Best Practices for Effective Hybrid Events

How to enhance the meeting experience for both in-person attendees and remote viewers.

The freeze on in-person events this year has forced planners to become more comfortable creating digital meetings. As physical gatherings haltingly return, the opportunity now arises to channel this new expertise into the design of hybrid events, combining in-person and remote audiences to accomplish the meeting's goals. Because one of the main lessons attendees have learned this year is, when they can't travel to an event they can still participate fully in the action.

According to a July survey from etc.venues, which runs 17 U.K. conference centers and a new one in New York City, planners are preparing for a future of hybrid events. Of the respondents, 95 percent said they expect to hold one of these meetings in 2020 -- a sizable increase from the 73 percent who said the same just one month earlier.

But creating a successful hybrid is not simply a matter of streaming sessions from a socially distanced ballroom. We spoke with several experts, as well as venue representatives who have recently hosted such conferences, to get their tips on how to get the most from a multichannel gathering.

Set Expectations

Preparing attendees for what will take place at an event has always been necessary, whether the gathering was face-to-face or digital -- but it's especially important when combining the two.

"This means making sure your virtual guests know how to log in, that your live guests know there will be a virtual audience and that both know how the agenda will play out," says Ashanti Bentil-Dhue, founder and director EventMind, a digital- and hybrid-event production company.

All promotions should make it clear that the event will have both digital and in-person elements and audiences, allowing prospective attendees to select the delivery option that fits their comfort level and current ability to travel.

Michelle Hopewell, regional marketing director at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati, encourages the setup of an interactive platform with a live-chat element long before the event to stimulate engagement, even allowing attendees to submit questions and suggestions during the registration process. "Let your attendees guide your content," she urges.

The convention center used this approach for its own gathering, Hybrid Events: Confusing Possibilities Made Simple, held on July 15. The conference, a collaboration with Prestige Audio Visual and Creative Services, began with a webcast, followed by in-person breakouts. Attendees interacted at the center and digitally in sessions on topics such as "A/V Health and Safety Tips" and "Contract Negotiations During and Post-Covid." The event drew 50 on-site and 250 remote participants.

Read the full version of this story, including seven more tips for effective hybrid events at NorthstarMeetingsGroup.com.