Worried about keeping your audience engaged in this new hybrid environment? Relax! After spending years in the live event space, we’ve talked many times about how to optimize audience engagement. Hybrid isn’t much different. The key is to stick to the basics and not stress too much. Having said that, we want to give you a new way of thinking about those old engagement problems that may be more applicable in today’s world. Here are 10 things to keep in mind to make the ultimate hybrid event.
Content is currency! You must earn your audience’s attention. Boring, useless content is what drives virtual attendees to their phones or different tabs on their computers. Creating valuable content that is exciting and thought-provoking ensures everyone is focused on the topic, making the event a better experience for everyone.
Congregation brings heart and soul to your event. Getting people together, whether in-person, virtual, or a mix, creates an environment of collaboration where conversations can continue even after the event is finished. For peer-to-peer online conversation tools, we have seen Slack and other community forum platforms work well. We also like to recommend a post-event email plan to keep contacts engaged and to share helpful content as a follow-up.
After being trapped inside for so long, people are desperate to return to event experiences, so be creative. Now is the time to get out of our comfort zones and bring theatrical experiences into the event world. You can take inspiration from “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience.” How can you bring your audience into the experience? Can attendees at home have a VR (virtual reality) experience, while onsite attendees interact with the environment around them? Now is the time to experiment.
Real-time interactions are key to the flow of presentations and events, so how do we bring emotional responses to virtual audiences to promote improvisation? Whalebone is a cutting-edge technology that recognizes the virtual audience’s reactions and simulates real-time responses for the presenter, such as a round of applause. You can even customize the reaction to accurately depict the audience’s size and intensity.
Find a way to cross that digital divide and broadcast live entertainment that audience members can watch and interact with. Take music requests, have live improv, or have a magician communicate with the virtual attendees during the act; make people at home feel like they are part of the show. Just remember to design an experience that both your on-site and at-home audience can gain energy from.
- Emcees and Keynotes
Emcees are much more than the string to connect each session. They can make or break your show. An engaging and exciting host will earn your audience’s attention and seamlessly link the two experiences—onsite and at home—together. Your speakers then build off that energy and momentum. Find speakers who have relevant experience and can keep things casual and interactive. A great example: Katie Linendoll brought the energy to our hybrid event, Agents of Hybrid. Check it out.
- Networking vs. Conversation
Networking, we have found in our experience with virtual events, simply works better at a venue. Things can feel forced and real connections are simply harder to make in a screen-to-screen environment. However, conversations can be universal. Keep networking to where it is organic, but don’t avoid all virtual interactions, either. One example we like for continuing the conversation with your attendees post-event is the on-demand content page from Oktane21. Notice the CTAs (calls to action) on the page make it easy for attendees to engage with the Okta team.
- The Second Screen
Utilize that second screen to switch up activities and get the audience to participate. Have the attendees scan a QR code that leads them to polls, questionnaires, or forums. This drives participation from all perspectives and congregates those responses to one place. From there, you can discuss the responses in real-time ensuring the relevancy of your session and integrating the audience into the presentation.
Video is a powerful source of media that can be utilized for anything from major productions to the most basic content. Videos can create emotion and are a change of pace from a typical event presentation. Interactive video allows viewers to create their own unique adventure. Read more here.
- Virtual Production
Virtual production capabilities are limitless. By far the most innovative strategy to engage audiences, it levels up video content in a live and virtual setting. Put your speakers in unique environments to capture real emotion, drawing your audience in. Using virtual production, you can put presenters on top of a mountain, in a rainforest, or anything in between.
Keeping a hybrid audience engaged during an event doesn’t have to be difficult. There are many different strategies and technologies to make attending feel like less of a chore and more of an immersive experience. Events are investments, so make sure you put in the effort to optimize your attendees’ experiences.