When you’re an event planner, it isn’t always easy to come up with new, creative ways to maximize attendee engagement. It’s even harder to generate hybrid event ideas that engage both in-person and virtual participants.

Yet it’s one of the most important obstacles you need to overcome if you want to organize a successful hybrid event. After all, 91% of event professionals agree that engagement is the biggest measure of success. So, how can you ensure all audiences are wowed by what your event has to offer?

No worries—in this guide, we’ll walk you through 12 hybrid event ideas that are sure to keep every attendee engaged. Whether they’re physically present or tuning in from home, here’s what you can do to maximize their experience.

12 ways to wow your hybrid audience

As one-half of your audience, physical attendees must be entertained throughout your event. They made an effort to travel to your venue, book a hotel, and show up on the big day. Now, it’s up to you as the event planner to make sure it was all worthwhile.

But at the same time, connecting the in-person experience with the virtual component is one of the biggest hybrid event challenges facing the event industry. It’s vital that you be able to bridge the gap between both audiences and deliver a unified experience without sacrificing engagement on either side.

No matter what event you’ve planned—whether it be a hybrid conference, trade show, or convention—their satisfaction is your responsibility. Luckily, there are plenty of hybrid event ideas that’ll impress all types of event attendees:

1. Host hands-on workshops

Smiling young man stands at whiteboard while pasting a sticky note to it next to colleagues

One of the reasons people attend in-person events is to experience things they might otherwise miss out on. Workshops, for instance, give physical attendees an opportunity to learn a unique skill or try their hand at something new. Plus, organizing workshops can help break the monotony of listening to guest speakers and panelists talk on stage. 

More importantly, they keep your in-person audience busy and increase engagement. Make sure potential attendees know in advance what types of workshops you’re offering to maximize the number of participants and garner more interest in the event. 

But don’t worry: Your online audience can participate in workshops, too. A virtual mixology class, for instance, invites attendees to learn the art of making cocktails from the comfort of their homes. Arrange for an at-home mixology kit to be sent to anyone who signs up for the workshop to ensure they make the most of the experience.

2. Invite well-known speakers and famous guests

Large crowd of people watching speaker on stage under bright lights at event

It’s no secret that big names attract big crowds. And the bigger the crowd, the higher chance an event organizer has of pulling off a successful event. That’s why well-known guests are another great hybrid event idea.

Invite a famous keynote speaker to your event. Or hold a hybrid meet-and-greet where event attendees can connect with their favorite celebrities and influencers in person or virtually. Either way, promoting your high-profile guests of honor will incentivize attendance, which may translate into a more engaging audience experience.

Make sure you stream event content featuring your VIP guests. Virtual attendees will be disappointed if they tune into your stream just to find out the reason they registered would only be speaking in person.

3. Reward participants with swag bags

Gold gift bags lined up on a table

Event swag is one of the most basic perks of attending an event, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important. Hand it out as physical attendees arrive, or deliver them after registration—either way, a swag bag is a great way to reward your audience for their interest in your event.

Don’t be afraid to offer exclusive swag too. Items like water bottles, notebooks, candy, lanyards, and hand sanitizer aren’t just nice gifts. They’re also practical for face-to-face networking.

Digital swag options are also a great way to show your gratitude to virtual attendees. Here’s a tip: Coordinate swag giveaways with your sponsors. Promo codes, digital coupons, and other sponsored items can help you drive satisfaction and sponsor engagement simultaneously.

4. Create hybrid breakout rooms

You can create in-person and virtual networking opportunities separately with ease. The real challenge is finding a way to put the two together seamlessly.

Dedicate specific rooms on-site where your physical audience can quickly launch a breakout session with a virtual attendee. Equip these rooms with screens, webcams, and any other accessories they’ll need to stay up and running. Ensure all tablets and devices have installed the event management platform and are loaded to the log-in screen so that no time is wasted getting started.

5. Offer live entertainment

Woman with light hair sits at desk with laptop with musicians two musicians playing guitars on screen
Woman working on computer at wooden desk

Over the course of your planned festivities, it’s a good hybrid event idea to give attendees a break from event content. What better way to keep people engaged than with live entertainment?

Between live bands, musicians, artists, comedians, and magicians, the possibilities are nearly endless. These hybrid event ideas appeal to many different audiences, which makes them a great way to ensure everybody gets a taste of something they can enjoy before jumping back into the ebb and flow of event content.

But don’t forget about your online audience! Be sure to stream these live experiences for anyone watching from home. Plus, this allows you to record the content and repurpose it at a later date.

6. Bridge the gap with a hybrid event app

Young woman and man stand next to each other and point to mobile phone screen event app

Mobile event apps are an especially important tool for connecting remote and in-person audiences. As an extension of your event management platform, the app establishes a common ground where all attendees can access event information.

Better yet, mobile event apps are great for networking. In-person attendees can connect with virtual guests and vice versa no matter where they’re located at the venue or in the comfort of their home. With just a few taps, participants can launch chat rooms, exchange information, and hop on a call.

7. Plan networking activities

Delegates Networking At Conference Drinks Reception

Networking is important for event attendees. In fact, a Markletic survey indicates that networking is one of the top reasons people attend in-person, hybrid, or virtual events, second only to educational purposes. 

Your virtual guests are no different. They want to make new connections, expand their network, and discover new opportunities just the same as any in-person attendee. Luckily, event technology makes it easy for you to facilitate conversations between in-person and virtual participants.

Try hosting a virtual cocktail party where guests can get to know each other over drinks. If the session goes well, they can easily keep the conversation going in a hybrid breakout room.

8. Leverage pre-recorded event content to your advantage

Businesswoman and businessmen during online seminar

When a session ends, broadcast pre-recorded videos during the break to keep virtual attendees engaged. This can help you avoid awkward lulls in the live production and hold onto everyone’s attention as the next session’s speakers get ready to hit the stage. 

Here’s a tip: If you’re hosting a multi-day hybrid event, package together a highlight reel of the biggest moments so far. Or promote event content that has yet to generate excitement and keep your online audience hungry for more.

9. Connect attendees to virtual sponsorship booths

Computer screen showing virtual sponsorship booths on event app screen

Big-name sponsorships play a big role when it comes to attracting attendees to your event. When people see a brand name they recognize and admire attached to yours, it lends credibility to your organization, but also gives attendees an idea of what they can expect.

Make sure it’s easy for virtual guests to experience everything your sponsors have to offer just as they would if they were at the venue themselves. Virtual booths or breakout rooms, for instance, give your partners a digital space where they can connect with your audience. 

10. Ensure inclusivity with real-time translations

A group of happy people sit at a conference table with global flags in front of them

When you open up your event to a virtual audience, you’re really opening it up to the world. And if you’re hosting an event without borders, it’s wise to make sure every virtual attendee can enjoy the experience. With virtual event technology, you can translate audio in real-time to an attendee’s preferred language. 

The Webex Events mobile app, for example, allows you to make your event more inclusive without needing to budget for costly translators. The event app automatically provides real-time translation to ensure every person in attendance tunes in and enjoys the show.

11. Provide a place for everyone to come together as a community

Computer screen showing community feature on event app

How do you fit tens of thousands of physical and virtual guests into a single room? The answer is event technology. Using an event management platform, you can offer attendees a place to get together and meet online.

Whether joining through desktop devices, smartphones, or tablets, your audience can still interact with one another through this digital forum. Here, they can build a community, share ideas, and make new connections regardless of their location.

12. Allow virtual attendees to participate during in-person sessions

Man in well lit home office on left of screen siting in front of a computer displaying attendees of a virtual event on a virtual event platform

There’s nothing more frustrating for a virtual attendee than sitting in on a session without any way to participate. If remote attendees grow tired of this, it’s only a matter of time before they drop off the stream and call it a day. 

Look for a hybrid event platform with the interactive tools you need to make sure this doesn’t happen. Live Q&A, for instance, allows your online audience to ask questions during presentations just like they were sitting in the auditorium. On the other hand, live polling is a great way to give everyone a chance to voice their opinions and gather immediate feedback around a topic.

Execute your hybrid event ideas with Webex Events

No matter how engaging or creative your hybrid event ideas may be, they’re all for nothing if you lack the right event technology. With Webex Events, you gain an event management platform that turns your creativity into reality.

Schedule a free demo to see how Webex Events can take your hybrid events to the next level.

Caitlin Barrett
Caitlin Barrett

Caitlin is a Content Marketing manager at Webex Events (formerly Socio). As a copywriter turned graphic designer turned content marketer, she loves combining engaging content and good design to create best-in-class experiences for brands and their customers.