In order to successfully blend virtual with in-person, planners should plan activity around four pillars of effective hybrid events – Audience, Content, Live and Community. During a recent webinar, Live Group’s director of content Bruce Rose discussed each pillar in turn.
“The days of audience generalisation are over,” Rose told viewers. “To deliver a first-class hybrid experience for both in-person and online, you need a deeper understanding of delegate profiles – their make-up, what their objectives are for interacting with your event, what types of content they would prefer to consume and the venue or virtual environment they wish to interact in.”
Although data is central to planning more effective, personalised experiences, the introduction of GDPR in 2018 means that transparency over permissions, what the information will be used for and how it’s stored, is paramount.
“Let people know that the information value exchange is purely to make their time spent at your event a better experience and how the requested data will be shared with stakeholders such as sponsors (providing an opt-out option),” Rose continued.
According to Rose, once you’ve surveyed, emailed and spoken to your audience and gleaned a better understanding of what’s required from your event design, you can start to plan and develop content.
He says: “Effective hybrid events require content formats that will engage and stimulate audiences in different ways so consider what should be live, pre-recorded and on-demand and how formats should be presented (panel discussions, video, audio, presentations etc).
Content that benefits from audience interaction requires Q&A functionality, polls or the ability to broadcast virtual audience members onto screens to ask questions live.”
Rose further advised not to get boxed into different definitions of what makes a hybrid event.
“Sky Sports doesn’t talk about ‘hybrid football’ and yet the way football fans experience a game and consume the content differently, depending on whether they’re sitting in the stands or seated at home in-front of the TV, is a good analogy to keep in mind,” he says.
“Remember, in a hybrid event environment, the majority of attendees are likely to be online so brief on-stage presenters to speak to both audiences and ensure your production partner has different camera angles in place to provide a higher standard of broadcast,” Rose continues. “The traditional rules to staging live events need no longer apply when it comes to hybrid so don’t assume everyone wants the same linear event experience.”
Rose’s recommendations included providing on-demand sessions or personalised streams to cater for your deeper understanding of audience profiles; building roadmaps and strategy around how you want your different audience types to interact and engage; plus avoiding the complacency of how events ‘used to be’ by building in more time to rehearse, more time to test the technology and greater flexibility with your venue for when in-person registrants switch to virtual and scenarios change.
By definition, hybrid means that all content can transition online and be used to grow audience and develop a community that will choose how to engage with your event for years to come.
The hybrid experience no longer begins and ends with the physical event. Planners need to decide which channels to use and how to segment content to drive FOMO, educate, deliver extra value and build advocacy.
“If your events only offer a single option to engage or you only ever plan in a linear way, audiences will seek out digital alternatives and communities better suited to how the world around us has changed,” Rose concludes.