Hybrid events appear just when we think we’ve figured out this whole virtual event thing. Now comes the task of hosting a virtual and live audience, as well as figuring out how to engage both for a successful hybrid event.
Things do get a little more difficult. However, hybrid events have a lot of potential. You may broaden your audience while still taking advantage of the engagement opportunities that a live event provides by providing participants with options.
We recently held our FIRST ever hybrid event, a Learn + Launch Bootcamp titled: Instagram for Business. It was lots of fun. We networked, we engaged, but most importantly–we learned a few things from our first go-around. Now, we want to share those things with you! This event checklist will lead you through the what, why, and how of hybrid events. By the time you’ve finished reading this, you should feel ready and confident to organize a party of your own.
What is a Hybrid Event?
A hybrid event, simply described, combines a live, in-person audience with a virtual audience. Depending on the goals of the event, this can be done live or recorded. For example, our Bootcamp had a live, in-person audience in Columbia, MO, along with our virtual guests attending live on zoom.
The primary goal we had going into the event was to ensure that both audiences could engage, network, and participate amongst others. We wanted both the virtual and in-person guests to be able to listen to speakers, interact with other attendees, and participate in all of the activities. So, what did we do? We prepared. We created Pre-Event, Mid-Event, and Post-Event Checklists covering the where, the who, and the how. Now that the event is finished, we’ve added a few things that we’ve learned to each so that you can be even more prepared when planning your first event.
The pre-event checklist is arguably the most essential. Here you map out what your event will be about, where it will be hosted, and how you’d like it to look. It’s the pre-party. You know, the invites, the ordering….the dreaded planning. Never fear, our team is here with an easy pre-event checklist for you to follow in the midst of your prep!
1/ Choose Your Topic.
Determine who your event is for and what you hope to accomplish. Do you want to host something fun, educational, inspiring? Set all of these objectives ahead of time so that you know exactly how to attract the right attendees and provide value that align with your goals and theirs.
2/ Set Your Budget.
Setting your budget is the next step, because it will pre-determine the rest of this checklist. Know your figures, know your limits. Your goal is to host an event that is both fun and profitable, and those numbers depend on the type of event you’ll be hosting.
3/ Determine Your Setting.
Once you have a budget in place, you can decide where you will host your event. Your ideal space should be big, open, and have plenty of room for your mics and cameras. We held our event in the conference room at Columbia REDI. It was a large space with the perfect angles to set up equipment.
4/ Build a Team.
Know who will be there supporting you through the event! Depending on the size of the event, you will want a staff of at least 2-4 people there to help you host it. For example, our whole team was present the day of the event, and they each helped in event prepping as well. Don’t have a team yet? No problem—make a list of reliable friends and family members willing to help you host.
Before you start advertising and promoting your event, you’ll want to make sure you have a method for capturing interested parties. You don’t have to collect payment when they register, but you certainly could! Services like EventBrite make it easy. In our case, we wanted registrations to sync in our CRM (Dubsado), then we invoiced using Quick Books Online so our accounting system was updated as well. Online registration makes collecting attendee information a cinch.
Now that you have an idea, budget, physical location, team, and a method for signing up, it’s time to create a buzz! A great way to start marketing your event is to send e-blasts promoting it to your current audience. Try to schedule at least 2-3 emails before the event, promoting everything it will be about/offer. Make sure you include a “learn more” or a “sign-up” call to action at the end of each email to ensure that your audience knows where to find the details and register!
Creating a buzz also means posting to social media. Let your followers know about your event, and remind them at least 3-4 times prior to the event date. Posting to your feed and story frequently will allow you to stay top of mind of those that are interested. Another great way to leverage social media is to post in Facebook groups that your target audience would be.This could potentially connect you to more interested and qualified participants.
Digital promotion is great, but one thing that also worked well for us was inviting people in-person. You can do this a lot of ways. You can invite strangers in the midst of a casual conversation, or you can call on connections that you believe would be genuinely interested in the event. If you are involved in other business networking groups, such as BNI, be sure to mention your event there as well. The more people that know, the more people that can attend. Sending personalized emails to current and prospective customers you think would benefit from the event are a great way to connect on a personal level.
8/ Presentation & Materials.
Creating your presentation after you pitch your event to your audience is a great way to stay flexible and add or edit your presentation. If your timeline is long enough, it also allows you to concentrate on promoting sooner while still giving you time to craft your speech. It’s also best to reference your landing page and concept while creating your outline, presentation, workbook, or other supplemental materials to make sure you’re staying focused on what you promised to deliver. If you expect to provide a copy of presentation materials or other documentation of the event, you can also entice registrations by letting your audience know.
Details. Details. Details.
Be sure to share all the information your attendees may want to know to feel prepared to attend. This could include:
- What to wear
- Where to park
- When to arrive
- Which entrance to use
- Address for in-person portion
- Zoom or other Virtual link/login information
- What to bring
- What to leave at home
- Time & Date (don’t forget to include a time zone!)
9/ Food, Refreshments, Entertainment.
If it aligns with your budget and the type of event that you are hosting, make sure you add in some food, refreshments, or entertainment! This could be drinks and light horderves, catered lunch, or even live music if your event is social. Whatever you decide, just be sure to have it all mapped out before the event starts. For example, we catered in a Pickleman’s lunch box for all of our guests. We made sure that orders were placed at least 24 hours in advance, delivered, and noted any attendee allergies to avoid any complications.
10/ Test All Equipment.
This final step is essential! It is easier to align everything for your in-person audience than it is your zoom. You want to be sure to test your mic, camera, and audio equipment several times before your event starts. You don’t want your virtual crew to feel left out, so make sure everything is running smoothly on their end too. Also, have a Plan B. If tech or wi-fi acts up, have a back up plan for your virtual attendees (or in-person if your speaker/host is virtual).
During The Event
1/ Connect the online and virtual audience
As we mentioned earlier, this should be the main goal of your event. Use your team to engage both audiences, and encourage lots of participation from both sides. Allow your guests to have conversation amongst one another. Make the virtual group feel as though they are there with you. We had our graphic designer, Abbagail, in person running the slides, and Hannah, our copywriter, monitoring the zoom room. This enabled us to catch every question, comment, and concern of both audiences!
2/ Use social media to encourage engagement
Here is something we have added to our list now that the event has finished. It’s easy to get excited about what it is you are teaching, but don’t forget to have your audience share their experience as well! One tip we recommend is to encourage your audience to post about the event on their stories/social media platform. This allows them to participate, and it gives you exposure for events that you decide to host in the future!
3/ Take photos
Again, one of those things that is easy to forget. Take it from us. We got so excited about what we were teaching, that we forgot to take lots of photos! Luckily, we were able to capture one, but the more you can snag, the better you’ll be able to promote the next event if you decide to go for a second round at a later date..
1/ Create a Post-Event Survey.
You’ll want to collect responses in a survey to help you gauge how successful your event was. Ask your audience what they thought, what they’ve learned, and what advice they have for you in the future. Our team was able to receive excellent feedback from our audience, and we got to hear what they would like to see in our future events.
2/ Follow Up With Both Virtual and In-Person Attendees.
The follow up is just as important as the invite! Thank your guests for attending, let them know that you loved having them there. Build-up enough rapport to invite them again in the future. Also, the follow up is a perfect time to ask for a review! An honest review is a great way to receive feedback. If you do a well-enough job, you may just get a 5 star bonus!
3/ Analyze Your Results, and Prep For the Future.
Now that you’ve received plenty of feedback, you’re ready to analyze and prepare for your next event. If you don’t remember anything else from this article, at least remember this: don’t be hard on yourself if you let something slip. It’s your first event, things are bound to be rocky somewhere. The key takeaway will be the lessons you learned from each fall. The most important element is that you tried! As J.K Rowling once said, “To avoid failure is to fail by default.” You will do great, and we are here to help you along the way!
Need Help Hosting a Hybrid Event?
We hope this checklist helps you prepare for your future hybrid-events. Some of you may be fully prepped to start planning. On the flip side, there may still be some of you who need a little extra guidance. That’s where we come in. If you’re one of those in need of a little extra push, book a call with us. We’d love to help you succeed with all of your marketing needs.