Speaking at Hybrid Events: How to Engage with In-Person and Virtual Audiences for the Same Event
Speaking at hybrid events presents growing opportunities for speakers and presenters to expand their reach and provide even greater value to their audiences. Hybrid events can present unique challenges for speakers, but they also provide a wide range of benefits.
The hybrid event industry is rapidly growing.
According to Global DMC Partners, 72% of event planners are moving to a virtual or hybrid format for events in 2021. With this growth, which is predicted to continue over the next decade, now is a great time for speakers to work on their hybrid audience engagement strategies.
Even experienced speakers struggle to juggle the demands of two simultaneous audiences; virtual and in-person. In a recent study, 46% of event organizers report that speakers had difficulties engaging a virtual and in-person audience simultaneously. Many speakers get caught up in engaging the live audience and leave the virtual audience feeling left out. Others try too hard to focus on providing both audiences with the same experience and end up not properly engaging either.
If you’re not yet experienced in speaking to hybrid and virtual audiences, check out our previous blog, to learn about the differences between speaking to virtual vs in-person audiences.
Create Compelling Content
The key to keeping any audience engaged, in any medium, is to provide truly compelling content! If your content isn’t interesting, you won’t be able to hold the attention of either audience.
Be sure to consider the unique needs of each audience when developing content. Integrating a stronger visual component to complement your speaking can help keep the virtual audience engaged. After all, looking at a live stream of someone speaking to a crowded room doesn’t bring the same energy and excitement that actually being in that room does. Instead, consider projecting a PowerPoint, graphs, artwork, or any other accompanying visual pieces behind you while speaking to the live audience and showing it on the live-stream as well to give the virtual audience more to look at and follow along with.
And of course, try to build in opportunities for audience engagement and discussion in your planned content. Look for opportunities to build in polling to keep viewers engaged throughout the session and reel them back in if they’ve lost focus (you can even invite your in-person audience to participate!)
Leverage Pre-Event Virtual Content
You don’t need to wait until the event to introduce yourself! After all, most people view a movie trailer prior to booking tickets to watch a film or google a restaurant menu before making a reservation, so why not give attendees a sneak peek before they plan to attend your session?
Hybrid events let you start engaging both your in-person and virtual audiences in advance on the digital event platform. Consider recording an introduction video to allow attendees to get to know you and learn what knowledge they can expect to gain by attending your speaking session.
Pre-event polling and discussions can also help you gauge what your audience will be most interested in. Consider asking some questions like “what do you most hope to get out of this session?” to understand how to tailor your content to the interests of planned attendees.
You can even take your pre-event content a bit further and pre-record your 101 level content and make it available before the event to give viewers a taste of your session and optimize your live speaking time. Both in-person and virtual audiences can be introduced to the terminology and basic concepts, which will allow you to spend your live session time digging into higher-level concepts and facilitating more informed and meaningful discussion.
Bring In-Person Attendees Virtual
Everyone has a smartphone handy at all times these days, so don’t be afraid to ask your in-person audience to interact digitally too!
Encourage in-person attendees to engage in the virtual chat along with the virtual viewers to create more robust discussions. It also provides you the opportunity to get insight into audience engagement on your live audience in a way that has been previously untapped.
Often virtual commenters get left out in favor of in-person attendees due to increased visibility, but bringing them together prevents this. Having discussions or questions all in one place also makes it easier for you as the speaker or your moderator to respond to questions or comments from both audiences. It also gives the members of both audiences the opportunity to engage with one another to spark discussions and even start networking.
Polling is also a great way to bring both audiences together. Polls can help you gauge topic interest, current knowledge, opinions, and more from your audiences in real-time. Your in-person audience can participate from their phones while the virtual audiences can participate seamlessly in-platform as well.
Don’t Try To Do It All
Engaging both audiences is important! But even the best hybrid event speaker can’t give both audiences 100% of their attention for the full session. So don’t try to do it all. You’ll likely end up giving both audiences a subpar experience. Instead, make use of the different mediums to provide tailored experiences to each audience.
If possible, curate separate experiences for your virtual and in-person audiences. One method of doing this is to utilize a simulive content delivery model. Record your live event at the in-person, and rebroadcast it to the virtual audience then view it with them as though it is live. The virtual audience will be able to log on to watch it together and participate in the chat and polling in real-time with you. You can also host a live-streamed Q&A session after the simulive broadcast to answer questions from the online audience.
If delivering a session simultaneously to both audiences, consider having a colleague or assistant help you moderate the virtual chat so that online attendees are not neglected. Trying to split your focus can be challenging and you may end up missing great comments or questions without assistance.
Also, address each audience independently. Trying to make eye contact with the live viewers and the camera at the same time can feel hectic and take your focus away from speaking. Instead, practice delivering your content and switching off where you focus your gaze.
Allocate Time for Both Audiences Post-Session
People will want to talk to you after the event. Allocate time for questions and for post-session discussion with both audiences – or bring them together virtually!
In-person attendees may come up to you after the session to try to meet you or ask a question. They may also have opportunities to run into you in the hallways, at lunch, or at Happy Hours. Online attendees won’t have this opportunity, so if you plan to engage with attendees after the session, try to provide opportunities for each audience.
On Social27 Event Platform, you can host a virtual Roundtable or Boardroom meeting to allow members of your virtual audience to come together to discuss after the session. This can be a great way to interact with the audience, give more in-depth answers to questions, and direct viewers to your website, books, podcast, or other content.
In-person attendees can also join virtual Roundtables, Boardrooms, or chats as well. This can be a more organized way to conduct a meet and greet or host a discussion after your main session.
Leave a Lasting Impression
If you have the option to, be sure to record your live event content and make it available for on-demand viewing after the session.
After the event is over, both in-person and virtual attendees may want to revisit your content. Perhaps there was a topic you mentioned that really piqued their interest, or they want to show a clip to a friend or family member. You want to leave a lasting impression on your audience to the extent that they’ll be moved to revisit your content or seek out additional content offerings or resources that you’ve created.
There are also attendees that may have had scheduling conflicts that missed your session but want to view it later. Virtual attendees in particular may have time zone issues with sessions at the beginning or end of the day. They won’t get the full interactive experience, but they can still enjoy the recorded version of your session and check out your other works.
Don’t Forget to Follow Up
In addition to leaving a lasting impression through evergreen on-demand content, following up virtually with additional content, workshops, or resources will help you stay connected with your audience. Have a podcast, blog, or newsletter? Follow up and remind viewers where to find more content from you.
Hybrid events provide speakers and event organizers with a wealth of data that they wouldn’t traditionally leave an in-person event with. Everything from interaction data to attendee contact information will be available to help you craft a solid follow-up plan. Put it to use to continue the attendee journey with them virtually! This will also further bring both audiences together post-event and hopefully boost attendance at your next session or event.
Putting On Hybrid Events or Speaking at Hybrid Events?
Social27 Event Platform provides speakers with the tools they need to deliver clear and engaging content to hybrid audiences. Features such as including polling, roundtables, and moderated chat can help you keep viewers engaged.
Set up a demo today to learn more about what Social27 has to offer speakers and event organizers.