The digitization of the learning economy was rapidly scaled to cater to the new reality of the pandemic. With live events, in-person meetings, and conferences no longer an option, companies had to pivot and adapt their audience engagement and lead generation plans to accommodate a digital component. The ensuing lockdown and medical regulations compelled businesses to either completely overhaul their marketing strategies (that revolved around lead generation through live events) or quickly retool their plans to effectively tackle pandemic and post-pandemic challenges.
One of the key marketing ideas that is receiving unprecedented attention during these disruptive times is hybrid events. By enabling companies to combine the benefits of both, in-person as well as virtual audiences, hybrid events have become the go-to option for over a quarter of all marketers.
While there are tons of blogs that discuss hybrid events and their advantages, very few tackle the key issues faced by the virtual audience. While the digital component enables them to sit in any event being held in any corner of the world, the event often fails to match up to the audience’s expectations. In fact, over 72% of respondents of a recent survey said that they’d gain much more value out of a hybrid event if they attended it live and in-person.
The key challenge here is to plan the event in a way that helps build and maintain a connection with both sets of audiences – live as well as virtual. Live audiences usually fare much better at listening, retaining, and engaging with the content being delivered. On the other hand, the virtual audience will have a hard time focusing. They’re marred by distractions which can make them feel disconnected from the event.
Fortunately, there are ways to create engaging hybrid events with seamless interactive audience experiences. By using the right combination of tools, software, and content, marketers can deliver knowledge, capture leads, document analytics data, and maximize ROI without losing out on audience engagement.
Here’s how you can deliver a successful hybrid event with engaging content and an interactive audience.
5 Tips to Make the Most out of a Hybrid Event
Content Delivery that Appeals to a Virtual Audience
Most live talk shows and conferences last for several hours with few breaks in between. But when delivering content virtually, the long hours can become exhausting. After all, no one wants to stare at their screen for several hours at once. Studies have shown that after about 35 minutes, the audience’s attention starts dwindling. With so many distractions around them – social media, notifications, emails, games – they’re bound to lose attention.
The best way to tackle this issue is by breaking down the hours into multiple 30-50 minute sessions with ample breaks in between. Pepper the content with jokes, facts, and anecdotes to reel in the audience and keep them from fidgeting around with their smartphones. Every time you feel audience engagement dwindling, use wit and humor to grab their attention again.
Use Gamification to Boost Engagement
By introducing gamification elements into the event, you can capture your audience’s attention instantly. Many hybrid event platforms come with in-built features such as polls and points. Use the polls to ask questions to your audience throughout the delivery. You can also create a system of points to be awarded for every right answer. This fosters a sense of competition among the attendees, compelling them to pay attention to the speaker.
You could also choose to simply put out the question and ask people to send in answers via the chatbox, which brings us to the next point.
Keep an Eye on the Chatbox
You need to keep in mind that you’re not delivering a monologue. You’re cultivating a healthy conversation with the audience. And no conversation can be one-sided. Since the audience can’t speak up in the middle of the event, encourage them to drop messages in the chatbox. Keep an eye on these messages to get an idea of the direction your audience is going in.
One of the best ways to convince the audience to use the chat feature of the platform is by asking questions. The questions shouldn’t necessarily be related to the event theme itself. They can be much more personal, allowing the audience to open up and be more comfortable.
For instance, at the beginning of the event, you could ask the audience to introduce themselves via chat. If you find the audience disengaging, you could also create hype through the chatbox. Using the chat feature keeps audience engagement levels up and brings their attention back to the event in case they have zoned out.
Do Not Forget to Add Multiple QnA Sessions
One of the biggest advantages of hybrid events is that it offers a more personalized path to learning. The audience can ask specific questions and get answers, advice, and feedback from the expert speaker. What most events do is that they add a single block of QnA at the end of the event. Instead, try adding multiple QnA discussions throughout the talk, preferably after each individual speaker session. Every time a major topic gets over, encourage the audience to put forth their questions. That’ll keep them engaged for much longer. You could also ask the audience to answer the questions being put up, making it easier for people to network amongst themselves.
Network with the Audience
Many hybrid event platforms offer an integrated approach to networking, creating a bridge between the virtual audience, live attendees, and speakers. Features such as breakout rooms enable people to talk to each other and share their learnings. Instead of shying away, make it a point to network with your audience after the event is over.
Through these post-event interactions, you could gather valuable feedback on your content and delivery. You could also estimate how successful the event was by getting involved in the interactions. Lastly, you could use this opportunity to drive some extra leads into the funnel by talking to people and upselling the product.
Hybrid events have been espoused as the future of the event marketing world. They offer more engagement opportunities and qualified lead generation techniques while delivering a higher ROI within one year. But all of this is only possible if the event is able to capture the audience’s interest. The use of gamification and chatting tools, multiple QnA sessions, and networking opportunities to ramp up audience engagement can increase your chances of hosting a successful hybrid event that not only scales brand equity but also increases brand recall and loyalty.