After two unpredictable and challenging years, many people are beginning to feel comfortable returning to in-person events. That being said, not everyone is ready to take the leap back to the board room or the ballroom.
This is where the beauty of a hybrid event comes in. And no, I’m not talking about your neighbor’s Prius.
Hybrid events feature a combination of live events and elements from virtual events. And this gives everyone the chance to participate in the way that best aligns with their comfort level (and schedule!).
With so many moving parts, it can be exciting to host a hybrid event. In fact, having the opportunity to host events again in the first place is exciting as well!
But hosting a hybrid event can be tricky, too. Read on to learn my tips on how to FUSE together a successful hybrid event (you knew there’d be an acronym, didn’t you?):
See Related: How To Emcee A Meeting
How to FUSE a Hybrid Event #1 – Focus on the mission.
It can be easy to get caught up in the logistical minutia of hosting a hybrid event or hybrid events. That’s why it’s more important than ever to keep the client’s mission at the forefront of your emceeing.
As I always say, advance the purpose of the program. Frequently calling back to the goal of the hybrid or virtual event not only keeps attendees focused on the bigger picture.
It also serves as a strong backbone for your entire presentation. Not to mention it’ll strengthen your hybrid event models and make for a more successful hybrid event overall.
Here are five ways to keep the mission of the event right at your audience’s fingertips:
#1. Start and end your hybrid event with the mission statement
The mission should be the first and last thing attendees hear over your hybrid event platform or virtual event platform. It doesn’t matter whether your in-person event is being live streamed to virtual attendees, or whether the event begins and ends with pre-recorded material shared with a live audience as virtual attendees watch.
It is your job to make sure that attendees always know why they are there. “There,” of course, meaning at the physical venue, or sitting on the couch in the virtual venue with their favorite pint of ice cream.
#2. Use your virtual audience and live audience to your advantage
Thanks to their virtual component, a major benefit of hybrid events is that they can reach more expansive audiences than a solely live event, just like virtual events. Take advantage of this!
Naturally weave the program’s objective throughout the hybrid event and keep the audience focused on what action items they can take to support it. Event planners are likely to see incredible results through their online audience.
That might mean more donations, more attendees, higher engagement numbers at both your virtual and hybrid events. Even greater company enthusiasm! The undeniable return on investment will guarantee you a happy event planning client.
#3. Allow for audience participation as it pertains to the purpose of the hybrid event
Encourage both live event attendees and online attendees to share why the organization or company’s mission is personally important. Specifically, get them to tell you over the virtual platform or even social media using an event-specific hashtag.
Throughout the hybrid event, share audience responses as part of your event strategy! It’s the perfect way to concentrate on the goal of the event while giving your audience some special attention.
#4. Use every transition to reinforce the event organizers’ mission
As an outstanding Master of Ceremonies, you’re already preparing for seamless and entertaining transitions between internal events and external events. So why not incorporate the organization or company’s mission into those transitions and add to your hybrid event goals?
Here’s an idea: as part of your preparation, ask each of the event speakers to tell you why this hybrid event is meaningful to them. Then, braid their answers into your introductions. For example:
“Up next, we have Stella Brown! Stella began volunteering with our theater company after seeing her daughter’s confidence skyrocket during our production of Beauty and the Beast in 2019.
“Thanks to her daughter’s audition, we gained a world-class volunteer and a sensational talking teacup! Please welcome Stella Brown to the stage!”
#5. Make the event objectives personal for you
As I’ve said before, the corporate emcee should feel like an extension of the organization, the event management team, and the event marketing team. You need to find your personal connection to the mission. Why?
Because the audience, both in-person and virtual, will feel safe in your hands if they trust that you aren’t there to perform. You’re there because you care.
Not to mention, effectively communicating your personal relationship to the mission will help at-home viewers will feel more connected to you and the hybrid event itself. Trust me.
So, ask yourself the same questions you would ask an online audience member in your virtual booths: what brought you here? What do you hope to accomplish here and at future events?
What positivity can we create by being here together at this successful event? Both in the physical events space and the virtual one?
How to FUSE a Hybrid Event #2 – Unite in-person and virtual event goers.
When a portion of attendees are present in person and the rest are viewing the program online, the latter may feel a sense of disconnection. As the event host, you have the power to bridge that gap through hybrid event platforms!
Here are five ways to help establish a sense of community between in-person and virtual event goers:
#1. Keep virtual attendees engaged as well as your in person audience
Make sure that the entire event format and program is available to everyone. If you are moderating a Q&A, awarding prizes, engaging in banter with a board member during breakout sessions, or thanking the sponsors and event managers, make sure that the folks at home are able to watch!
Prior to the event, meet with the audiovisual event teams to review best practices for guaranteeing an enjoyable viewing experience for those participating virtually. They’ll know how to bring those virtual aspects to life.
#2. Make remote attendees a part of the show at your successful hybrid event
Shout out the folks at home! There is nothing worse than feeling left out, and it’s important that every attendee at your hybrid events feels special and appreciated.
Let the in-person attendees know how many people are viewing your hybrid events from home. Everyone will be excited when they learn how much bigger the party is!
#3. Use an event app or social media for further networking opportunities
Keep communication active! Encourage attendees to use an event-marketing-specific hashtag and share on social media. That way, someone participating from their front porch can interact with someone sitting in the front row at your live events. Just like ol’ fashioned networking, huh?
#4. Have just a few ideas or activities that all audience members can interact with
Include activities that everyone can participate in. If you are asking for a show of hands in the crowd, create a poll that asks the same question to online viewers to make your event hybrid.
If there is an auction, equalize bidding opportunities by having all participants at your hybrid events bid from their phones, rather than with paddles or a written silent auction.
#5. Raise a glass to both your in person attendees and your virtual audience
Make a toast! Ask everyone, both in person or at home, to raise a glass in celebration of their support and enthusiasm for the mission of your own hybrid event.
Encourage folks to #PostTheToast on social media using the event hashtag! It’ll make for so much more event content down the line and might even get some folks planning on attending events in person.
Bonus: How To Be An MC For An Event
How to FUSE a Hybrid Event #3 – Spotlight key players, whether they are in the room or online.
People are the heart of every company and organization. (To be fair, they are also the brain. And the lungs. And the… okay, okay, you get it.)
Take the time in advance to learn who the key players are for this event. And whether or not they will be attending in person.
From sponsors to committee members, event producers to angel donors, everyone will appreciate the special attention you pay. And the work you’ve done to ensure that in-person and virtual key players are honored equally at your hybrid events.
Here are five tips for giving those key players the recognition they deserve, regardless of where they are:
#1. Meet with key players beforehand to go over their participation in the online event
If you learn that there are key players who will not be attending in person, reach out to them well before the event. Ask if they would be comfortable with you recording a Zoom conversation with them.
Or ask them to send in a video message to feature during the event. Just because they won’t be at the physical event doesn’t mean they can’t still reach the target audience.
#2. Use pre-recorded content that can be viewed at the live event and at home
In fact, consider pre-recording content that features all of the key players. Including those who plan to attend the event in-person.
This ensures that all of them are being honored equally and there isn’t an exorbitant amount of extra recognition being paid to those who are physically in the room. Preserving relationships is vital for companies and organizations, so ensure that no one feels left out.
#3. Do your research on each guest and give them unique introductions
If you’ve read my blogs before, you know how important it is to tell your audience just how these key players are supporting the mission. Time to roll up your sleeves and do your research!
This way, when introducing or honoring a special attendee, you can give the audience context. Like so:
“Leona McKnight has served as Secretary of our board for the past four years. But did you know that she has been a member of the board for twenty years?
“That is the longest tenure of any member in our organization’s history. Let’s give her a hand and thank her for two decades of service!”
“Did you know that Francisco Oliveira, owner of Francisco’s All-Natural Soda, donates five percent of his company’s sales to our organization? Not only that, check your email.
“He is gifting each and every one of you a delicious, free six pack of all-natural soda! Let’s hear it for Francisco – and my personal favorite, the Blackberry Acai Spritz!”
#4. Maximize content by offering event attendees more in-depth video clips for them to peruse
Companies and organizations use websites to host the virtual components of hybrid events. In addition to your main program, consider recording special “spotlight” videos that dive into greater detail about the key players.
This extra content will not only help special guests feel even more honored. It will also drive more traffic to the event website and increase engagement numbers.
#5. Create a hybrid event agenda with the event manager and be clear on any event materials needed
Communicate with the producing and/or marketing teams beforehand. If there will be physical programs thanking key players at the in-person event, make sure the program is also uploaded to the website.
Virtual guests should be able to experience the same facets of the event as their in-person counterparts do.
How to FUSE a Hybrid Event #4 – Explore creative ideas.
Whether you are live streaming an in-person program to online viewers, or sharing a pre-recorded program for both the in-person and virtual crowds, hybrid events are a great chance to get creative!
One of the most meaningful aspects of virtual and hybrid events is that they increase accessibility. People can be anywhere in the world, in any time zone, and still enjoy your program.
With that welcoming sensibility, here are five ways to have some fun!
#1. Speak directly to virtual attendees (literally)
Hop in the chat box! If the event includes a live chat feature for folks attending from home, get the party started as the event emcee and stay an active participant in the conversation.
This is a great way to help at-home viewers stay engaged. And feel valued as part of the event.
#2. Incorporate live social media into the event
Take over the company or organization’s social media page! At-home viewers (and in-person viewers, to be honest!) will likely be on social media frequently throughout the event.
Take over Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat to help everyone feel like they’re in the room. Instagram and Snapchat stories are a great way to create opportunities for interaction with in-person and at-home audiences.
Set up polls, questionnaires, and quizzes to keep the fun going! Twitter allows for in-the-moment responses and retweets, which are more great ways to amplify this exciting shared experience!
#3. Keep tabs on both onsite attendees and virtual attendees
Keep an eye on the numbers! Collaborate with the technology team to periodically check analytics and see how many people are interacting with the event online.
Share those interactions with the virtual audience to reinforce the inclusive and widespread reach of the event.
#4. Get all your attendees to communicate with each other
Encourage direct interaction between the in-person and at-home audiences! There may be tablets on-site, or in-person guests may be instructed to bring their own tablets or laptops.
To foster a stronger sense of community and togetherness, dedicate time in the program to conversations between both groups of attendees.
Some hybrid events even include a sort of “musical chairs” or “speed dating” icebreaker in which in-person attendees shuffle between tablets that are set up to video chat with an at-home viewer. This is a great way to connect attendees and put faces to the virtual participants!
#5. Award attendees who used the most out of the hybrid event model
At the end of the event, award prizes to participants who made use of the event hashtag! By entering everyone who used the hashtag into a raffle prize draw, you’ll drive major traffic to the client’s online presence.
Not to mention, excitement abounds when prizes are up for grabs!
So there you have it! These have been twenty tips on how to FUSE in-person and virtual elements into a beautifully hosted hybrid event.
Ready for a quick review? Great! In summary:
Focus on the mission.
Unite in-person and virtual event goers.
Spotlight key players, whether they are in the room or online.
Explore creative ideas.
Remember that hybrid events – and even virtual events – are still a fairly new phenomenon. And there will always be a trial and error phase when entering a new landscape like this.
Do your research, prepare thoroughly, and familiarize yourself deeply with the company or organization’s mission. With the right work ethic and positive mindset, you can master the art of hosting a hybrid event!
Keep Reading: What Does The Master Of Ceremonies Do?
Adam Christing has been called “The Tom Brady of emcees.” He has hosted more than 1,000 company meetings, special events, gala celebrations, and more. He is the author of several books and founder of CleanComedians.com. For more event tips, follow Adam Christing on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and YouTube.