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While in-person events are back, there’s still value in hosting virtual and hybrid events for your association. Here are some easy, yet effective, ideas for pulling off successful virtual and hybrid events.

Make Memorable Events Easier

The right technology can streamline the entire event experience, making it easier for staff to delight attendees – and enjoy their own event. Discover how in this short video.

Events have always been a staple for associations. They’re a great way to stay connected with your members. They’re also where members go to learn and network.

For years, many associations have seen the value of offering virtual and hybrid events in addition to in-person events. They’re a valuable option for members who cannot attend on-site due to schedules, budgets, and other considerations. They’re also a great way for associations to connect with members between in-person events.

But virtual and hybrid association events can seem challenging – especially for associations with small staffs. When you have limited resources, how can you ensure that attendees get value from the event, no matter if they attend in person or online?

Let’s look at tips, techniques, and tools for success in these three areas of virtual and hybrid events:

  • Planning virtual and hybrid events
  • Developing content for virtual and hybrid events
  • Engaging audiences for virtual and hybrid events


Planning virtual and hybrid events

Here are some ways to make virtual and hybrid event planning easier for your association:

  • Develop a clear goal.
    You might want to reach members who have never attended your annual event. Or you might want to drive revenue from new sources. Maybe you want to diversify the learning opportunities you offer your members. While you might have multiple goals for your virtual or hybrid event, narrow your list to one primary goal. This approach will make it much easier to develop your plan, as it will help to guide your decisions about the event.
  • Get feedback.
    Your members are the primary audience for your events, so be sure to ask for their input. Getting their feedback will make planning a great virtual or hybrid event much easier.

For example, find out how many people are likely to attend your event in-person versus online so you can plan accordingly. Uncover what elements of each experience (in-person and virtual) would give members the engaging experience they seek.

Sending a survey is an effective way to learn what members want in an event. Build a survey that asks members about event length, content, exhibit hall experience, and other aspects of your event.

TECH TIP: YourMembership association management software (AMS) by Community Brands has survey functionality built in, making it easy to build and send targeted surveys and get feedback.

  • Choose the right event technology.
    Virtual and hybrid events require the right technology to help you deliver a great event efficiently and cost-effectively. So, when planning your virtual and hybrid event technology needs, look for these essential components:

    • Event registration through your association management software (AMS) – Using an AMS that offers built-in event registration streamlines your event registration process by automatically populating your members’ individual information.
    • Streaming and capture services – Look for event technology that offers live streaming and capture services to help you provide a variety of content delivery for your online attendees.
    • Mobile event app – Choose technology that offers a mobile event app. A mobile event app is the perfect companion for today’s mobile-oriented audience and a powerful asset for delivering a captivating, memorable, and engaging event experience. An app puts everything attendees need right in the palm of their hands.
    • Virtual exhibits – Select technology that allows you to give your online attendees a place to learn more about products and services in a virtual exhibit hall in which exhibitors can host online booths and be available for live chats with attendees during pre-set virtual exhibit hall hours.

TECH TIP: YourMembership AMS includes event management functionality that helps your staff create and manage everything from small meetings to large events. Also, using the mobile event app from YourMembership powered by TripBuilder Media, you can keep attendees informed and engaged throughout your event – with features that are tailored to your attendees, such as a schedule builder, session details, push notifications, live polling, and more. Plus, YourMembership Learning, powered by Freestone learning management system, gives you the power to provide simulcasts during hybrid events and on-demand replays for virtual audiences after live events.

  • Choose what type of event to host.
    There’s more than one type of virtual/hybrid event that your association can offer. In the broadest terms, virtual events offer an online-only experience while hybrid events offer both an online and in-person attendance option. However, there are different ways that you can structure these events.

Here are some examples:

    • An event with two different attendee experiences (online and in-person) going on at the same time
    • An in-person event with sessions and other activities/ that are live-streamed to virtual attendees
    • An in-person event, with on-demand content offered afterward for those who want to see the content virtually
    • An in-person event and a virtual event – with similar content and branding, but on different days
    • An online-only event


Developing content for virtual and hybrid events

Keep in mind that your content and event type go hand-in-hand, so you’ll likely want to consider them at the same time. For example, if most of your content will be in lecture or panel formats, then an in-person event with live-streamed sessions or post-conference on-demand sessions might work well. If you have a wide variety of content, you might want to offer a different experience for each audience at the same time.

No matter which type of virtual or hybrid event you decide to host, it’s important to focus on content that will appeal to all of your event attendees. Consider content topics that are:

  • Most popular, based on past in-person, virtual, or hybrid event attendance and ratings
  • Hot, timely topics in your industry
  • Popular in your association’s online member community
  • Presented by well-known and/or highly-rated speakers
  • Track-based, or grouped together by theme

Also, be sure to think about session length and format for your audiences. For example, shorter, more focused sessions can help to keep online attendees’ attention better. Also, varying the format of the sessions — presentations, panels, fireside chats, breakout discussions, informal groups, sponsored sessions, networking events/rooms, and so on — keeps things more interesting for everyone.


Engaging audiences for virtual and hybrid events

Engaging online-only or hybrid (in-person and online) audiences can be tricky. Here are some tips for engaging each audience:

For virtual attendees

  • Offer virtual-only interviews with industry experts, or panel discussions with thought leaders.
  • Have an online green room where virtual attendees can have exclusive access to presenters for Q&A.
  • Enable virtual attendees to make appointments with exhibitors.
  • Allow virtual attendees to ask live questions during sessions.
  • Ask registered virtual attendees for questions ahead of time to incorporate live during sessions or even for a post-session Q&A interview that you stream for virtual attendees.

For in-person attendees

  • Schedule special meal-time activities or sessions.
  • Offer live networking events.
  • Allow sponsors to plan receptions or happy hours.
  • Provide live entertainment (which you can also live stream for virtual attendees).

For online AND in-person attendees

Another way to engage both audiences for your hybrid events is to encourage networking between the two audiences. Here are some ideas:

  • Allow virtual attendees to participate or ask questions during presentations.
  • Run polls in which both in-person and virtual attendees can participate.
  • Enable networking and connections through an event mobile app and your online community.
  • Host a networking room where in-person attendees can stop by and visit with virtual attendees via video chat.
  • Provide individual tablets to in-person attendees to allow for one-on-one exchanges with virtual audience members.

TECH TIP: YourMembership AMS includes online member community functionality to help you increase engagement and outreach as well as networking. You can use your online member community to build engagement among and between event attendees.

Learn more about hosting great association events.

Learn about more techniques and tools to help you plan successful association events in our specifically for small staff associations.

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