The pandemic has had an impact on just about every person, job, and industry in one way or another, but the events industry has been hit particularly hard. That said, the industry has adapted, in large part by embracing virtual and hybrid event experiences.
If your business relies on events for engagement, programming, recruiting, or revenue generation, you may have already considered taking a hybrid approach to your next job fair, conference, or other event.
To plan a hybrid event successfully, follow these best practices. You’ll ensure a positive experience for everyone involved.
1. Hire and Train the Right Event Staff
Your event is only as good as the behind-the-scenes team pulling it off. Building a great event staff is just like building a high-performing team of any kind. It all comes down to strategic hiring and skillful training.
Each event will have its own set of staffing needs, but a typical hybrid event will likely require the following team members:
• Marketing and communications professionals to spread the word about your event beforehand.
• Staff coordinators to recruit, manage, and train any staff members (or volunteers, depending on the nature of your event) who will help support the event.
• Technical leads to run point on any software used and manage your video, live streaming, and broadcasting needs the day of the event.
• Day-of logistics coordinator to oversee the entire operation, solve problems as they arise, and ensure the event runs smoothly.
To make sure you’re set with the best team possible when the big day arrives, it’s a good idea to start your recruitment and training processes early. This way, you have enough time to assign roles, communicate expectations, and establish schedules prior to the event in question.
2. Ensure You Have Tech Experts on Board
By definition, hybrid events require more technology than your typical in-person gathering. As a result, you also need more people to manage that technology.
A few questions to ask yourself before jumping into your hybrid event include:
• What is your technical experience with streaming and other relevant technologies?
• Are you planning to work with a production company or handle operations in-house?
• Do you have tech experts on staff? If not, do you have time to recruit and train them?
• Who will you contact if you have technical difficulties during the event?
Your technology will play a significant role in the virtual elements of your event by making remote engagement a possibility in the first place. However, it’s important to also recognize the ways that tech can help streamline operations for in-person elements of the event as well, such as with ticketing and payments. Thus, your technology experts are effectively responsible for managing every aspect of your hybrid experience and can directly impact the way each guest engages with your organization. It’s important to choose them well!
3. Invest in the Virtual Elements of Your Event
When planning a hybrid event, it can be tempting to focus your efforts mainly on the guests who will attend the event in person. However, your virtual attendees are also critical to the success of your event, and their experience should be as much of a priority.
Hosting a successful hybrid event is not as simple as creating a Zoom room and starting an online meeting. New ways to get guests involved from near and far are cropping up, so make sure your team is prepared to explore and implement these options.
To effectively prioritize your virtual event experiences, it’s important to first understand what your audience wants from you. Luckily, there’s a ton of research available to inform your strategy. For example, our recent OneCause Giving Experience Study uncovered some important virtual engagement facts:
• Only 27 percent of virtual event attendees find prerecorded video content to be very engaging. Consider avoiding it.
• On the flip side, live entertainment and picture-in-picture technology rank highly in terms of virtual engagement.
• 51 percent of guests find online breakout rooms to be engaging, and 57 percent enjoy real-time chats with other guests.
Live streaming will likely be a significant component of your hybrid event, but you don’t have to leave it there. Offering additional features to virtual attendees — like breakout rooms — can make the event more unique, memorable, and positive. How much your attendees enjoy your event could affect how they feel about your company. If, for example, they have a negative experience at a hybrid job fair, they may decide not to apply. Thus, you want to make sure virtual event elements do not get overlooked in favor of in-person elements.
Hybrid events are gaining popularity for a variety of applications across industries. Done well, these types of experiences have the potential to engage both virtual and in-person audiences successfully. That’s why it’s always a good idea to invest in the right tools and the right people to pull it off.
Karrie Wozniak is chief marketing officer of OneCause.
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