How To Encourage Networking at a Hybrid Event?
With the return of physical events just around the corner, many are excited at the prospect of connecting at events in-person. One of the main reasons? Meeting with people face to face!
The lack of in-person meetings was one of the biggest challenges for the trade fair industry when going digital, as networking is one of the most important selling points of those fairs.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemics, online and remote events have become a major part of the B2B space. Connecting online has given the opportunity for companies to reach a broader target group of people who can’t travel to the fair.
As events return in person, they will aim to maximize the benefits of both online and digital formats. As the result, hybrid events allow attendees to take part digitally and/or in person. They provide the best of both worlds: organizers can welcome in-person attendees as well as those who can’t join your event in person.
But these events come with a new kind of challenge: how do can you encourage networking at a hybrid event?
Successful networking at hybrid events is possible with some preparation beforehand. Read on to get started:
Understand who your attendees are and how they experience your event.
With Hybrid events, attendees are often split between two groups: those joining in-person and online ones. As an event organizer, encouraging networking at a hybrid event requires creating touchpoints where your participants can connect, no matter if they are attending online or offline.
In most hybrid events, organizers should focus on the following 3 levels of networking:
- In-person Networking: organizing networking opportunities between the attendees taking part in your event on-site
- Virtual Networking: creating networking opportunities between those attending digitally
- In-person & Virtual Networking: creating opportunities where both in-person and digital attendees can meet.
Bridging the gap between the in-person and the virtual audience is the key success factor for effective hybrid events. At physical events, in-person networking is initiated quite naturally. And after almost two years of virtual events, virtual networking is becoming more familiar. In comparison, hybrid networking will be new for many of your participants.
7 tips to encourage networking at a hybrid event
1- Plan ahead
One of the most common mistakes is that organizers sometimes decide on a hybrid format as a last-minute, in an attempt to develop an event format that provides the “best of both worlds”. But it is not that simple. Just as for any event, the hybrid format needs to be thought out: define your objectives, set KPIs, and create your event framework for each attendee journey. Once this is done, you’ll be able to see and implement touchpoints where your audience can connect.
Plan each step of your event with all 3 levels of networking in mind. If you focus too much on one audience, otherwise, you will end up neglecting another one.
2- Use the right eventtech platform
If event professionals have learned something over the past two years, it’s that your event technology can make or break your event. When choosing a platform, ensure that the technology works for hybrid events and aligns with your goals. Your event solution should focus on your digital audience, while not being too complicated to set up for your in-person attendees. When incorporating in-person attendees, mobile-friendly or app-based integrations can work easily on the go.
3- Optimize your event venue
Networking opportunities between in-person and virtual attendees need to be encouraged. It’s not the most natural thing for your physical audience to use their phone to connect with virtual attendees on the other side of the world. The physical venue layout needs to be optimized to fit the need of your hybrid networking: flawless internet connection, on-site room with tablets or laptops that people can use to connect… Be creative! Chairs and virtual meeting areas and quiet spaces can also be incorporated to encourage physical attendees to connect virtually.
4- Gamify your hybrid event
Encourage your audience to connect by organizing a team game. This can be facilitated on many event platforms themselves, with a score or rewards for the number of connections that your attendees make, or facilitate with one another. It will increase your event engagement while making sure that your audience has plenty of touchpoints and opportunities to network.
5- Staff support for networking
Encouraging your participants to connect offline and online can be unfamiliar. Here, you can use your event staff to help support networking activities both online and at your event venue. Your event staff can work to help facilitate meetings between attendees, as well as make virtual introductions. Consider having a meeting “concierge” that can be your attendee’s go-to person if they are looking for a specific contact. It is also helpful to have someone on-site to help set up virtual meetings between in-person and online attendees, as well as staff on the platform ready to help assist with technical questions.
6- It’s all about the community
How can you make sure your audience will connect with each other? By creating a community feeling. Whether it’s on your event platform or on social media, encourage your audience to meet each other with formats that are designed for connection: pre-networking events in a digital format, webinars, roundtables, event hashtags, private groups… The opportunities are plenty.
Remember: most of the networking at virtual events is done before or after the event. This also applies to hybrid events. Take this into account when it comes to setting up your event platform by opening it early enough so that your attendees can get to know each other before the event starts!
7- Use your speakers
Many attendees are drawn to your event for your content and to listen to your outstanding lineup of speakers. That’s why your speakers are the perfect persons to remind your attendees of the networking rooms, when they are open and to encourage your in-person audience to meet with your virtual attendees.
The Bottom Line
Hybrid events need to be carefully planned to make sure that all your audience can connect with each other, no matter if they are taking part in your event in-person or online. Networking at a hybrid event can be difficult, so you need to make sure to create dedicated time where your in-person attendees are encouraged to connect with your online audience.
PIRATEx Digital Marketing Manager