There is a lot said these days about how to create engaging virtual events for prospects, customers and employees. Everyone has spent the last two years now in constant video meetings and events. Today, many companies are planning their new ‘return to office’ motion, and some folks are even starting to plan live events in their marketing mix again.
Before we all got locked down again for this latest variant, I was able to attend several in-person and hybrid events for the first time in 18 months. Some event managers did an amazing job of engaging a hybrid audience and some missed the mark entirely, not taking this new hybrid event reality properly into their planning process.
As an employee of Qumu, a company that offers a video engagement platform to the global enterprise and as a marketing leader, who manages and runs events, I have a very specific point of view on this myself. Qumu’s customers spend hundreds of hours each month on video events and have done some amazing and creative things to create successful, engaged virtual events.
We must consider remote attendees in ALL aspects of event planning and execution.The reality of the event world from here on out is that MOST of your audience will not be on-site for the event. Your live events are now hybrid events… forever! The good news is your audience just got a whole lot bigger! The challenge at hand is not to treat remote attendees like second-class citizens—we must provide an equally high-quality experience for remote attendees as we do for those we can see in person.
Here are some tips to help you host your next hybrid event for the best attendee experience possible.
- Make sure the remote attendee experience is impeccable. It’s all about event audience engagement! Can your remote attendees hear and see the on-site speakers and content as well as the folks can in the room can? You need to think differently about camera captures, content sharing and audio transmission. Can the dial-in participants effectively interact with the mainstage from their remote locations?
- Ensure that your speakers all know how to present effectively for a hybrid audience. Make sure they do! One of Qumu’s partners, Speaker Dynamics, coaches the global enterprise on effective video communication. Karin Reed, its Chief Confidence has a new book, “Suddenly Hybrid.” It offers guidance to help us better prepare to deliver powerfully at hybrid events. Her website also hosts a great hybrid meeting readiness assessment. I encourage you to use it as you make your plans in 2022.
- Include remote attendees as speakers, panelists, content contributors. Create a place for event-engagement for your remote users. Think beyond the four walls of the room. Post a moderated Q&A session and/or chat for them to engage with as it is delivered. This will help connect them to the in-person audience as well. One successful hybrid event I attended even hosted a panel that was a blend of folks in the room and those who were attending remotely.
- Include a digital event engagement manager. Someone needs to be the person that remote attendeescan go to with challenges, can moderate chat streams and remote Q&A submissions and generally serve as the representative for the remote audience. Think of it as a remote event concierge. They can create and encourage engagement from the virtual attendees.
- Keep your content short. We all have virtual meeting fatigue. When creating a hybrid event agenda, shorter content segments with built-in breaks and follow-on content for each segment will prove more successful. Hybrid users are more likely to tune in and out based on the content segment’s relevance—make it easy for them to do so.
- Extend the show’s value beyond the show itself. Record each segment so that the conversation and content can be shared as video on demand content post-event. Sharing specific content will allow you to add additional value to your remote audience well beyond the live event. This is true for your live attendees too. When you post the content, create ongoing moderation and discussion for asynchronous video content. Video is a chance to extend the conversation. Take it!
The world of events will remain virtual. Fully remote and hybrid events will not go away. In fact, they will only continue to grow. These are some of my top suggestions for hosting virtual event and hybrid events. Follow these simple steps, including the robust use of live and on demand video, and your next event will not only be successful when it is happening, it will be successful even after the event is over.
Jennifer Dimas is Chief Marketing Officer at Qumu