Hybrid Event Planning: A Tale of Two Audiences

Team GTRTeam GTR September 16, 2020

One of your event attendees spent yesterday traveling into town, had a breakfast meeting this morning, and is dressed neatly in their business-casual-best. Another one of your event attendees just got their kiddos off to school and has on comfy sweats and slippers. How could you possibly give them both an equally rich experience at your hybrid event?

While these audiences are vastly different, they’re likely both looking for the same thing: to gain knowledge and connect with others. How do you address these two goals for in-person and virtual audiences? We’ve got a few ideas:

Focus #1: Think Digital First

In the past, digital components of an event were often viewed as the bonus add-on of an in-person event (like a keynote being recorded and posted after the event). But actively incorporating remote attendees into your hybrid event means that you need to have a digital-first mindset:

  • A day of virtual meetings means screen fatigue and constant distractions (the dog needs to go out, the delivery guy just arrived, you name it!). Virtual attendees do not have the same attention span as a live session audience: Make smart decisions about event flow and timeline by giving your virtual audience frequent breaks. In-person attendees can grab shared meals or peruse tradeshow booths during this time.

  • Vary the types of sessions to keep things fresh for virtual audiences such as incorporating a mix of formats like presentations, panels, workshops and interviews.

  • Remind speakers that they’ll need to effectively engage a virtual audience. Any props, video or visuals they’d like to use to accommodate their presentation should be designed with remote viewers in mind. Don’t forget to remind speakers to select rooms and lighting that will easily accommodate recording and streaming technology.

Focus #2: Understand Hybrid Event Content

Your event programming needs to satisfy both in-person and virtual attendees. If possible, require your event speakers to be present at the event. In-person attendees will appreciate the ability to rub elbows with speakers – something that would be missed if they were remote. Panelists will also likely have a more dynamic presentation if in-person together, as spontaneous conversation will be easier to capture if they’re physically in the same room.

Focus #3 Offer Attendees Control

Attendees increasingly want more control over their content schedule so offering flexible options helps to increase the usefulness of the event and participation: Perhaps an in-person attendee is escaping back to their hotel room and will tune in to a session virtually. Maybe a virtual attendee wants to chat about a session with another attendee a few hours afterward. Keeping options flexible reduces the “fear of missing out” for all attendees. z

Focus #4: Make Things Clear

With a scattered audience, hybrid events demand extra clarity. Attendees will need detailed agendas, login instructions and logistics upfront in an easy-to-access, universal spot. They need to know if there will be pre-event sessions as well as post-event follow-up. Networking opportunities need to be spelled out for both in-person and virtual of attendees and depending on the size of the event, it is important for people to know who is attending virtually and in person.

Focus #5: Embrace Flexibility

One advantage of hybrid events is that it enables people to attend despite travel and cost restrictions. Making the registration process as flexible as possible is important so people can switch from virtual to in-person seamlessly. Flexibility may also be needed in pricing events with easy upgrades to attending in-person. Digital registration and badges make this easy and intuitive.

Focus #6: Facilitate Interaction

Creative ideas that connect remote and in-person audiences are important in planning a successful hybrid event. Construct quiet spaces where in-person attendees can connect with a virtual attendee privately. Create icebreakers that are focused on having both audiences interact. Fill rooms with cameras and screens to create as immersive an experience as possible. The trick is that you want every attendee to feel important no matter where they are.

In order to plan a successful hybrid event, you need a flexible platform from a technology partner who truly understands the human side of event planning. Whether an event is in-person, virtual or hybrid, the customer experience is paramount.

Look for a platform that simplifies pre-event planning, provides touchless registration and badges, allows for personalization, is rich in engagement and communication tools and allows you to measure and respond with insights during and after the event. These are just a few of the features that should be on your requirements list in order to achieve success in the five focus areas we have outlined for hybrid events.

Now that you understand the benefits, the next question is: How do I plan a successful hybrid event? We’ll be sharing tips on how to organize one over the next few weeks – stay tuned!

We believe virtual and hybrid events that combine the best of both worlds are the wave of the future. We’d like to help with the technology and ideas to meet your event planning goals. We look forward to talking with you.

Regards, Team GTR™ 👋

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