Throwing a hybrid event comes with its extra challenges, as it’ll mean keeping not one, but two audience types engaged – those accessing your event online and those attending your hybrid event venue in-person.
Here, we’ve laid out our top tips and tools for practical ways of facilitating hybrid event audience engagement. For more help and guidance on hosting a hybrid event, just get in touch with our virtual and hybrid event experts, who’ll be happy to help.
1. Encourage questions with live Q&A
Make sure that you give all your attendees the chance to ask questions, whether they’re attending online or in person.
Most all-in-one virtual event platforms will provide a way for your online attendees to ask questions. This is often through a simple live chat feature, although some platforms have more powerful Q&A tools, such as the ability to submit questions anonymously or to invite virtual attendees up onto a ‘virtual stage’ where they can ask their questions live. Hire Space's new event platform, Arena, even allows online attendees to upvote or downvote other delegates' questions so that you can prioritise the most popular.
Just remember that you’ll need a way to make sure in-person delegates can hear the questions asked by your virtual audience. If you go down the route of inviting online audience members up ‘on stage,’ set up a projector and speakers at the venue so your physical attendees can hear too. Or, if you get your online audience to ask their questions via a chat feature, make sure you designate a member of staff to feed those questions back to your panellists.
Alternatively, some online audience engagement tools can be used by both your virtual and in-person audiences. With Arena, you can provide a QR code as in-person attendees arrive for a session, which will allow them to access the virtual live chat and Q&A panel on their mobile. This means your in-person attendees can engage in conversation about the session with virtual attendees and also submit questions directly to the speakers using the same technology. You can even embed the live chat and Q&A into the stage screen, so everyone can see the conversation happening and questions asked in real-time
Bear in mind that your virtual audience will also need to be able to hear any questions asked live by your in-person audience, so make sure you have the right hybrid event tech handy. A handheld microphone is usually the best option, but a professional production company will be able to source and handle the necessary equipment for you.
2. Bring out some fun with gamification
It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t enjoy playing games. So, incorporating gamification into your hybrid event is a fantastic opportunity to get all your attendees involved. Here are just a few ways that you can use games to get your audience interacting with your hybrid event.
- Rewarding engagement: You can encourage your attendees (both in-person and virtual) to engage with your event by rewarding them for reaching engagement milestones. For instance, they could earn points for each contact they make while networking, or for every poll that they answer.
- Competitions: Why not hold a competition between your in-person and online attendees? For instance, you could host a quiz and then see which audience segment does best.
- Treasure hunts: If promoting fun is your goal, you could hide objects both digitally and physically and encourage your audience members to find them.
3. Learn about your audience with live polling
Not every attendee wants to contribute in front of everybody present. An online poll allows more reserved audience members to take part without having to take centre-stage.
You can use live polling to ask questions about what your audience members are enjoying, what they’d like more of and what their opinions are about relevant topics. So, it’s a great way to tailor your content to the needs of your audience.
Although live polls are primarily used to promote engagement amongst virtual attendees, there’s no reason why your in-person attendees shouldn’t be able to partake as well. This could take the form of anything from a simple ‘hand raise’ during a content session to encouraging your in-person attendees to download an event app to answer your polls online.
Audience engagement tool Glisser uses QR codes to allow in-person attendees to answer polls during a live session, while the same live polls can also be embedded in the virtual stream. This means you get real-time data that spans both your virtual and in-person audiences.
4. Get online attendees talking with live chat
Nearly all virtual event platforms have a live chat feature. So, make the most of it! It’s a great way for your online audience to spark debate, ask more general questions and foster new connections in a similar way to what your physical attendees will be doing in person.
Just be aware that your audience may need some encouragement before they’re confident starting conversations on your live feed. So, consider adding a few posts yourself at the beginning of your event, to break the ice.
Once your attendees have started chatting, fingers crossed, the conversation will be buzzing all day! However, it's worth picking a platform that will allow you to moderate your guests' contributions, to ensure it doesn't get too out of hand. Our latest offering, Arena, will allow you to do just that.
5. Get your attendees working together during workshops
Instead of making all your sessions talks and presentations, consider adding some more interactive workshop sessions that involve your attendees working together to learn new skills. This way, engagement becomes not just a bonus, but a key part of your agenda.
You could start your workshop off with a quick presentation, then divide your attendees up into groups (using breakout rooms for your virtual attendees) and then finally bring everyone back together to share their thoughts and discoveries. Just make sure that your hybrid event venue is set up in a way that will allow your online attendees to easily share their findings with your in-person attendees and vice versa. This will come with its own technology requirements such as strong internet connectivity, sufficient power, cameras and large screens (more on this in our blog piece Hybrid 101).
6. Forge connections with facilitated networking
Other than the content itself, networking is a major reason for attending an event. So, it’s vital that you give both your in-person and virtual attendees plenty of opportunity to network.
While those attending your physical event venue will probably find ample chance to strike up a conversation with those around them, your virtual audience will need a bit more help to facilitate networking. Luckily though, most virtual event platforms offer AI networking, which helps to match people up with like-minded attendees for video meetings. There's also plenty of scope to set up hosted networking sessions for specific areas, such as speed dating for a certain type of supplier or activity-based networking sessions.
Just remember that your in-person and virtual attendees may also like to connect with one other. If you’d like to facilitate this, we’d recommend choosing an event platform that comes with a downloadable app. This way, your physical attendees can download it and participate in your virtual networking activities alongside their virtual counterparts.
You could also make unhosted breakout rooms available for your online attendees to check in and chat to one another less formally. For instance, Arena offers both video and audio breakout rooms that allow up to nine people up onstage at once (for video) or up to 50 (for audio).
If you’re interested to learn more, check out our more general piece about how to keep all of your audiences engaged at a hybrid event. And don’t forget to read our virtual event guide for more help planning the virtual elements of your day.
Ready to go ahead and host a hybrid event to remember? Our newest offering, Arena, could be exactly what you need. A virtual event platform designed by event organisers, for event organisers, it’s the scalable and cost-effective solution you’ve been searching for.
Just get in touch for more information about how Hire Space can support you in creating memorable hybrid events.
With a love of interior design, Imogen’s writing experience has taken her from the mansions of the rich and famous to the capital’s most unique events spaces on Hire Space.