Connecting the virtual world with the physical world is more common than you think. Ever FaceTimed a friend from a concert or sporting event? Video conferenced with a client out of your boardroom? Attended a notorious Zoom wedding during the pandemic? We’ve been connecting with one another from all kinds of locations since the advent of the webcam, so it’s no surprise that the event industry tide is turning towards hybrid events.
Hybrid events have become such popular event formats because of their ability to reach a vast audience and offer an engaging, satisfying experience no matter where your guests are tuning in from. Yet according to Markletic, 71% of event organizers say that connecting in-person and virtual audiences is their biggest challenge. But it can be done: you can bridge the hybrid divide and take your event to the next level by using tools that truly connect your audiences.
Here, we give you four ways to connect your in-person and virtual attendees at your next hybrid event.
Every event organizer is familiar with engagement tools – a classic Q&A box, a tried-and-true poll. While these remain effective tools to boost individual engagement with your event, especially on the virtual side, try some out-of-the-box ideas to get your guests out of their event bubble. You’ll promote engagement and cross-audience interaction.
We here at PheedLoop are big fans of gamification as a way to surprise and delight event attendees. To bring together virtual and in-person audiences, try creating teams: IRL vs. online, pairs consisting of a virtual attendee and an in-person guest, a company whose employees are attending the physical event vs. employees who are tuning in from home or the office. In order to top the leaderboard, guests will have to work together no matter where they are physically.
A simple, accessible engagement tool to bring together both audiences is a live chat function enabled during events sessions. Live chat brings everyone together in real time. Creating a space for virtual and in-person attendees to talk about the shared event experience promotes community and bonding over a live event. It’s a more organic way to connect your guests (and PheedLoop makes live session chat easy!)
As mentioned, community and in-the-moment connection are the foundations of a truly interactive event. Converting your event attendees into community members is a surefire way to foster interaction between virtual and in-person guests. Social media initiatives are easy to implement and easy for guests to opt-in to.
If your event has a mobile app or other event hub, create forums or groups for on-the-go posting. Start a thread for posting event highlights, create groups for attendees with similar positions across companies, encourage participation in social media hashtag or photo-sharing contests. The biggest benefit your guests get from creating an event community is the ability to interact in real-time with their peers around the world; the biggest benefit you get is a group of engaged attendees ready to consume and interact with your content during the entire life cycle of your event (and year-round!).
An event that provides industry-specific networking opportunities has major appeal to prospective guests. You might think that a hybrid event halves potential networking connections, but you can harness the power of your event management platform to link in-person and online attendees. Take PheedLoop’s attendee matchmaking feature, for example: build a matchmaking survey for your guests to fill out, and they’ll be matched with a fellow attendee with similar interests, careers, geographical region, you name it, to break the ice with.
Once you’ve match-made your attendees, connect those on-site with those in the virtual audience through your mobile app, event website or include specific networking times in your event tracks (PheedLoop makes hybrid event video networking easy, too). Take it to the next level by setting up designated hybrid networking spaces at your venue. Hybrid networking loses its feeling of interconnectedness when an in-person guest has to separate themselves to hop on a video call, so building that space into your venue makes cross-audience networking feel like a unique feature of the event, not a hassle.
Connecting those online and those at the venue isn’t just applicable to event guests. If you’re putting on a trade show or expo, encouraging interaction between virtual guests and in-person exhibitors - or vice versa - is a great way to bridge the audience gap and help your exhibitors reach an even larger group of prospective customers.
If your trade show is primarily in-person, offering a few online sessions and networking opportunities for virtual attendees, consider creating a virtual exhibit hall. With an event management platform like PheedLoop, an interactive, 3D exhibit hall gets your at-home guests in on the action. PheedLoop’s interactive virtual exhibitor booths include live video feed and lead retrieval, making the online exhibition experience just as personal (and worthwhile!) as the real deal.
As most event organizers see hybrid events as the way of the future, it’s time to start investing in connection. Your in-person and online attendees don’t have to be two discrete audiences; you can bring them together in simple, entertaining ways that don’t add to your workload. A great event management platform will make attendee engagement, community-building, networking and virtual exhibition easy. Go beyond the basic live stream or pre-recorded content to offer everyone the same captivating event. Your guests, whether they’re at the venue, at the office, or at home, will thank you!
See how PheedLoop can power your next great hybrid event.