The future of events will be a fascinating story to tell. For those that openly embrace the new chapters being written, there is enormous potential. How will your event story unfold?
With the rising action of the pandemic, we ushered in digital events at a level never seen before. Traditional B2B and B2C events were halted almost immediately, forcing a reinvention of almost everything.
Staying relevant with virtual experiences emerged as the main idea and its story has been building momentum ever since. As a result, business data, culture, experiences, and values are now delivered in new formats. While not new setups, these presentation mediums haven’t been forced upon us ever before with such mightiness.
Planning Your Hybrid Event Story
Hybrid events are a mix of in-person and digital events. You take your live event, complete with an audience, content and your brand then add a virtual component to it. The goal is to have your audience participate and engage with your event, no matter where they are. In other words, it’s an event that includes both live, in-person, and virtual components.
While in smaller groups, across the country and around the world, physical events are making their grand re-entrance. This signals a clear shift to the hybrid event as a killer crossover move. ‘Stay agile and react fast’ is the moral of our industry’s story.
With audiences becoming increasingly rooted in digital experiences, their hunger for easy-to-attend and higher production quality event journeys is equally rising. As the mandatory need for exclusive virtual options begins to lift, event owners need to embrace change. Deciding on when and how to position a hybrid event will depend on geography and both buyer-seller needs at the personal and professional level. Just like any event done right, the hybrid channel will both show and tell an excellent story about your mission, product, initiatives, and brand.
The art of telling a successful story through a hybrid model is in the strategy behind the creation and creativity of content. Content is the connection point of every story. For hybrid events, the struggle is strategically placing content in the story that makes all audiences feel they are in a connected experience. No one hero should feel more important than the other.
Write Each Chapter With Your Audience in Mind
Hybrid is a growing narrative arc that wasn’t here five months ago. Now it’s the main character dominating the story. To write a captivating tale, event owners must embrace technology like never before.
Authoring your hybrid story must come from a different point of view than virtual or just face to face. By way of explanation, virtual storytelling takes the ancient and traditional part of in-person engagement and involves a set of technical tools and well-timed delivery that creates personal stories. Applying graphics, sounds, music, and images to accompany the authors’ voice is the impetus for an engaging presentation. Pairing the live aspects of in-person audiences and venue settings that align with the overall hybrid delivery will then engage audiences with power and depth. This is your multi-channel communication strategy or tone of voice.
Expanding Your Reach
Sticking to primarily virtual events from now on or resisting hybrid approaches while waiting for in-person to again dominate all event channels, likely means losing out on the extended reach to audiences you otherwise will never get in front of. Expanding your reach with hybrid events means growing attendance numbers and increasing sponsorship value.
This makes a great case to consider ways for both heroes in your story to interact. Either within their own like participation groups or as a larger, single group. Pre and post-event activities to run through a hybrid event platform that will engage both audiences could be:
- 1:1 small group video calls
- Live chats and forums
- On-demand content to keep the conversation going long after the event is over
Find an audience engagement platform that makes its technology user-friendly. Unless you have a substantial team of event tech experts in-house, consider a platform that supports you when enabling interactivity, like surveys, polling, live chat, and Q&A.
Hybrid Event Story Content
When outlining your hybrid event strategy, don’t simply stream the same content from an in-person setting to the virtual attendees. It doesn’t hold the same impact. Likewise, if a presentation is on the dry side, it will come across even worse virtually. It goes without saying that remote participants are lured away from the screen more readily than their live venue counterparts. Conceptually, taking the bundle of content you’ve delivered face to face or virtually and maneuvering it to fit a hybrid setting will fall flat, every time.
Embrace newer forms of event technology for better hybrid storytelling. Previously existing only in pockets pre-pandemic, event tech will inspire the innovation you need to connect with and engage your audiences. Consider some of the following options:
- Virtual or augmented reality
- Artificial intelligence
- Event data analysis
- Mobile apps
In order to tell an engaging story with hybrid events, focus on telling it well to both audiences. Ask yourself, “What will drive my audiences to engage with our story?” Make sure you have definitive answers for both of your heroes.
How can you make attendees feel connected to your brand, each other, and the host of the event? When audiences aren’t live, it’s easy for presenters to overlook their virtual presence. Make sure both audiences stay engaged by coaching speakers to address the live audience in front of them. Similarly, guide them to address the camera that is broadcasting to remote attendees, often. These protagonists are the voice through which your audience hears everything … the keys to sustaining engagement throughout the entire event.
Identify engagement best practices that can make the most of your speakers and hosts. Then build a hybrid program that religiously uses them at every turn. Think seamless and consistent activity points:
- Truncate content sessions and deliver in a conversational format with a moderator
- Push out polls or surveys at regular intervals and remind both groups of attendees to answer
- Use shout outs to acknowledge participants in the room and behind the screen
- Ask remote attendees to send in questions or comments via the technology platform or social media and have speakers respond live
- Get feedback from participants in a chat feature to tap into the wisdom of the crowd
- If group work plays into your story, present a challenge and set up a virtual brainstorm between both groups to collaborate and develop new solutions
Broadcasting and Live Streaming
Broadcasting and live streaming adds that tech element to your virtual event through an interactive platform and leaves your audience engaged and entertained. When hybrid is your choice, it’s critical to make the virtual component like a TV broadcast from a studio. However, be careful not to make this a passive protagonist. The goal of the broadcast approach is to motivate your audience to take action or interaction.
Consider hitting on these interactive moments throughout the hybrid event story to elevate the broadcasting elements:
- Strong graphic elements that drive the brand connection
- Incorporate meal breaks and short re-charge moments (recall in-person events where breaks were meant to delight with a selection of beverages, petite desserts, and popcorn machines)
- Set up ways for live and remote groups to interact, like facilitated chats or brain dates right after each major session
- Use breakout room sessions for group huddles to match in-person attendees with remoters for discussion and networking
- For transactional events, incorporate search platforms and e-directories to connect and find buyers and suppliers
What Will Set Your Story Apart?
To completely understand what hybrid events will look like in the near future, all new considerations should be entertained for our omnichannel heroes to emerge to the forefront.
The necessity to tackle the “voyage and return” narrative of our hybrid story as audiences visit a new world and return with a new perspective is massive. Regardless of what your hybrid story will be, what sets your story apart will also include your event team structure, the role of event technology, and production value that bring the two heroes together for a compelling version of your story.
COVID-19 has forced event participants to make choices. Now they expect to have them. Offering them an option to consume your event story using strategic narratives and emerging technologies across virtual, hybrid, and face-to-face venues will give your business a competitive advantage much needed in today’s environment.
OVATION is a fully integrated virtual event platform and hybrid event production partner. We support you with tech gurus, production experts, and creative producers to complement your internal teams. Get in touch for a discovery call to learn how we might help you write your hybrid story.