A significant number of workplaces have been returning to work using a hybrid model, with some staff working from home, while others are back in the workplace. Because of this, this hybrid model will also apply to events such as workshops, agile sprints and hackathons. Navigating online events was one thing, but running hybrid events requires a different set of practices to ensure that people in both settings have an enjoyable and productive experience.
Ultimately, the goal of your hybrid event is to ensure it still feels like one event, even though people are experiencing it in different ways. We’ve provided some of our suggested ways of ensuring that your hybrid event provides the best experience for all participants.
Set and share the agenda ahead of time
It is important to ensure that you have provided all participants with access to a schedule/agenda prior to the beginning of the event. You should provide a breakdown of the day’s activities, as well as details of where to participate in each session. This should include physical locations for on-site participants, and links or instructions to access breakout rooms for those participating online. This will alleviate any anxiety felt by participants, and ensure that the event runs in a smooth and timely manner.
Use communication to deliver a shared and fair experience
It is also important that you maintain constant communication with both in-person and online participants, and not fall into the trap of providing useful information to only one of these groups. This also means ensuring that people working online don’t have unanswered questions, and that all provided digital chat platforms are up to date, so that both groups have a shared and fair experience.
Use livestreaming technology to avoid bandwidth bottlenecks
Using tactics such as livestreaming via sites like YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook will ensure that all participants are experiencing the same event, in real time. You could livestream presentations being given in person, or you could live-stream someone online and play it on a screen for people to watch in person.
Livestreaming also helps reduce the bandwidth challenges that come with hosting a “video conference” – as the stream is one way (that is, from presenter to audience). Most livestreaming platforms provide built-in Q&A, so interactivity is still possible, but the experience isn’t compromised by bandwidth.
Integrate breakout and team rooms across the hybrid event
In order to engage all participants in a shared experience, we recommend including active group participation in hybrid events. Lots of workshops and innovation-focused events require group discussion, and while it’s easy for people to sit around a table in person, clever use of online breakout rooms will allow people connecting remotely to engage in these exercises with those who are participating in-person. Moreover, creating groups with a combination of online and offline participants maintains balance across the teams and generates a consistency of experience for all.
Activate discussion groups
Encouraging all participants to discuss topics online sets a level playing field. For plenary or panel sessions, setting up a live, online discussion group means that remote and live participants can collaborate easily and feel part of the conversation. Discussion groups can be setup in a variety of ways – using hashtags or categories, live chat systems or retro style discussion forums. No matter which technology you use, the aim is to promote engagement and connection between participants – regardless of whether they are local or remote.
Encourage real time collaboration
A key characteristic of in-person events is engagement and collaboration, which can sometimes be difficult to achieve in an online setting. Most participants feel like they are simply staring at a video conference – but a hybrid event can be so much more.
In order to ensure that everyone feels engaged and that they are actively participating, it is useful to encourage the use of platforms that allow all event delegates to work on a document, whiteboard or presentation, together, and in real time. This means encouraging real time collaboration – having in-person participants using their laptops and tablets to work in real time with their remote colleagues.
TheAir.Works has been built to enable this kind of collaboration with a single system login, while still being connected to a breakout room or meeting.
While it has its own text editors and whiteboard functionality, it can also embed documents from other platforms, such as Google Docs, OneDrive, Miro whiteboards and so on, ensuring that all participants can collaborate in the creation of ideas and potential solution development. And again, it doesn’t just have to be just online users that have access these digital tools. Real time collaborative editing can even be used by in-person participants at an event, as it reduces paper waste and improves accessibility and engagement with ideation.
We believe that if you optimise each of these factors, your hybrid event will be a beneficial and enjoyable experience for all of your participants, both online and in-person.