A hybrid conference is a great way to merge the best of both worlds – getting the benefits of an in-person event, while also reaching out to a larger audience through virtual attendees. But while hybrid conferences are definitely on the rise, they still present unique challenges for event planners.
That’s where IT comes in – you need to make sure that your technology runs smoothly and that your attendees have a good experience, whether they are in the room or online. In this blog post, we will discuss some tips and tools to help you streamline your hybrid conference and make it a success.
IT and hybrid conferences
Technology has changed the way we do everything, including how we hold conferences. Conferences started as in-person only events until advances in IT facilitated the hosting of virtual meetings, which tended to be purely online affairs.
Nowadays, however, increasingly more conferences are hybrid events that combine the best of both worlds. These too, of course, require the use of technology in order to gather participants in both physical and virtual locations.
The trend towards hybrid conferences is being driven by the fact that they offer many advantages over other types of events. For example, hybrid conferences:
- Reach larger audiences — by including both in-person and virtual attendees, hybrid conferences can host many more participants than either of the other types of event alone.
- Increase engagement — research has shown that hybrid conferences can actually increase levels of participation and the value provided among both attendees and speakers.
- Save time and money — because hybrid conferences don’t require everyone to travel to a single location, they can reduce effort and costs for organizers and attendees alike.
- Are more flexible — hybrid conferences are also much more versatile than either in-person or virtual events, as they can be easily adapted to accommodate the needs of different types of attendees.
Of course, hybrid conferences are not without their challenges.
One of the biggest hurdles to overcome is ensuring that the technology runs smoothly and that all attendees have a good experience, regardless of whether they are in the room or online. This is where IT comes in.
Planning a hybrid conference
When you’re planning a hybrid conference, the first aspect you need to do is figure out what kind of event you want to have. Are you looking for an intimate gathering of industry experts, or are you aiming for a large-scale event that will attract attention from all over the world?
Once you’ve decided on the scope of your event, you can start planning the logistics. Here are a few elements to keep in mind when planning a hybrid conference:
- Decide on the format of your event — will it be a series of live talks, a virtual trade show, or a mixture of both?
- Pick a suitable time and date(s) — take into account time zones, holidays, and the schedules of your potential attendees when choosing when to hold your event.
- Find a location — for the in-person component of your hybrid event, you’ll need to find a venue that can accommodate the expected number of attendees and your chosen format. There are a few hybrid-friendly venues popping up around the world, but you can also consider renting out a co-working space or meeting room.
- Choose a theme — this should reflect the spirit of your conference, and you can then design all your marketing and informational materials around it.
- Maintain your website — keeping your site up-to-date and easy to navigate is especially important if your conference will be heavily reliant on online attendance, as it will be the first port of call for many potential attendees. 94% of first impressions relate to your web’s design, so keep that in mind!
- Create a dedicated conference page — including all the relevant information about your event, such as dates, speakers, topics, and the agenda. You can also use this page to sell tickets and promote any sponsorship opportunities.
- Set up a registration form — this allows people to sign up for your conference easily and quickly, making them more likely to actually attend your event. Having people’s information, even if tickets are free, also means you know roughly how many attendees to expect.
- Plan the agenda — this will help you determine the order of events, as well as what needs to happen when and where. It is useful for attendees and speakers to have this information in advance so they can plan their participation accordingly.
- Come up with an event hashtag — this is a great way to promote your hybrid conference and get people talking about it online. Decide on a catchy and unique hashtag that will be easy for people to remember and use. For example, if EC-MSP ever decided to run IT hybrid conferences, a great hashtag would be #ECMSPevents.
- Promote your event — use social media, email marketing, and online advertising, etc., to get the word out about your hybrid conference.
- Send reminders — as the date of your event approaches, send out reminder emails to everyone who has registered. This will help increase attendance and reduce no-shows.
Using IT to streamline hybrid conferences
As the hybrid conference trend continues to grow, event planners must fully understand how IT can help streamline these combined in-person and virtual meetings in order to make them a success be it for a retrospective or a project kickoff meeting. That’s because the right hybrid conference tools can make your event more engaging, efficient, and organized.
In order to streamline your hybrid conference, there are a few key solutions you need in your toolkit:
- Project management tool (e.g. Asana or Trello) — to organize all the different aspects of planning your event or assigning project tasks in one place and make sure nothing falls through the cracks.
- CRM (customer relationship management) system —for keeping track of leads, attendees, and sponsors so that you can better engage with them before, during, and after your event.
- Events calendar (e.g. CalendarWiz or Eventbrite) — to create a page for your event and manage registrations / ticketing.
- Social media (e.g. Twitter or LinkedIn) — for promoting your event and engaging with potential attendees to get them excited about it, as well as gathering feedback during and afterwards.
- Web conferencing platform (e.g. LiveWebinar) — allows you to host the online part of your meeting. Additional features may facilitate the holding of virtual talks, panels, breakout rooms, networking sessions, Q&As, polling, and workshops, etc., as part of your conference program.
By following these tips and using these tools, you’ll be able to streamline the process of planning and hosting a successful hybrid conference thanks to the help of IT. With careful organization and execution, your hybrid conference will surely be a resounding success.