By Oliver Rowe
Both event attendees and organisers around the world have experienced the many benefits of incorporating a virtual element into an event over the past year. Not only does it eliminate many of the barriers to attendance, such as costly conference passes and large time commitments, it makes more events available to individuals, no matter where they are located.
Of course, there are advantages for venues too, such as shorter lead times, less money spent on staff, greater data analytics and reusable content. As a result, it is likely that many events post-pandemic will be hybrid in their layout and will include both in-person and virtual elements, so attendees and organisers can reap the benefits of both.
When it comes to running a successful hybrid event, content must come first and foremost and is the most crucial element, particularly for delegates joining virtually.
Without engaging content, organisers risk losing the interest and attention of their online audiences to the many distractions that come with joining an event from the home or office.
With this in mind, here is an outline of some of the ways event organisers can make their hybrid events a success using valuable content that encourages interaction from all attendees, both virtual and in-person.
Align with attendees’ needs
To deliver truly impactful content, event organisers need to start by understanding more about who they are targeting, and marketing tools like audience segmentation and targeting can help tremendously in determining the type of information to convey.
Instead of approaching the content of an event with a ‘what we want to tell attendees’ mindset, organisers should think about what their attendees want and need to hear during the event to determine the most relevant speakers and topics of discussion.
By outlining clear KPIs, organisers can inform their content agendas and determine the right timing, format, structure, audiences, hosts and much more for their hybrid events.
Ensure content works for both audiences
When planning the virtual elements of a hybrid event, it can be tempting to mirror the content that would usually be designed for in-person attendees. However, a hybrid event is not the same as a live event and taking a blanket approach will result in a poorer overall experience for attendees.
For virtual audience members, providing creative, high quality content that adds value is essential and event organisers must ensure the virtual software they are using supports an immersive, engaging experience.
Virtual participants want to engage and learn from the content and connect with other participants just as they would if they were in physical attendance. If a hybrid events platform does not offer this, it could cause virtual attendee numbers to drop throughout the event as the content fails to capture their attention.
When catering for a virtual audience, organisers need to find ways of shortening content timeslots and ensuring messaging is concise.
Ideally, a keynote speech which might have lasted an hour or more at a live event pre-pandemic, should be cut down to a maximum of 30 minutes to maintain the attention of virtual attendees.
As panel discussions are inherently more interactive, they are a good choice for hybrid events and work well to bring both in-person and virtual delegates together. This type of content should be around 45-60 minutes, and organisers should ensure the software they are using is optimised for the discussions and allows both audiences to come together seamlessly, especially when asking questions.
Shortening content also allows organisers to easily provide downloadable assets to supplement the delivered content and enable those who couldn’t attend live on the day to re-watch at a time that suits them.
Audiences, both virtual and in-person, tend to favour content that is relatable, so booking speakers that can deliver content with anecdotes or personal experiences that illustrate key points always brings value.
Content is the backbone of any event. If organisers get it wrong, virtual audiences will soon become distracted by their emails and social media feeds. If they get it right, engagement will grow before, during and after the event and they will have the opportunity to cultivate a connected virtual audience, develop a library of shareable content, attract more sponsorship, and grow alternative revenue streams.
Oliver Rowe is co-founder of VenuIQ