Best Practices

Hybrid hacks

Creating virtual and in-person experiences that truly matter

What You’ll Learn

Cue the applause: Live, in-person events are better than ever.

But even with in-person events booming, we’ll continue to see virtual and hybrid formats that offer flexibility for attendees. This dual event approach may be more commonplace these days, but that doesn’t mean incorporating an online component is simple.

Here are some key points to make sure your various formats hit all the marks.

Plan for your audience(s)

Now that there’s more choice on how to attend, organizers need to think about these two distinct groups and what each hopes to experience — keeping in mind that people choose the event medium based on different criteria.

In addition to the standard event expectations, live audiences are eager to be back in person to network and connect with colleagues and friends; they want the face-to-face experience.

Remote audiences choose virtual for two main reasons: convenience and education.

Whether your event has made the big return or not, thinking about these respective audience expectations will help you deliver a valuable experience for both in-person and online audiences.

To help you develop this dual strategy, here are our top tips to make your first — or next — hybrid event a success.

Deliver high production value

Today’s audiences have big expectations, so the rules of high-quality production apply no matter which event format they choose to attend.

When it comes to production, keep these tips in mind:

  • Think like a creative content producer: Develop super high-quality, visually compelling content that grabs eyeballs no matter where they are. Think broadcast-level — for both in person and online. If your team doesn’t have the time or skill to develop professional content that wows, find a partner who does.

So why is this important? Anyone and everyone can create a virtual event now. After many of these less than appealing virtual experiences the last couple years, attendees are wary. They want to know your event is worth their time, so make sure to pay that off.

  • There’s more to a great virtual event than just pointing a camera at a speaker. Mix things up with lots of dynamic content between speakers. Use the right tools and platforms to make sure that you’re set up for success from the get-go.
  • The internet is your biggest potential obstacle to smooth streaming. Make sure your broadcast connection is wired ethernet (not wireless) and dedicated (not shared with any other user) so you can avoid any technical hiccups.
  • Use more than one camera — high-definition, preferably — for both wide and close-up shots as well as audience footage; this applies to both audiences, too. Place cameras on risers so they are eye level with speakers, and raise the stage enough to keep audience heads out of the shot. And to really make your broadcast experience pop, consider working with experienced production pros in your studio or theirs.
  • Meeting rooms are often dark, so proper lighting is crucial. At a minimum, point directional lighting at the speaker from both the right and left, with smaller lights angled down toward the speaker’s back shoulders for backlight. For the best look, make sure the stage has a backdrop and consider a more technical and dynamic lighting design that’s timed to your speakers’ content.
  • Wireless microphones eliminate snake-ing cords and look better on and off screen. An audio engineer can manage lapel mic placement, ambient noise, and other issues that might arise.

Create an inclusive online atmosphere

They may be lounging on their couch, but your virtual audience still wants to feel included. Do the work that helps them feel part of the action as though they’re right there in the session room.

Put the cameras to work. Shoot from a range of angles so viewers can see the whole space, and mix applause and audience reactions along with the stage noise. Placing cameras outside meeting rooms in unusual places such as hallways and networking areas can give remote attendees a window into the onsite experience.

Drive engagement. You can also get both audiences involved with online chat, discussion forums, social media hashtags, second screen apps, and more to help your virtual audience feel like they’re in the room, and to give virtual and physical attendees a chance to see each other and interact.

Consider a virtual host. Top priority when casting: Find someone who has the personality and spark to truly be an effective host. Bonus points for a quick study who can think on their feet. Depending on budget, you can work with an internal expert, hire a professional host, or even seek out an analyst or journalist who knows your business. Bottom line: Choose someone who can enhance the experience with their point of view, knowledge, or simply has the hosting skills and charisma to engage audiences.

Engage the energy of a live audience. Use the high-energy you create with your live audience to help engage your virtual audience. The energy is “contagious” and will carry through the camera to those who are watching.

Before you hit stream…

Prepare as you would for any other kind of in-person or virtual session.

  • SCRIPT IT: Provide scripts, so everyone knows the order of events and the key talking points.
  • REHEARSE: Do a rehearsal for both online and in-person experiences. Take the time to perform a complete dry run to catch potential technical issues. Better to find a technical glitch during a test than at go time.
  • TEST. TEST. TEST.: Work with a provider who makes sure to test all components of the event (live and virtual) before and during the experience. Ensuring that everything runs seamlessly is a must no matter the medium, so conducting the right testing here and there ensures a smooth experience for both of your audiences.

And finally, begin with the end in mind. Stay focused on the event goals you want to achieve for both audiences — then everything you planned will land in place.

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