It is no surprise that, after a couple years of pandemic, many event planners are excited to get back to in-person events.
Interestingly, though, not all attendees are. And perhaps more importantly, now event planners are beginning to view their business models differently…through the lens of new opportunity.
After more than two decades in the virtual events space and producing countless hybrid events in the process, there are several foundational questions to consider, particularly when it comes to Hopin.
How can we gamify the virtual attendee experience?
Think about the nature of in-person events: people show up for content, but they stay engaged because of people.
Unfortunately, virtual “events” are just webinars that talk at people instead of with them.
Hopin enables more than just pushing content at people. Like in-person events, there is “connection” that can happen before, during, and after. (Ask us about their cool networking feature!).
How can we help people connect both onsite and online?
Often “hybrid” means “stream content to online attendees.” And that’s not wrong.
Ideally, though, you’re helping people to connect with people…regardless of where they are.
How early in the planning cycle should we think through online options?
The sooner the better. Here’s why:
Nearly every part of an event can be integrated – from how presenters engage audiences to how you help attendees “meet” and exchange information to how you help vendors maximize value.
And the more that the online portion of your event is a later add-on, the more likely virtual attendees will end up like they’re passive viewers of the “real” event. It doesn’t have to be that way, obviously.
How should we approach specialty service vendors?
There are two big categories of need for hybrid events: the onsite crew with cameras and connectivity and tech management, and the online crew who project-manage integration, speaker preparedness, interaction and game design/integration, etc.
Many vendors (including us) will tell you they can do it all for you. What most won’t tell you is that they really specialize in one or the other, and the other is an afterthought. For instance, we have a ton of experience flying people around with computers, encoders, cameras, and microphones…and most of the time we don’t do it anymore.
Instead, we recommend a local production crew with whom we partner…and we know that well because while we can do it, there are even better reasons to focus on what we do best (which onsite A/V teams rarely know as well as we do…particularly when it comes to speaker prep, facilitating virtual networking, and strategizing how to employ engagement activities that engage both onsite and online audiences equally in and around Hopin).
How do we begin to think about adapting interactions and engagement?
Begin with what you know well for in person events … what do you want to accomplish and how would you accomplish it? For example, it’s not uncommon to create some form of game or contest that will incentivize participants to visit vendor booths.
Next, once you know how you’d like to tackle it, think through how to map and adapt it to the specific tools at hand. This, of course, means understanding some fine points and nuances of the technology.
Finally, don’t write your plan in stone until you’ve investigated what the online technology brings to the table. Often you’ll discover new and improved ways of doing things that weren’t possible in an onsite-only environment.
The bottom line
Hybrid events represent both complexity and opportunity: Complexity because you’ve got two different attendee experiences to consider, and opportunity because they’re so much easier to scale.
Some organizations are even using this time to limit in-person attendance for reasons like safety and intimacy (perhaps via “invitation only”), while recognizing the opportunity to reach many more around the world.