In today’s evolving world of event technology, people want more options when it comes to attending conferences. Because hybrid events are a blend of in-person and virtual events, associations have a lot to consider to make events exceptional for both online and in-person guests.
Luckily, hybrid events also expand attendance to a broader range of guests, so association members who are unable to travel can now join your virtual event. Coordinating all the moving parts of a hybrid event can be challenging, so we’ve gathered five tips and tools to help your association plan an extraordinary event.
1. Use event management software
Between the in-person and virtual sides of your event, you’ll need to use association event management software to keep your planning on track. According to Fonteva’s salesforce event management guide, some features to look for in your software include:
- Scheduling. Create conference schedules for keynote speakers and individual members to keep all your sessions organized.
- Marketing and communications. Customizable templates can help you create promotional materials like email and text messages to inform and excite potential guests.
- Member portals. Integrate your event management software with your AMS to give members access to conference materials and live streams through their personal accounts.
- Registration. Look for software that members can use to register and pay for the conference online. Software with integrated payment processors can streamline the process and help you receive payment in a more timely manner.
- Event streaming. Having access to a stable live stream is key to a successful hybrid conference. Look for tools that allow you to simulcast to multiple platforms like your website and social media.
Event management software can also track registration rates and incoming payments, which can help you plan the final details of your event like catering and day-of staff. Start off strong by planning your event with event management software.
2. Start planning early
Organizing a conference is a large undertaking, and the planning cannot be rushed. Give yourself enough time to work out kinks in the conference like keynote speaker schedules, venue reservation dates, and stirring member interest.
Start speaking to venues and vendors at least a few months before your anticipated conference date because large venues can be booked for several months or even years in advance. You’ll also need to coordinate a video crew if you want to have a high quality stream for virtual attendees.
3. Limit in-person attendance
While high guest attendance can be a measure of success, having too many in-person attendees can make hybrid conferences unbalanced. Limiting certain types of registrations can also help manage member to public guest registration rates.
Limited attendance can help you create optimal guest experiences and maintain member engagement for several reasons, such as:
- Limited spaces encourage quick registration. Telling your members and potential attendees that space is limited can inspire them to register early rather than wait.
- You can create package deals. Create early-bird offers or offer registration to sessions within the event, so guests can attend what they want to and you can make space for people to enjoy different aspects of the conference.
- You’ll have more resources to make the best in-person experience. Limiting in-person attendance will lower the cost of day-of event staff and venue setup.
- It allows space for day-of registrations. Once your initial in-person registration closes, you can set a date the day before or day of the event to reopen for any last minute registration to fill spaces you have open or from anyone who canceled.
Limiting in-person guest attendance can make registration slots seem scarce and more desirable. People will be excited to attend the conference and benefit from the face-to-face experience. It will also give you more time to work on your virtual offerings.
Depending on the sessions and format of the virtual side of the conference, limiting online guests can be helpful as well. If you aim to have virtual networking, it can be difficult to moderate with hundreds of guests. However, a panel or series of speakers would be simple to have virtual guests watch.
4. Ensure there are breaks
One of the simplest ways to improve hybrid events and conferences is to incorporate breaks throughout the sessions. Whether your conference is speaker-based or all about networking, breaks can make a big difference for guests.
A pause in between sessions allows guests to reset, use the restroom, write down and organize any contact information they collected, and to reflect on speaker stories. This is especially important if you have a series of guest speakers, as you’ll want guests to fully enjoy each presentation and ensure speakers have a quality audience.
Here are some ways to incorporate breaks into your hybrid event:
- Set out refreshments. In-person guests will be glad to grab a drink or snack in between sessions. To include virtual guests, send a small snack or drink basket included in their registration.
- Close the doors to event spaces. Some guests may eagerly stay in event spaces so they can get a better view or connect with keynote speakers. Once a session ends, usher people out so they all have an opportunity for a break.
- Turn off cameras. If virtual attendees have their cameras on, either disable cameras, or enable a waiting room during breaks. This way, no one will feel pressured to have their camera on.
Speakers are human too, and they will also need breaks, especially if they are hosting multiple sessions. Have a room set aside for special guests to recoup and relax after their presentations. Gestures like these will ensure speakers do stay fresh and will help maintain the quality of the conference.
5. Make it memorable
Guests should remember that your association hosted the event. Incorporate branded language, images, and logos throughout various facets of the event such as promotional communications, merchandise, and event decor.
Create a logo or tagline for the event that is similar to your association’s branding, so members and guests will connect the two. You can also create a tagline for your conference based on your association’s industry or the goal of the conference. This tagline can be a message you want members to walk away with or a call to action about how to make a difference in your association’s industry.
Taglines can inspire registrants. By including taglines in marketing materials, payment receipt emails, reminder messages, and event banners, registrants and attendees can be inspired.
Incorporate your association and the event’s logo in all your communications. Send in-person and virtual attendees small branded merchandise, such as a mug, pen, water bottle, or t-shirt after registering. Include the date(s) on the merchandise to help registrants remember when the event is scheduled for.
Hybrid conferences are great opportunities to expand your association membership and network. To coordinate all of the moving pieces, use an event management software to help you stay organized. Also, use the software to keep track of virtual and in-person components to ensure your hybrid conference is balanced and beneficial for all guests.