We’re all getting creative with how we host events these days. While virtual events are not a replacement for in person events, they are a newer type to add to the mix to get you through this crazy time. A virtual event is a great way to reach a larger audience, and especially people who may not want to travel at this time. Virtual events offer many advantages, but something to keep in mind is that they require the same attention to detail as an in-person event. With viewers tuning in via electronic device, a thorough plan will need to be in place to keep audiences informed and involved in the overall experience. With both in-person and online events, you need to promote sufficiently, engage attendees and create memorable moments. Here are some things to keep in mind for both an in-person and virtual event.
HOW TO PROMOTE YOUR HYBRID EVENT & DRIVE ATTENDANCE
One of the most important components in your pre-marketing efforts is to determine what your key selling points are. What should in-person attendees expect and gain from attending? How will this leave a lasting impression on the online viewers who can’t be there in person? Once that is determined, make sure to lead with those benefits in your marketing efforts.
Whether it’s a noteworthy speaker, skill sharing, networking, or a company-sponsored event, paint a clear picture. For in-person attendees, event marketers should shift their focus to the smaller, more personal connections that will be made. This will help address concerns people may have regarding large crowds. Make sure to showcase all the measures you will have in place to keep attendees safe. For help on staging your next meeting or event, order your free copy of The Woodlands Meetings Planner Guide.
Leading up to the event, it’s crucial to create anticipation amongst registrants. Regularly update your event website and consider listing your event on sites like Eventbrite to maximize exposure. Email sends are another great way to share ongoing updates as more information becomes available. Social media can be used to broaden reach as well. Create a designated Facebook event that attendees can use as their go-to resource for important updates and frequently asked questions.
HOW TO KEEP AUDIENCES ENGAGED, INVOLVED & PARTICIPATING
With both in-person and virtual events, planning out content ahead of time will help keep things moving smoothly and fill in any gaps. Pre-recorded content can be mixed in with live sessions to introduce specific sessions or keynotes. A few examples of pre-recorded content include welcome messages and closing videos as well as introductions for speakers.
In a virtual setting, content is everything. Focus on delivering quality keynotes to keep audience retention high throughout the day or week. Social media support is another great way to supplement a hybrid event by Live Tweeting, sharing Stories with key moments mentioned, and encouraging attendees to join the conversation by posting with a designated hashtag. This also serves as an additional opportunity for viewers to connect and consume more content.
An important part of a hybrid event is engaging with the audience. Carve out time for a Q&A session following your keynotes. In an effort to merge online and in-person attendance, collect questions from both in-person and remote viewers and have the presenter address the question and acknowledge the sender and where they are located. This is a key tactic that will help remote audiences feel like they are part of the conversation.
To encourage networking safely in-person, consider creating conversation pods with appropriately spaced seating. If your event cannot be held at an outdoor venue, look into holding a networking gathering after the event at an outdoor location. For the online viewers, help facilitate networking through chat groups, video call appointments and business-card-exchange tools. You can even play digital matchmaker and help connect folks with similar backgrounds and specialties.
USE BEST PRACTICES TO ENSURE A SUCCESSFUL EVENT
- Prepare for technology troubles. It’s almost inevitable to experience technology issues at some point during an event, but there are some things you can do in advance! Test your Internet connection, prepare backups of materials, and hold a run-through of the event if it’s feasible.
- Create a guide for attendees. Before the event begins, send out a helpful guide that explains how to join keynotes, attend sessions, and use site features. This will be beneficial for both in-person and remote attendees.
- Enhance the in-person experience. Due to capacity limits, you may have more venue space and availability to make additions that will create a safer environment. For example, creating one-way aisles to direct traffic, as well as sanitation stations and multiple cleanings throughout the day. Undecided on a venue? Sign up to get a virtual tour of The Woodlands and see what we offer for meetings and groups.
- Choose technology partners wisely. To deliver the best experience for your hybrid event, make sure the technology platforms are user-friendly and that you are well-versed in them.
- Simplify the registration process. Think through new ways to improve registration for your event. To ease the consumer experience it’s recommended to go digital-only, set up assigned check-in times to register for your event, offer a print-at-home option, or even mail badges to attendees.
- Set up presenters for success. Each presenter should have a clear understanding of what they need to prepare, as well as any considerations needed to have a successful session for both in-person and online viewers.
- Gauge performance and overall response. The best way to understand how your event performed is to ask those who attended. Provide online surveys to gauge the success of your event and use that feedback to improve the success of your next event.
Overall, having a well-thought-out plan and proper technology in place will help make sure you’re delivering an amazing experience to both audiences. Following the event, make program materials available for download, along with supplemental resources to encourage further learning. To celebrate the event and thank attendees for joining, share main takeaways and photos, and other visuals through online communication channels. If you already have dates set for your next event, make that announcement and get your attendees excited for another opportunity to meet and “e-meet!”
Visit The Woodlands is here to help as you navigate the ever-changing landscape of hosting events. Contact us now for assistance or download our Meeting Planners Guide for inspiration. We look forward to hosting your next meeting in The Woodlands soon. We're ready, whenever you are.