Hybrid events are making a big splash in the events industry. Event organizers no longer have to choose between virtual and in-person events when they can combine both audience groups into one dynamic hybrid experience.

What does this mean for hybrid event speakers? They’re tasked with a new challenge: engaging and interacting with not one but two audiences

If you’re looking for ways to set your speakers up for success at your next hybrid event, you’ve come to the right place. In this blog, you’ll learn ways to prepare your speakers for success and keep your virtual and in-person audiences engaged from start to finish! 

The Importance of Virtual Attendee Engagement for Hybrid Events

Before we dive into those hybrid event speaker tips, let’s talk about why this is important. Attendee engagement is paramount to your hybrid event success. Hybrid events help event organizers reach a much broader audience. Instead of limiting your audience to only in-person attendees, you have the opportunity to reach an entire virtual audience! 

It’s likely that the majority of your hybrid audience is made up of your virtual attendees, so keeping them engaged and interacting is essential. Ultimately, your reach, impact, and ROI hang in the balance if you skimp on ways to engage both attendee groups. 

Hybrid event speakers are in a unique position when it comes to attendee engagement. The energy they bring to the in-person component of your event must translate just as well to your virtual audience.

Get ready to learn our top hybrid event speaker tips, plus examples from one of the industry’s first and most successful hybrid events

Let’s get into it! 

1. Provide event speakers with opportunities to practice and rehearse

Let’s face it: whether you’re an event organizer, attendee, or speaker, hybrid events are an entirely different experience from typical virtual or in-person only events. As we all adjust to this new way of experiencing events, practice is crucial!

When your hybrid event speakers take the stage, they have a lot to think about including how to engage both virtual and in-person audiences and how to navigate a virtual event platform. To avoid any confusion during your event, make sure to provide opportunities for your speakers to rehearse and practice with your virtual event platform. 

The National Speaker Association (NSA)’s first-ever hybrid event is a great example of how to spin up a creative solution to prepare speakers ahead of a hybrid event. During a typical year, NSA’s Winter Workshop includes three days packed full of high-energy presentations, culminating with an exciting keynote panel. 

When the NSA team decided to take their event hybrid, they shifted the event’s structure to instead host weekly virtual warm-ups throughout the month leading up to the event. This helped both their speakers and attendees acclimate to the Webex Events Platform.

Simply put: practice makes (nearly) perfect. Ensuring at least one rehearsal session before your hybrid event will help put you and your speakers at ease. There might be small hiccups day-of that are out of your control, but putting in safeguards to help make everyone feel prepared beforehand will pay off in the long run. 

To read more about NSA’s hybrid event success and how their virtual warm ups helped boost ticket sales, download the full case study here

2. Acknowledge and engage your virtual audience

If you tuned into an hybrid event from your computer and the speakers only acknowledged the in-person audience or looked at the in-person attendees, you likely wouldn’t feel engaged or inspired–– you might feel left out and leave the event altogether. We wouldn’t blame you! 

To craft an amazing event experience for your audiences, it’s important to coach your speakers on how to successfully engage both virtual and in-person attendees. Hint: it’s a balance! Just like your speakers acknowledge the audience members on-site, they should make consistent eye contact with the cameras to help make virtual attendees feel truly a part of the event.  

 “On-site [at Winter Workshop 2021], you’ll notice a lot of the speakers spoke directly to the camera, even though they were with a live audience, they still addressed the people at home. But they also pulled reactions from people in the room, which helped to bring the energy up, so it was kind of the best of both worlds,” says Rhette Baughman, Chief Revenue Officer at NSA. 

Check out a few ways to help your virtual audience feel a part of the event: 

  • Break the ice. At the start of a presentation, speakers can ask virtual audience members to type in the chat where they’re tuning in from, what aspect of the event they’re most excited about, or keep things fun and ask about their favorite animal!
  • Make eye contact. While looking into a camera isn’t exactly what we consider traditional eye contact, this small gesture can truly help attendees feel acknowledged and included. 
  • Interact through your virtual event platform. Ask attendees to submit questions to speakers through the platform’s chat and Q&A functionalities. Speakers can respond directly to virtual attendees live and answer any questions they might have.

3. Strongly encourage hybrid speakers to present live 

Nothing beats the energy that comes from a live presentation. While some speakers might not be able to present live for extenuating circumstances, aim to have all of your speakers present live, whether they’re delivering their presentation on-site or virtually. 

While you can certainly incorporate pre-recorded sponsor or promotional videos into your event’s content, when it comes to your speakers, live presentations are the way to go. Your attendees are at your hybrid event because they’re seeking an engaging and immersive experience. Live speaker presentations are a great way to help them achieve this! 

When NSA decided to transition their event to a hybrid format, they knew that authenticity had to be at the core of the event. To help make the event’s presentations feel more engaging, the team opted to have all of their speakers present live at the main event. 

“Our hosts were really good about keeping an eye on the cameras, specifically talking to the people at home, and I think it definitely worked. I think the in-person and virtual attendees felt like they were all together,” says Nikki Harris, Manager of Member Experience at NSA.

4. Delight hybrid event attendees with engagement strategies 

Picture this: your in-person attendees are seated at tables in the venue that you so carefully selected for your hybrid event. Your virtual attendees are tuning in from home, perhaps enjoying their favorite snack or trying on the swag you sent in advance. Both of your audiences are highly engaged, having fun, and soaking in all of the knowledge your hybrid speakers have to offer. 

Sounds pretty great, right?

Getting here means equipping your speakers with the right virtual event engagement strategies to get your audience fully immersed in your hybrid event. As you plan ways to engage your audiences, don’t forget to think from the perspective of both in-person and virtual attendees.

Here some ways your speakers can engage your hybrid audiences using your virtual event platform: 

  • Connect through chat. Ask topic related questions through chat and give shoutouts to both in-person and virtual attendees who respond. 
  • Gamification. In advance of your speakers’ presentations, ask them to provide a phrase or word that you can incorporate into the event’s game. This will encourage audiences to engage with your speakers’ content. 
  • Polls. Projecting polls live on-screen during speakers’ presentations is another great way to generate excitement among virtual and in-person attendees. Plus, you can provide real-time insights with your presenters following the event. 
  • Live Q&A. As your speakers deliver their presentations, encourage attendees to engage with the content through Q&A functionality. Presenters can then respond to questions in real-time!
  • Video Rooms. Following presentations, consider facilitating roundtables for attendees to get 1:1 engagement with your speakers. 

The NSA team partnered with Webex Events’ Professional Services Team to build out a robust event platform with a variety of features to maximize attendee engagement. By leveraging Webex Events’ gamification, Social Wall, networking, and sponsorship promotional features, NSA crafted a highly engaging hybrid event. 

The Compete game went over really well for our members, and it worked two-fold: It helped to keep them engaged –– we actually had a lot of comments in our post-event surveys of individuals saying how much they liked it -– and it helped us push attendees toward the sponsors, people who may gloss over the sponsors in other situations,” says Matt Longdon, Manager of Marketing and Communications at NSA. 

Enhance Your Hybrid Event Experience with Webex Events

In addition to top-notch speakers who can successfully engage both in-person and virtual audiences, your event needs a robust virtual event platform to power an amazing attendee experience. 

NSA partnered with Webex Events to bring their first-ever hybrid event to life. The results? A seamless experience for attendees, speakers, and sponsors alike. 

“What sold us on Webex Events was the engagement and the member experience components, and they can all be in one place. It had all the pieces that we liked from different platforms, so when we found Webex Events we were like, ‘This is all in one!’” said Baughman. 

Webex Events is an end-to-end event management platform built to bring your virtual, in-person, or hybrid events to life! 

Power your next hybrid event with these key features: 

  • Seamless 1:1 networking between all attendees
  • Chat, Q&A, gamification, polling, and more features to facilitate increased engagement and participation
  • Complete branding and customization of event pages
  • Quick and easy event app building
  • Customized sponsorship opportunities
  • State-of-the-art flexible video streaming and RTMP player
  • Advanced reporting and analytics with a 360-degree view of event data and metrics
  • World-class support 
  • Professional services to power your hybrid event
  • And more

Are you ready to give Webex Events a spin? Schedule a personalized demo today with our Webex Events Event Experts.

Experience an actual hybrid event. Webex Events’ first-ever hybrid event was a blast–– and you can still be a part of it! Register here to hear from hybrid event experts and discover how Webex Events powers immersive on-demand experiences.