There is no question that live events are making a comeback – and audiences and presenters alike couldn’t be happier to see their colleagues, friends, and organizations in-person once again.
However, with continued travel restrictions, safety concerns, and event space shortages, many organizations are employing a hybrid model – that is, an event that has both in-person attendees and virtual attendees.
There are two primary types of hybrid meetings. The first, and most common, includes two core audience groups; those attending in-person, and those joining remotely, typically from their homes. The second, which is gaining popularity, features a primary event location and multiple smaller locations, which are able to virtually come together for large group sessions, but meet regionally for small group meetings.
While these dos and don’ts apply to any type of hybrid meeting, they are most critical when it comes to planning the first type – one where half (or more!) of the audience is tuning in from home.
DO… take the locations and time zones of your audience members into consideration
If many of your audience members are joining the event from home, odds are they reside in a different location than your event venue. Whether this results in a small time zone difference (East Coast USA vs. West Coast USA), or a big difference (Midwest USA vs. APAC), it’s important to make sure large general sessions and important meetings fall during their working (or at the very least, waking) hours.
By ensuring that the most important content falls at a time that is convenient for everyone, audience members will not only be encouraged to be present for the meeting, but to be engaged and focused.
It likely won’t be possible to have all event components fall during reasonable hours if you have multiple time zones or audience members around the world. While we recommend placing all general sessions during hours when anybody could reasonably attend, small group meetings or breakout sessions do not need to follow this rule. Assign smaller groups by regions, and allow the meetings to run whenever makes sense for the corresponding time zone.
DON’T… plan your meeting with only the live audience in mind
This one may seem obvious – but it is possibly the most common pitfall! With so much excitement surrounding live events, it’s easy to prioritize and plan the experience of live audience members. However, this will create a meeting that lacks opportunities for virtual attendees to participate – and will quickly lose their attention.
Instead, consider the experience of both sets of audience members and create experiences that both will enjoy, or separate experiences that can be done in smaller settings.
DO… utilize event technology
This ties in perfectly with the point above! Find ways to incorporate event technology that both in-person and virtual audiences can use.
Using an event registration app or virtual meeting platform, audiences can be polled, participate in a live chat, or even participate in Q&A.
Instead of passing a microphone around to gather questions or comments (a process that will only engage in-person audiences), have everyone, regardless of their location, submit questions and comments in the same way. In addition to being inclusive, this will likely result in broader participation, as folks who would usually be too shy to ask for a microphone will happily send in a question. It also has the added benefit of being more hygienic!
DON’T… forget to include lots of breaks
While frequent breaks are most important for those joining the meeting virtually, your in-person audience members will thank you, too. These 15-30-minute breaks will allow ample opportunity for networking and connection.
DO… communicate expectations in advance
Hybrid meetings are new – which means both in-person and virtual audience members will be unsure of what to expect.
Utilize frequent pre-event communications sharing the event agendas, what tools audience members will need, who they can contact with questions, and the purpose of the meeting. This will reduce feelings of anxiety or uncertainty leading up to the event and set your team up for success.
DON’T… think that audiences always need to be doing the same activities
This one seems counterintuitive. If we’re equally prioritizing both experiences, shouldn’t all audience members be given the same opportunities?
Here at Encompass, we don’t think so! There are certain activities that simply work better in the live environment, and some that work better in the virtual environment. For example, those in-person will likely appreciate having less structured activities, like team dinners, where they can have smaller conversations with a large number of people throughout the evening. However, more structured activities, like roundtable discussions or team building activities with prompts and questions, will be more engaging to those on their computers.
Planning a hybrid meeting can be a daunting experience – but as long as you keep the experience of all audience members in mind, you’ll have an engaging, successful, and enjoyable event!
A great hybrid event starts by understanding how to produce an impactful virtual meeting. Click here to learn more about what we’ve learned from virtual events!
At Encompass, we have unique backgrounds that situate us perfectly to produce high end and complex offerings. We’ve worked in broadcast television, touring entertainment, live sporting events, and countless convention facilities across the country.
We have technical design experience and a disciplined process in place that allows us to easily scale events and shift from in-person to virtual without angst. There isn’t much that’s beyond our scope and we love the intensity of putting on events!
If you’re a planner working to create an event, seeking help with virtual event technology, or simply want to learn more … we can help! Sign up below to receive our updates (we promise to keep your contact information secure and won’t “overshare”).