How to Host a Hybrid Event – Sophie Binskin-Barnes of Verve

Since launching Live From Tobacco Dock, we’ve been keen to chat to our industry contacts about how they get the most out of hybrid events. Being able to host both live and virtual attendees is a brilliant opportunity to connect with as wide an audience as possible, but to maintain engagement you need to do more than rely on technology.

In the second of our hybrid series, we were delighted to speak to Sophie Binskin-Barnes of Verve Live Agency.

Sophie Binskin-Barnes, Account Director, Verve Live Agency

Why hybrid?

Human connection is so important. A hybrid event isn’t about replacing physical with virtual, it’s about marrying the two and catering to both your physical and online audiences. Right now, it’s crucial to respect people’s decisions to attend and travel to events or not, so being able to offer both gives your attendees a choice and means a greater level of attendance. You might be surprised at how many people would attend when you open your event up with a virtual option to attend (it’s an event you don’t even have to get dressed for!).

What do organisers need to pay most attention to when organising a hybrid?

I’d advise organisers to always put themselves in their audience’s shoes and think about what their needs are if attending the venue and what they will need if they take part online. Most importantly, you need to consider how to add value to their experience, however they choose to join you.

This is an event and like any other you need to create a journey from first contact (invite) to final contact (feedback or follow-up), identify your junctions and barriers within that event roadmap to ensure you keep them engaged and are always adding to that value. Of course, that will be different for your in-person and online attendees, so you have to find a way to keep them both engaged and included.

What are the most important elements in which to invest your budget for hybrid events as opposed to fully live ones?

Try to keep it balanced. A physical event naturally requires more budget in terms of personnel, catering and production costs, but it’s important to have a virtual platform that matches the quality of your live elements. You don’t want your online audience feeling they’ve missed out by not attending in person. Ultimately, think forward – would you get the same level of positive feedback from both sets of attendees?

How can you make sure your virtual users are engaged?

Allow the physical audience to understand there is a virtual element, especially if there are live cameras. Split the time you have for sessions to the % of your audience. For example, if you have a Q&A session, set aside time for both live and virtual questions.

There is a challenge in sustaining the attention of the virtual audience, so having a high-quality virtual platform that allows breakout areas for exploration is a key factor. You could have a pre-recorded product demonstration to build anticipation or send notifications to virtual attendees to remind them to attend certain sessions, maybe include downloadable images or content for attendees to digest between sessions or post-event. I also recommend using a virtual MC to guide your audience around the event and keep up the momentum.

Any pitfalls to avoid?

You can’t do it all. It’s important to depend on the teams around you and their expertise to make the magic. Always, always write a great Event Management Plan and a tight production schedule. Remember, an excellent brief makes an excellent event!

Next steps?

We’d love to talk to you about our super-flexible hybrids events packages, Live From Tobacco Dock. Call the team for a chat, or drop us an email to info@tobaccodocklondon.com.

You can find out more about what the amazing team at Verve are up to here.