While the role of virtual hybrid events in education has long been established, it is fair to say that more traditional face-to-face live educational experiences still drive the majority of business networking.
Although hybrid events are nothing new, they are becoming increasingly popular with event planners due to their benefits over purely virtual and face-to-face events while also capitalizing on some of their positive aspects.
What Are Hybrid Events?
Hybrid live/virtual meetings combine elements from both live (in person) and virtual environments for an experience that offers similar benefits of both formats through a mix of presentations, keynotes, panels, and breakout sessions.
The discussion around real-time polling or questions during all sessions allows participants to more actively engage with the content, while some sessions can be pre-recorded.
The result of this mix is events that involve both live and virtual experiences for all participants. This way, event planners can choose which session formats make the most sense based on their audience needs, then layer whether they’ll happen live or remotely around them.
Why Use Hybrid Events?
Hybrid meetings are here to stay as organizations look for ways to create interactive educational opportunities that allow people to meet face-to-face cost-effectively.
Here are three essential reasons why hybrid events are so popular today:
- They provide faster ROI than purely online events.
- They provide an opportunity for more multichannel engagement – especially for those audience members who want to access content on-demand.
- They deliver a more personalized educational experience than face-to-face events.
The Benefits of Hybrid Event Platforms
There are many different hybrid event platforms available, each with unique strengths and weaknesses.
Before deciding whether it makes sense to build your platform or use one from an independent provider, consider that although choosing a specific platform may be necessary, the most critical factor is finding a platform that can help you achieve your goals as effectively as possible.
Some other things to consider include:
- Does the platform have all of the functionalities you require?
- Can it integrate with any third-party tools?
- Does the platform provide an intuitive user experience?
- Will you need any additional support services to help you use it effectively?
10 Effective Hybrid Events Ideas
There’s no doubt that technology has brought us into a new era of information accessibility. Hybrid events offer everyone involved an opportunity to lead in these recent times.
If you’re thinking of planning your next professional development program, here are ten ideas for how to make it more engaging through increased interactivity both online and offline:
1. Create pre-event education content
To kick things off before the live events even take place, it’s a good idea to offer your audience some pre-event education materials. This will help them get up to speed on the issues discussed during the event itself.
2. Hold virtual speaker Q&As
You’ve also got the option of holding a separate online session for speakers to answer more questions from participants. The advantage of this approach is a deeper engagement between presenters and their audiences before the actual event takes place, and everyone learns more!
3. Host onsite workshops
In addition to all educational aspects taking place before, during, and after an actual conference, why not add some supplemental workshops? This way, you can offer more depth in topics covered at your upcoming meeting, and it also gives participants the chance to get additional hands-on experience that will help reinforce what they’ve already learned.
4. Create a Facebook group or an online community
If you’re hosting your event live, why not create a private social networking site, such as a company intranet, Facebook page, a LinkedIn group, or even a separate micro-site where all participants can connect? This could offer valuable opportunities for people to form new relationships and discuss relevant industry issues before and after events.
5. Encourage interactions by building activities into the conference sessions themselves
Incorporating questions from the audience during presentations is a great way to make things more interactive. At one conference I attended recently, every speaker had to answer a question from the audience to keep their presentation times below a certain length.
This allowed for more engagement and interaction between the presenters and the audience, but it also encouraged speakers to make sure that they got across all of their significant points in a specific amount of time.
6. Offer live Q&A sessions with sponsors
Sponsors can be an added value in providing extra education, especially if you’re partnering with them in advance to offer mini-sessions or webinars that highlight why your organization partners with them.
That way, attendees will gain additional insight into industry trends that affect them personally, rather than listening only to what benefits your organization directly.
7. Encourage networking before and after the event
Another great way to encourage more experimentation and interaction is by structuring your program so that participants can network during sessions or at various social events.
If you’re hosting a live event, create enough downtime between workshops and presentations to give people time to get acquainted with each other and try to include some breakout groups, so your attendees have the chance to connect in smaller group settings.
8. Use facilitators for online conversations
Although plenty of social media tools are being used these days, consider setting up specific forums where presenters can engage with participants specifically during any virtual segments of hybrid events. This will help them feel more comfortable asking questions while also increasing everyone’s learning experience.
9. Encourage sharing via social media
Creating pre-event content that participants can share with others on their social networks is another way to generate interest in your upcoming hybrid event. And while some sessions may take place online, nothing stops you from giving all participants the ability to tweet or post about what they’re learning during each session.
10. Focus on access and engagement
As you build out your virtual experience, remember that both access and engagement are essential. The more connected people feel to speakers, sponsors, other attendees, etc., the more likely it is for them to come away feeling like they’ve gotten something of value from their time regardless of whether your meeting takes place live or exclusively virtually.
11. Make it fun!
With so many different opportunities available today, don’t forget that you can always make things more interactive and engaging by including some light-hearted activities on your agenda. Raffles, trivia contests, and other informal events will help generate interest and increase online discussions among participants before and after your hybrid event if done correctly.
Keep all of those hybrid event ideas and more in mind while putting together your next hybrid event, and you’re sure to see positive results. Not only will people enjoy the overall experience, but it’ll be easy (and cost-effective) for you to set up too!