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How to Unify the In-Person and Virtual Experiences at Hybrid Events

Updated

Hybrid events are billed as part-online, part-live experiences. But often, they can feel like two events held at the same time. In-person attendees are immersed into the live program and forget about the virtual attendees, who feel disconnected from what’s going on at the live event —  like afterthoughts at best, forgotten at worst. 

But the best hosts can create a better, more holistic attendee experience in two ways: incorporating the virtual audience into the live experience and integrating technology into the live experience. However, that’s hard to balance when you’re busy planning an event. So we’ll show you how to achieve both of those goals below: 

How can I unify the live and virtual experiences at my hybrid event? 

1. Open the event site early

Consider opening your event site and app to all participants 3-5 days before the big day. There, they can view any on-demand content you’ve already uploaded, and set up meetings with other attendees prior to the event day.

2. Connect virtual and in-person attendees via AI-powered matchmaking

While some attendees may be eager to chat with anyone, virtual or live, others may be more reluctant. They may hesitate to check the attendee list — or ask for a call with someone — unless they think the conversation will be fruitful.

That’s where AI-powered matchmaking works its magic: On your mobile event app, attendees are recommended to one another based on common interests, job function, seniority and more. From there, attendees can choose whether or not to conduct a networking call on the event app. (Note: You can also assign attendees to different roles, based on their job title or seniority, then limit their visibility within the event if desired.)

This encourages live attendees to get to know virtual attendees more closely, and vice versa, making it more likely that they’ll talk during the event.

Note: BigMarker also offers speed networking, round tables, chat rooms and filtered attendee search, all of which attendees can use to network with both live and virtual attendees. 

3. Pick the right mobile event app

Think of your mobile event app as the bridge between your virtual and in-person attendees. While your virtual attendees will use it to stream the event itself, your in-person attendees will still use it to participate in the event: from locating and checking into sessions, to searching for networking contacts and even making video calls with virtual attendees.

But with several mobile event app solutions available, how can you choose the mobile  event app that’s best for you?  Our customers use the following criteria when evaluating platforms:

  1. Reliable and secure streaming
  2. QR code badge scanning 
  3. AI-powered matchmaking and speed networking 
  4. Unified Q&A 
  5. 1:1 video calling 
  6. On-demand content library

Shopping for mobile event app solutions? Check out BigMarker's mobile event app here.

4. Design your venue to encourage remote-IRL conversations:

If one attendee is live and the other is remote, that conversation requires some extra coordination. If the in-person attendee can’t find a quiet place in the venue with good Wifi, they’ll be reluctant to take the call. And even if they do duck into another world, they’ll feel disconnected from the live event.

Instead, create small pods in the main lobby. That way, in-person guests can have quick conversations with remote attendees without feeling removed from the rest of the event. 

5. Integrate gamification into sessions

Another way to unify the live and in-person experiences? Reward participants for interacting with the presentation via comments, emojis, questions on the hybrid event app. You can also give “points” for tweeting about the session or upvoting other questions.

Want to take it to the next level? Encourage sponsors to provide prizes to the most active participants — or even surprise them with a live call from your keynote. 

6. Provide strong facilitation during breakout sessions

Hosting breakout sessions with both virtual and in-person attendees? To prevent live attendees from dominating the discussion, prepare your facilitators to engage the virtual audiences. Start with these pointers from Bob Frisch and Cary Green of the Strategic Offsites Group, as written in the Harvard Business Review.

“Despite the effort you may put into meeting design and logistics, it remains far too easy for in-person attendees to dominate the discussion. A facilitator should draw the remote participants in, keep them engaged and ensure their voices are heard, not interrupted or talked over. At times, the facilitator may need to call on in-room or remote participants to ensure that all voices are heard.” 

Want more advice on hosting better breakouts? Check out our best practices here. 

7. Use a mobile event app to collect all attendee questions

This way, all questions are pooled into the same place, and everyone can upvote questions they’d like answered. 

One great way to achieve this is through our new Hybrid Audience Engagement Solution: At the live event, the session is projected onto a big screen, then attendees can submit and upvote questions from their devices.

Virtual attendees are just as likely to have their questions answered as the live audience, so they’re more likely to walk away feeling like you’ve helped them, not some person in the crowd whose experience seems close enough to theirs. 

8. Encourage virtual attendees to submit video questions

Better yet, use a video Q&A service like Capsule to collect audience questions. Attendees record themselves asking the questions, then submit it to a portal on the event site. Then during the live session, the videos roll onscreen for presenters to answer. Virtual attendees can see themselves on screen, live and in stereo, asking their own questions.

9. Round out your live program with on-demand content

For up to a year after the big day, you can publish content — including articles, podcasts, videos and handouts — in your event’s on-demand library or Media Hub. Here, you can also host public and private chats among event attendees. Both audiences can take advantage of these resources, further unifying the event experience.  

Want to brainstorm more unique ways to engage your virtual and in-person audiences? Our team of hybrid event experts is here to help. Contact us at sales@bigmarker.com to schedule a demo and get started.

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