This guest blog from platform provider RainFocus answers event planners' most common questions about hybrid events. Written by Heather Pryor.
If there is one thing that all event professionals can agree on right now, it’s that hybrid events are still somewhat of a mystery. Hybrid events have the potential to be the greatest drivers for maximum engagement, insights, and sponsorship value, yet everyone is still questioning how best to execute them.
In helping our clients prepare for their hybrid events, we’ve come across several recurring questions. In this post, we’ll answer these questions and offer you our solutions for common hybrid concerns.
Q. How do you describe a hybrid event?
Hybrid events are not new. Sporting events, for example, have been hosted both online and in-person for years. A hybrid event is a combination of online and offline event experiences.
Many perceive the key challenge to solve is how to handle audiences virtually and physically for an event. In that challenge, organizations are only solving for event needs and not framing their experience around the customer.
This is the event industry’s opportunity to run as an end-to-end event portfolio strategy. The right way to be thinking of hybrid is as a comprehensive and unified event strategy for your entire event portfolio.
Q. What are your recommended technical onsite requirements for hosting a hybrid event?
To ensure a safe, smooth, and engaging experience for your hybrid event, you’ll need both hardware and software that offer you the ability to service attendees in a socially distanced and safe environment.
Hardware includes check-in kiosks, badge printers, and scanners for sessions, exhibitors, and gift redemption.
As for software, you’ll need segmented registration workflows, call for papers, call for demos, and all of the other software solutions you would need for a virtual or in-person event.
Most importantly, you’ll want to have a holistic dashboard of onsite and online event activity with insights from on-the-spot registration check-in, sessions, and more.
Q. How would you approach live streaming at an in-person event?
Whether you offer sessions live, simulive, or on-demand to virtual attendees, you will need to ensure you have professional AV recording technology to record or stream sessions.
One of the key factors to evaluate is the venue infrastructure and its ability to accommodate these technology requirements. If you choose to record and/or stream sessions, we recommend hiring an experienced production company to assist in the recording.
Q. How can you then ensure that the virtual attendees still feel like they are part of the live experience?
We’ve seen event planners approach this in several ways. Some are sending physical SWAG boxes to connect virtual attendees to the live experience, and others have been maximizing the power of mobile networking to connect live and digital attendees.
Another way to simulate the live experience is having live emcees who communicate with attendees online and offline.
Q. How do you provide virtual attendees with the opportunity to engage with physical attendees at the live event?
As mentioned above, many event planners are leveraging mobile apps to facilitate networking via chat and polls. In addition, you could incorporate gamification into your event and unite attendees with leaderboards, social media engagement, and other activities.
Having a digital photo booth is another way you can build camaraderie — giving digital attendees an opportunity to show their faces and personalities.
Q. Our exhibitors have been pretty clear that they cannot manage a physical and virtual booth at the same time. How do you offer in-person exhibitors the same opportunities if half of your audience is online?
While in-person sponsors may not have the time or resources to manage both an online and an offline booth, you can offer them the opportunity for virtual commercial spots and non-interactive virtual booths where virtual attendees can view information and request email contact at a later date.
Additionally, you could offer your in-person exhibitors the opportunity to sponsor their own sessions and gather virtual leads through virtual session attendance.
Q. How do you prevent having an empty exhibit hall at your live event?
Many worry that fewer exhibitors will want to exhibit live, or worse, that there won’t be enough live attendees to provide live exhibitors with the value they deserve. Let us not forget that human nature drives us to make face-to-face connections. While many exhibitors have gathered an abundance of leads online, they are still eager to return to onsite exhibitions.
Likewise, attendees are excited to get back to the regular ebb and flow of live events. Promote exhibitors as you typically would by building exhibition time into attendees’ schedules, directing attendees to the right exhibitors through meaningful recommendations, and incorporating exhibitors into your event gamification.
Q. How do you measure the effectiveness of networking in a hybrid environment?
Consider using the same tactics you would use to measure networking at any other type of event. Gather attendee feedback via surveys or polls, measure the number of times attendees clicked to schedule a meeting with an exhibitor, or request email feedback post-event.
This content is sponsored by Rainfocus.