Although many events have shifted to in-person gatherings upon the increase in vaccinations, the new Omicron variant still has many people hesitant about in-person events. One way to accommodate both audiences—those willing to attend in person and those preferring to go online—is to hold hybrid events that engage both categories.
Hybrid events are not a new concept in the slightest. Even before the pandemic, many conferences and concerts have simultaneously taken place live while streaming portions towards online viewers. Today they are regaining popularity to help events get back on their feet.
The challenge with hybrid events is to sustain the engagement of both virtual and in-person audiences throughout the whole affair. Achieving this balance requires creativity.
Setting the Stage Virtually and in Person
Both remote and live audiences will have their eyes on the stage for the duration of your event, so you need a good physical stage setup. Especially if your event is a concert, you need a solid stage to excite viewers.
Your stage design must be appropriate for the kind of event you are putting up. If it is a corporate event with a series of talks and workshops, keep your stage free of clutter. A simple backdrop with details of the event should suffice.
For events that require a more dynamic setup, do not just rely on props. Play with lights and LED screens to add action to the stage. Secure heavy equipment using wire rope rigging tools to safely put everything in its place.
Give your virtual “stage” visual appeal.
Not all physical stages translate well online. Set up your virtual event in such a way that online attendees will enjoy watching from behind their computer screens.
Enhance your virtual setup by adding a border to your virtual display. Think of the size of displays, too. Some will view the event from small laptops, large monitors, or even mobile phones. Make sure that videos, graphics, and accompanying text improve the viewing experience.
Keeping Your Virtual Audience Happy
The work of engaging your live audience is much more straightforward than reaching out to your virtual audience. These are some ways to effectively do so:
1. Acknowledge and interact with your online audience.
Do not make your virtual audience a footnote to your event. Acknowledge them regularly to signal that they are a true part of the event and interact with them. One way to do this is by having a portion of your talks or the whole program dedicated to reading comments and answering questions from your online audience.
Incorporate exclusive virtual activities for your online crowd, too. If the speaker asks a question to the live audience, set up a poll or present the same question in the chatbox. Remote viewers can then provide answers, and the speaker can read some of these during the session.
If your events have breakout sessions, put virtual attendees in breakout rooms, too. This way, they can discuss points and process what they have learned together.
2. Moderate your online platforms.
Physical events require numerous safety measures to stage successfully. Especially with the threats of COVID-19, event organizers must now enforce stricter protocols of physical distancing, mask-wearing, and regular disinfection to assure the safety of staff and guests in the venue.
In the same way that safety is a priority for the physical aspect of your event, online safety should be, too. First, you need to secure your video conferencing platforms to keep malicious people from disrupting the event online. Also, have a moderator keep an eye on chats to ensure that everyone only uses appropriate language.
3. Mind the arrangement of your program.
How you put together your program matters, especially to your online audience. Longer sessions are easier to sit through when you are a part of the physical audience. However, when viewed online, you quickly lose the attention of your audience with sessions of the same length.
Consider cutting sessions to more bite-sized lengths to accommodate your virtual audience. You can either keep sessions to a certain length or for longer sessions, add short coffee breaks in between to allow everyone a breather.
Concerts usually do not face this same issue because songs are shorter than talks. There are also more visual elements to be drawn towards during concerts, which enriches the viewing experience.
Hybrid events allow you to keep a record of your activities even after the event is over. Recorded sessions or video-on-demand offers allow you to keep engaging audiences weeks and sometimes even months after your event concludes.