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How to Engage Remote Viewers in Hybrid Events

Too often, offsite attendees are treated as afterthoughts in hybrid events, where all the emphasis is on the audience in the room. But drawing in the remote audience and recognizing the importance of doing so is critical. Innovative strategies abound for drawing in remote viewers and creating more compelling experiences. Andy Howard, Founder & Managing Director, Howard & Associates, discusses some best practices to engage remote viewers in hybrid events with Anna Cowdery, Producer, Independent, Happily, LiveX, and Anthony Burokas, CEO, Stream4us.

Howard argues that there should be more engagement with remote audiences because the on-site audiences have already fully committed to attending the event. “Whereas the online audience -- I'm sure everybody's done this -- you can sign up for a million online webinars and then go to a tenth of them,” he says. “So I feel like it's much more important to really up the engagement with the remote audience.” He asks Cowdery for her perspective on the matter.

“I think both [audiences] deserve your time and attention,” Cowdery says. “One of the things I talk to my clients a lot about is how many lives does your content have? Particularly when you're doing brand development. To be a thought leader in your industry and better relationships, you want a certain amount of traction around your event. So for your on-prem experience…you kind of have to reward that. And I would say do it with experiential elements. Give them a photo opportunity, good food and beverage, an ability to exchange contact information freely and well to reward that on-prem engagement. And then that will circulate online. Everybody's an influencer. Now, everybody wants to take their picture in front of the step and repeat, but that's also going to elevate your brand when those people are sharing your content.”

Cowdery also emphasizes that it is best to think about a similar level of engagement with the on-prem audience, especially before the event so they can promote it online. “That can be done with sizzles,” she says. “Give your attendees the ability to promote, give them assets to say that ‘I'm going to this thing. I want to see you there, even if it's virtual.’ Think about content and how long is it going to echo on the internet. Engagement is number one piece, but you have to think about both [audiences].”

Burokas highlights an example of an organization he worked with that maximized hybrid engagement. He worked with a church that used AirMe “because they actually designed it for engagement,” he says. “So before the actual seminar began, there's was this open area and they had pictures of little tables, and it would show you who's sitting at each table. You could sit down at the virtual table, and it would pop up a mini Zoom where you could have a conversation, like you were in the lobby of a real physical space. Then they would have a fellowship part…and then there was another whole room where all of the sponsors had tables and they had videos and literature where you could go between the tables and if you clicked on one of their tables, you could talk with those representatives as if it was a real physical thing.” He says that these virtual experiences mirrored the real-time settings. “That same vendor was there with the same tables, with the same literature…so we tried our best to create an environment whereby it was the same experience.”

Burokas also cites another example of combined engagement at a sporting event. “I also worked with a sports organization…you come to the seminar, but if you paid a little extra, you could get an autograph. And each person would come through this little portal, and they could talk with a sports person, ‘Hey, I really love your stuff and everything. Can you make it out to Mickey?’ And he autographs a digital photo of himself to Mickey, and then that gets sent to them as a JPEG. So they get a keepsake. So there's that interaction [where] you're rewarding the remote audience as if they actually got to talk to the person at the table in front of them.”

Learn more about a wide range of streaming industry topics at the next Streaming Media Connect in November 2023.

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