Face-to-face conferences and tradeshows are known for networking, engagement and education. But uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has brought virtual and hybrid formats front and center.
The Expo Group hosted an engaging webinar yesterday, “Engagement Strategies for Virtual and Hybrid Events.” Dana Freker Doody, Todd Carruth and Thom Singer discussed what virtual and hybrid events can offer, both during the current climate and how they can add a new tool for event organizers as face-to-face events return.
When thinking about virtual and hybrid events, there are many pieces to think about: sponsors, technology, attendees, rehearsals, timing, engagement results and speakers.
It’s important to remember that the structure of a virtual or hybrid meeting will not mimic that of a face-to-face event. Content may be shared in shorter segments, and the days may be shorter. There will also be a need to vary the content, i.e. presentations, interviews (live and pre-recorded), etc.
When planning a hybrid meeting, another tip was to find ways for virtual attendees to feel included. That could be done by exclusive content for the online audience, such as speaker Q&As.
The presenters suggested incorporating a talk show or news desk segment. What about a daily highlights email or digital daily newspaper? These vehicles would create unique sponsorship opportunities.
It would be impossible to recreate the networking opportunities that live events offer, but ways to encourage engagement among virtual attendees include the use of social media hashtags, chat rooms and platforms with question capabilities.
An online moderator is another key component of a virtual or hybrid meeting. The moderator serves as the ambassador for virtual attendees, works the chat rooms, encourages the audience to chat and tweet and reminds speakers that the online audience exists.
And when face-to-face events resume, the speakers encouraged the audience to still consider using a hybrid platform. Their reasons included:
- It’s an insurance policy when attendees may not be able to attend due to weather conditions or may still not be traveling.
- Creating a marketing tool for future registrations.
- Membership driver and benefit.
- Registration and sponsorship revenue.
- Offers a new way for your community to connect.
- Get more reach and ROI for your speakers.
- Repurposed content opportunities throughout the year.