By Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP

Hybrid events have been touted as the future of our industry. They combine the ease of online delegates and the energy of in-person events.

The reality is somewhat different.

If hybrid events are not well produced, they become worse than Frankenstein’s monster, combining the worst of both worlds and not the best. If we don’t get them right, you will get delegates leaving your event in droves and you will struggle to get them back.

These are some of the horrors to avoid.

Don’t forget your delegates!!

Whether your delegates are online or in person, you MUST play to both. If you are giving directions to the delegates in the room you also need to give a different direction to the ones online. Instead of “turn to the person next to you” maybe it is “quickly type and comment in the chat box.” Each delegate thinks they are special (because they are) but if you forget about them or don’t direct them, that feeling of special fades very quickly.

Have professional hosts (or at least train your inhouse ones)

Professional hosts will make a world of difference. Make sure you have good ones for each physical location and one for online. If you must use inhouse ones, get them trained.

Popping on screen and saying “Coming up next is …” or “Now it’s time to go back to the main timeline” is two steps away from useless. Professional hosts know how to make the event about the delegates, get them excited, recover from a poor speaker (let’s be honest, they do exist!) and have people fired up for the next session.

Have your speakers and hosts look good

While the digital age has let us get away with a few things, you have to look good. That means hiding cables, microphones and headsets if you can. A few simple actions make the people on stage and on screen look way better. Ask your AV team for some of the tricks and they will be happy to help.

Minimise automation – keep a human in charge

Too many events automate the time slots. Any seasoned event professional will tell you that as the day progresses, timings will move. Too many online sessions suddenly end before they are finished or as the emcee is wrapping up it just ends and then you have to wait five minutes until the next session. Surely we could have seen another three minutes of the emcee!

Make your delegates feel special 

Each delegate has their own experience of the event. It is our job to make them feel special. Delegates want events done WITH them and not just TOO them. That means that all of us will need to work harder to make that happen and to make the delegate feel special.

Hybrid events ARE our future. But we have to do them well. Technology alone will not be enough. A solid understanding of delegate needs, the event goals and the right guidance will get you there.

Warwick Merry CSP, CVP is a Certified Speaking Professional, Dual Certified Virtual Presenter and Past National President of Professional Speakers Australia. He hosts and produces online events. Discover more at WarwickMerry.com