August 31, 2022 | By Warwick Merry

It’s interesting talking with event organisers about hybrid events. Some pause, take a deep breath and then reveal why they won’t be doing them again while others smile and gush effusively about how they have saved their clients and will always be part of their future.

Love them or hate them, events with some sort of hybrid element are here to stay.

One of the reasons that event organisers can struggle is that we (and our speakers) are not always taking full advantage of the technology – without being ruled by it. Here are five simple things we can do to make hybrid events even better.

Treat your audiences differently

Too many speakers get hypnotised with the live audience and forget that the online audience will often outnumber those in the room (and frequently by a significant magnitude). And now more than ever, many of our delegates are watching the replay.

Make sure your speakers address both audiences. A great trick is to brief the person on camera that when the speaker looks towards them and they know their camera is live, to raise their hand. It is a simple reminder for the speaker to look down the barrel of the camera and engage better with the online audience and those watching the recording.

Also, if you are getting the audience to interact (and you should!) make sure the online audience also has something to do. It could be simply adding a response in the chat, on the app, heading to a breakout room, sharing an image, anything that makes them feel they are part of the experience.

Allow time to interact

A great tool to use is the QR code that leads to a poll, word cloud or other interactive element. But often not enough time is allowed when using it. If the online delegates are on a 20-second delay and your speaker starts looking for results in one minute, then the online delegates simply don’t have time. Why not say you will be asking a question shortly, here is the QR code, and it will also appear on the bottom of the next couple of slides if the audience needs it. Then three or four minutes later go to the QR code question. These extra minutes mean more responses will be received and everyone has a chance to contribute

Have someone actively moderating the virtual chat

The virtual chat is severely underutilised, particularly during a hybrid event. As a host for many hybrid events, you will nearly always find me in the chat making comments, repeating questions, getting results for the speakers and engaging those online in some manner. Often this use of the chat encourages others to take part and deepens their engagement and the value they get from the event. It is a simple way to increase the value of the speaker and the event.

Do something special for each audience

It is often the online audience that feels left out. They don’t get the catering, the social events, the “extras” that the face-to-face delegates do. So, in the same manner your face-to-face delegates get show bags, merch and fun experiences, make sure your online delegates do too.

Yes, posting out merch and delegate packs is expensive and time consuming but it is truly worth it. Why not also consider a lunch time or teatime Q & A or interview session? The speakers are there anyway, your AV team is there; it is easy to have the AV desk or platinum sponsor in the background and do a simple bonus interview or “ask me anything” session via the chat. Without much extra cost, you can add a stack more value (and the speakers usually don’t charge extra for it!).

Two-way TV

Our events have advanced and so should we. Simply broadcasting the event really is not enough. Too often online delegates will have the session on another screen as they are doing “normal work”. So make it two-way TV. That is, the speakers need to not just share their ideas but take on ideas. Make sure you insist that the speakers have an interactive element, that they can tap into the collective of your delegates to add value to the session.  The use of QR codes as discussed, the chat, Q & A sessions and some simple polling will really bring the event to life for all of your delegates.

Hybrid events will always be part of our future. It is up to us to get better at them, add more value to our delegates and embrace the technology that makes them happen.

What will you be doing for your next hybrid event?

Warwick Merry is a Certified Speaking Professional, dual Certified Virtual Presenter, recipient of the 2021 Global Outstanding Intrapreneur Award, the 2022 Breakthrough Speaker Award and the 2022 Nevin Award for service to the speaking industry. For over 20 years he has been hosting and producing online, hybrid and in-person events. He is the host of the Making Events Awesome livestream and Facebook group.