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We’ve talked a lot about virtual events in the past and how we keep the audience engaged. But when it comes to hybrid audience engagement, you are literally dealing with two different sets of attendees. A hybrid event is the combination of an in-person audience and a virtual audience. And our definition of a perfect hybrid event is when you have the blurring of lines, the blending of those two audiences together, where they have the ability to interact with each other.

Virtual Events Handbook

The idea behind it is that they are completely blurred together. Where someone in the virtual world says, “I had an incredible experience at that event.” And then the attendee in-person says, “I had an incredible experience.” And they’re at the same level when it comes to the whole thing. So let’s talk about hybrid audience engagement, shall we?

hybrid audience engagement

Hybrid Audience Engagement: Blurring The Lines

So when it comes to the blurring of lines, you want to think about your audience engagement systems. These are things like polling, chat, Q and A, emoji response, whatever it may be when it comes to allowing the audience to engage and respond.

But the important thing when it comes to this is to blur the lines between the two. And what does that mean? For example, if you’re doing polling, make sure the poll is done by the people in person, and also the people virtually at the same time. Blur the audiences together. If you have a chat, allow the attendees in person who are sitting in maybe a ballroom watching the presenter speak, allow them to chat with the virtual audience. Allow them to blur together and you’re on the right track.

Fostering Connections

Also, allow the audiences to meet each other. As we say, audience meets audience. So you want the in-person attendees to be able to meet the virtual audience. Why is this important? Well, again, someone might decide that I wanted to go in person and see the presenter speak. There’s no reason why the virtual audience shouldn’t have the opportunity to set up meetings, to network, to chat, to have the opportunity to engage with those people as well.

For example, maybe you have these little pods with screens in them. And let’s say you have a meeting scheduled to meet someone virtually, you walk into one of those pods, and boom – that person virtually pops up on the screen. You get a chance to message them. So again, blurring the lines between virtual and in-person.

Acknowledging The Audiences

The most important thing when it comes to hybrid audience engagement is acknowledgment. And what does that mean? Acknowledge the audience. Well, in-person, you would never go up to speak and jump right into the middle of your content. You’d ease into the presentation with a friendly, “How’s it going, New York? How’s everybody doing? Make some noise!”

You interact with the audience. Well, with hybrid, you have to do that simultaneously with the virtual attendees. So what that means, if you have presenters on stage, they need to be trained to be able to look at the right cameras at the right time so then that way they can interact with it.

Technology Is Your Friend

So it means specifically calling them out. But let’s talk about calling them out and making eye contact. You do that a little bit easier with technology – it’s called a tally light. And tally light is when you’re in the newsroom, and how the newscasters always know what camera to look at.

They do that because they put a light on the camera and it’s controlled by the control room that whenever they’re picking that camera to be the one that goes live, puts a light on it. Super simple production that allows people to make eye contact.

Hybrid Audience Engagement: We See You!

Let’s talk about the shout-outs. Give your MCs and your talent the opportunity to give shout-outs to the virtual audience as well. Just like you do in person, “Hey, how’s it going dude in the front row? That’s an awesome hat!” You need to do that for the virtual audience as well. And what does that mean exactly? Well, it could be something as simple as literally looking at the camera and giving a shout-out.

But maybe instead of level it up, call them out by name. “Hey, I see the comments down below that are flooding on in. Joe, in Arkansas, how you doing man?” Think about the best live TV broadcast that you’ve ever seen. How do they do it? Copy that, don’t reinvent the wheel.

Other things you can consider include doing onscreen comments. That’s why when you watch TV and sports broadcast, they bring tweets up that people were saying on the screen, Allow those onscreen comments to pop up. There’s a lot of awesome systems that you can allow people to comment on live stream and bring their comments up as they’re coming in. Think about that five seconds of fame that everyone’s trying to get, this allows them to get that. And again, keeps them engaged.

High Value, High Energy, High Production

In hybrid audience engagement, high-energy presenters are key. It’s the thing that people love the most. And that translates well virtually because everyone else is reading quietly, barely making eye contact with the cameras. Instead, when you bring in high energy, it allows the audience to feel engaged. They feel on the edge of their seat, and they’re ready, and they’re on a roller coaster ready to go. So bring them high energy.

Also high production value as well. Don’t just sit and put a presenter on the screen and put the slides next to him. Instead, cut back and forth with the slides at a minimum. But maybe instead figure out a way to do the John Oliver style, where you put the slides up right behind their head.

Incorporate 3D graphics, little video clips playing in between, when a presenter gets done, and play a sound clip and a special effect. Just add production value all day long.

Hybrid Audience Engagement: The Experience

And then the last thing that you want to do is create unique experiences. Look, it would be absolutely dumb to say that, yes, you can recreate the in-person experience virtually – that’s not a hundred percent possible. Instead, what you have to do is create a new experience for the virtual people.

What does this mean exactly? Well, it means that sometimes you have to put a little bit more into the virtual event. The in-person people get the chance to go talk to the speakers in person. Well, how can you create a unique experience where maybe the virtual audience gets to sit down with a speaker in a mini fireside chat? Don’t forget that they need to have these unique experiences that are totally different.

Don’t Forget The Data!

And then last but not least, if you’re looking to create awesome hybrid audience engagement, you need to be looking at your analytics. And we’re not talking about looking at your analytics after the event. We’re not talking about looking at them at the end of the day. You need real-time analytics.

For example, if you see that the Q and A in your engagement system is blown up, redesign your content on the fly to focus on Q and A. See what people are reacting to and get those analytics, and change your event, and design it on the fly. And use data-driven design, to be able to design your event.


And that’s a wrap on this week’s edition of Whiteboard Wednesday! If you want to learn more about the virtual aspect of hybrid audience engagement, make sure you download our free ebook. You can read all about the virtual portion while you wait for another incredible episode of Whiteboard Wednesday.

Virtual Events Handbook

Will Curran

Author Will Curran

Information junkie, energetic, and work-a-holic are just some of the words we can use to describe Will Curran. Aside from spending 20 out of 24 hours a day working as the Chief Event Einstein of Endless Events, you can catch Will ordering a chai latte or watching The Flash with his cats. He is also well known for his love of all things pretzels.

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