an engaging hybrid event
1. Make it easy to engage.
The best and most direct way to encourage engagement is simply to make it easy. Don’t take their time and generosity for granted. Instead, offer easy, clearly structured ways for them to interact with your event and each other. Here are a few ways to get the ball rolling:
Include interactive activities
While some guests may enjoy a simple lecture or webinar, many attendees want the opportunity to participate in the event. Provide activities for your guests to interact with the event. These activities may include a game, a Q&A session, an open chat room, or any other opportunity that attendees can share their experiences — each of these can be adapted for both audiences!
Create small groups for discussion and mingling
For some attendees, it can be difficult to speak up in a group of 100 others. If you have a big crowd, break out into small discussion groups to encourage conversation from even your most quiet guests. Pre or post-program “lobbies” and networking “lounges” can be effective. Look for options that even allow guests to start their own conversation tables.
- Offer experiences to connect in-person and virtual guests: One of the greatest difficulties of hybrid events is bridging the gap between in-person and virtual guests. Combat this obstacle by specifically offering opportunities for in-person and virtual guests to chat and network with one another.
Prepare your engagement strategy early in your planning process. This way, you can naturally incorporate your strategy into your hybrid event rather than adding in some activities at the last minute. Guests will appreciate the time and effort you put into keeping them engaged, which will only encourage more participation!
2. Share an agenda ahead of time.
No matter the type of hybrid event you’re hosting, share an agenda with your guests, especially virtual ones. For guests logging in from across the world, it will be more difficult to ask questions about how the event will unfold or which links they should use to log in. In-person guests also appreciate an agenda so they can make sure they’re in the right place.
Consider including an agenda in your welcome packet that provides information tailored to each guest’s experience. While an in-person guest will need to know the location of your venue and different meal options, a virtual guest will need to know which activities are happening when and how they can connect online.
An agenda will keep the event organized for your guests and your staff alike. With a clear structure, your guests are more likely to stick around for the entire event and answer any calls to action, the ultimate engagement!
3. Use a hybrid event platform.
Lastly, it’s crucial that you use a hybrid event platform. A hybrid event platform provides all of the features you need to keep your event running smoothly for your in-person and virtual guests.
For example, Airmeet has a fantastic hybrid event platform that offers everything from a seamless networking experience to streaming capabilities to a mobile app for your guests to rely on during your event.
A hybrid event platform can help you stay organized from the registration process to the concluding activities. With the logistical challenges of a hybrid event, you want the right technology on your side to ensure that your event goes off without a hitch.
Hybrid event examples
If you’ve never planned a hybrid event before, you might be wondering what types of events would work well in a hybrid environment. Before launching your brainstorm, check out our top ideas for hybrid events.
Auctions are a fantastic way to raise money for your organization and engage your audience. The competitive nature of auctions will keep your audience invested, especially if they’re waiting for a great item up for bid.
When hosting a hybrid auction, invite VIP guests to attend your in-person event and encourage other interested guests to attend virtually. This way, you can build a closer connection with key stakeholders once the auction is over, but can still engage all attendees who want to support your organization.
Plus, hosting a hybrid auction has never been easier, especially when you have the right technology on your side. Consider investing in mobile bidding software, which can make it easier for in-person and virtual guests to bid regardless of their location.
Another great hybrid event option is a webinar. Share your expertise with an audience of supporters and interested community members, or invite leaders in your industry or mission to give educational presentations.
Webinars present plenty of opportunities for engagement, but the best option is to host a Q&A session at the end. Be sure to allow in-person and virtual attendees to submit their questions, and don’t forget to acknowledge who asked each great question!
If you really want to go the extra mile, you could also host a discussion session after the webinar to connect in-person and virtual attendees. Write some discussion questions ahead of time, assign small groups, and encourage guests to share their thoughts about the panel.
Drive-ins allow attendees from anywhere to drive to your screening location or host a viewing with their friends and family at home. Whether you’re unveiling a new documentary or showing a classic, drive-ins allow your community to gather together and share a viewing experience.
Similar to a webinar, you could host a discussion session after the movie so that audience members can share their favorite moments, evaluate the film’s themes, or critique the movie. If you’re trying to build a community around your organization, a drive-in provides an opportunity for your audience to get to know one another and bond over their favorite movie.
Hybrid events are a great way to engage a broader audience and deliver a fantastic event experience. With the right preparation, you can design a unique engagement strategy and event format that appeals to your audience and keeps them invested. Remember to invest in the right tools, including a hybrid event platform, to ensure that your event runs as smoothly as possible. Good luck!