Hybrid events are on the rise, and this should come as no surprise. They allow you to roll all the perks of a purely in-person or virtual approach into one unified educational experience. But they do come with a potential pitfall: failing to deliver on virtual audience engagement.
Today, we’ll share a few tips to help hybrid event speakers captivate their virtual audience from afar. But first:
Why Virtual Attendee Engagement Matters for Hybrid Events
You don’t need us to tell you that audience engagement is crucial to the success of any event—be it in-person, virtual, or hybrid. So why should we address engaging virtual attendees at hybrid events in particular?
As the world of events went virtual in response to COVID-19, we saw that this approach was not a temporary inconvenience to tolerate. On the contrary, it’s something we should embrace. Going virtual lets us reach new audiences, opening the doors for unprecedented levels exposure and engagement.
The potential of hybrid events is even greater. But as speakers face in-person spectators once more, they run the risk of forgetting about what will likely be the majority of their audience: those tuning in virtually.
In other words: failing to engage remote attendees does a disservice to the largest contingent of your hybrid event. Reach, impact, and—ultimately—ROI will suffer.
Don’t worry. Over the past year and longer, we’ve learned what it takes to command the attention of remote attendees. And we won’t leave the tools and techniques we picked up by the wayside as events hybridize.
An effective speaker can combat a sense of voyeurism and FOMO among remote attendees. With these tips in mind, you’ll be equipped to engage a virtual audience at your next hybrid event.
Our MediaCenter2.0 tool allows your speakers to engage with audiences both remote and virtual, but here are a few non-technology based methods to keep your learners and attendees engaged.
Acknowledge Virtual Attendees Early
There are two kinds of teachers.
There are those who show up to class right on time and head out the moment the bell rings. Then there are the teachers who arrive to class early, strike up conversations with students, and invite them to their office for a friendly chat after class. Which do you suppose is the more effective instructor?
Ultimately, this is more than a matter of friendliness; it’s about building engagement. The simple act of acknowledgment prevents virtual audiences from feeling like onlookers.
Perhaps you aren’t a teacher by trade. But everyone who engages in public speaking is, in that very moment, teaching.
Take a cue from the playbook of the best teachers. Take time at the beginning of your hybrid event, and take a moment to acknowledge the faces behind the screens. Engaging in a brief dialogue with the virtual attendees will pay dividends.
Break the Ice
But how exactly should you go about acknowledging them? Try a few icebreakers.
The mere mention of the term ‘icebreaker’ can illicit moans and groans from an audience. Don’t describe them as such. Instead, find a more organic way to break the ice.
Educations works best when it’s a dialogue. Communication should flow both ways, if only for a few moments. To get the dialogue going, start out with a couple questions directed at virtual attendees:
Where are you tuning in from?
What’s the weather like there?
What topics do you hope we’ll cover today?
Sure, our first two question seem a whole lot like small talk. That’s because they are. And is there anything wrong with that?
When the world went digital due to COVID-19, we found that what we missed most was human interaction. We could live without the commute, but we grew to miss little exchanges in the halls or around the water cooler. And yes—we even missed small talk.
We don’t want to wax nostalgic. But we do want to emphasize this: small talk is innately human. And when your virtual attendees recognize you as human, they’ll feel more engaged.
Most hybrid event configurations keep the microphones of virtual attendees muted. So how will they respond to your questions?
Chat Box & Polling
Any good hybrid event configuration should have an engagement tool. This could take the form of a polling feature or simply a chat box.
Before the event begins, find out what engagement tools you have at your disposal and give some thought to how you’ll employ them. You should consider using them in support of your icebreaker questions and sprinkling them throughout the presentation as well.
Let’s return to the classroom analogy. Think back to your days in school. On the (rare, we’re sure) occasions when your attention started to wane, few things could jolt you back to reality like the teacher calling on you.
The aim of the chat box and polling features isn’t exactly to put your learners on the spot. Instead, they engage your virtual audience by injecting an element of interactivity and community into the hybrid event experience.
When implemented well, both of these tools will make your remote attendees feel every bit as involved as in-person participants.
Make Eye Contact
Alright, alright. You can’t truly make eye contact with your virtual audience. But you can approximate the sensation of eye contact by occasionally addressing the camera rather than in-person attendees.
Honestly, this may be the most difficult thing for speakers to adjust to. Directing your gaze evenly among the audience is one of the most foundational tenets of good public speaking. It can be counter-intuitive to address an inanimate object such as a camera when there sit real, living and breathing people right in front of you.
But this is something you’ll have to get over if you hope to keep virtual attendees engaged. Keep the location of the camera in mind, and take the time to look at it occasionally—especially when responding to remote questions and comments.
Don’t overdo it, though; just an occasional glance at the camera can go a long way.
Tell Your Story
We’ll close with a bit of advice that will help you engage audiences in general—whether dealing with a hybrid audience or not.
After all, the best way to keep virtual attendees engaged is simply great public speaking. If you can captivate a live audience right in front of you, with a little guidance you’ll have no problem doing the same to audiences both near and far.
To engage your virtual audience, take part in the oldest art form: storytelling.
Time and time again, neurologists have proven that our brains are most engaged when invested in a narrative. This is why you’ll be on the edge of your seat during an action-packed movie, but fall asleep on your text books.
Narratives are a tried-and-true engagement tool that every speaker should employ. They need not take up the majority of your presentation to be effective. But they’re a great place to start.
Use a story to showcase your humanity and reel your audience in. Just make sure it ties in to the ultimate point you’re trying to make!
Create Engaging Hybrid Events with CommPartners
CommPartners powers enduring educational experiences. Our award-winning Elevate LMS gives you all the tools you need to maximize the impact of your next hybrid event. Allow our expert Event Producers to make sure it goes off without a hitch.
When you’re ready for unprecedented levels of reach, revenue, and retention, we can make it happen with our e-learning and events expertise.
The website English Language and Usage defines “feeding the dragon” as the pouring of resources into a self-perpetuatingsituation. In business terms, organizations develop self-perpetuating resources that we nurture and evolve to provide continuity and serve our communities.
A learning management system (LMS) is often on the leading edge of our engagement strategy to educate, inform, and support our stakeholders. We should use this resource as our knowledge hub that facilitates learning whenever and wherever it occurs. This is especially true in the age of virtual conferences and the emergence of hybrid events.
The past year has changed how organizations reach and engage with their audience. By being forced into virtual events, they have expanded their audience and reached previously un-engaged participants. These events are often hosted in separate conference sites as a one-time occurrence. But this approach results in a lack of exposure and momentum for current and future organizational online education initiatives.
Integrating your virtual and hybrid events into an LMS pays long-term learning and, depending on your pricing strategy, monetary dividends. Provided below are 5 key benefits of offering your online event through your LMS:
Virtual and hybrid events represent the intersection between place-based and online learning. Utilizing your LMS will allow you to leverage a perpetual model where each engagement builds upon the foundation and continuity the LMS provides.
As registrants and then attendees access the conference, they will be able to see, register and access other LMS-hosted programs, such as e-learning courses or webinars.
All session content will already be hosted within the LMS and simply needs to be edited for post-conference access. Otherwise, content from a separate conference site needs to be migrated, requiring hours of unnecessary work.
Within an LMS, sessions can include surveys, tests, certificates and credits. Typically, not all of these features are available in a separate virtual conference environment.
Hosting a virtual or hybrid conference within an LMS allows organizations to utilize the single sign-on and authentication already in place.
Pouring resources into a one-time conference site continues an event-to-event approach. Utilizing your LMS allows you to take advantage of a self-perpetuating model and synergizes with your online education. It feeds the LMS dragon!
CommPartners has managed virtual and hybrid events for over 12 years. Our Elevate LMS is the ideal platform to host your next virtual or hybrid event. To learn more, contact Meghan Gowen at email@example.com
By Rich Finstein Past: CEO of CommPartners Present: President, LMS and Managed Services Divisions, Cadmium
“Innovation is the unrelenting drive to break the status quo and develop anew where few have dared to go.“– Steven Jeffes, Marketing and Business Expert
As you may know, CommPartners, along with three other companies—CadmiumCD, Ethos CE, and Warpwire—have formed a new entity called Cadmium.
The formal mission of Cadmium is to simplify the production of events and maximize the value of online learning with a single, flexible platform designed to capture the chemistry of people, ideas, and knowledge. At its core is the idea that all knowledge, whether created and shared onsite, online, or in a hybrid format is best offered through a unified strategy and a single platform. This is the basis for CommPartners moving forward at this time and becoming a division of Cadmium.
Our plan over the coming months is to incorporate our Elevate LMS, virtual conference, and webinar platforms with CadmiumCD’s event tech and Warpwire’s multimedia tools to give our clients the ability to leverage an enduring, integrated strategy for their education and community engagement. We feel organizations that embrace a comprehensive and integrated approach for onsite, online, and hybrid education will thrive. The pandemic has had a profound effect on education offerings and has expedited the convergence of conferences and online learning.
Last week, we formally announced the launch of the new website, www.gocadmium.com and began to change our email signatures, social sites, and other engagement tools. We are actively working with our new colleagues and beginning to collaborate as a single entity. These are new and exciting times.
As we transition, I want our clients to know that our leadership team and our entire staff will continue to be there for you as we always have. My CommPartners colleagues are actively working within the new framework and enjoying the opportunities that have come with our expanded size and impact in the market.
While we are excited to move forward, we recognize that with all personal and professional transitions, there is an ending and a new beginning. We started CommPartners 28 years ago in my house as a provider of fax broadcast services. National Association of Home Builders was our first client and we continue to support their education needs today. It’s been quite a journey to get to this point.
I want to thank you all for your years of support and friendship. Thanks to our staff, both past and present, who enabled us to thrive. To our families, thank you for always being there for us in good times and in bad. Finally, thank you to the association community for your support and trust over so many years.
We look forward to beginning anew, and are excited about what’s next!
Imagine going to Amazon to purchase a new book and there is no search feature. You have to scroll through every single item Amazon sells until you come across the book you wanted. Phew, nightmare over. Not only does Amazon have a search bar, but it anticipates what you’re looking for, recommends what you might want next based on previous purchases, and items are organized into categories so you can easily search for what you’re looking for on your own.
Continuing our more in-depth look into CommPartners, CEO, Rich Feinstein’s The Evolution of the Association LMS: 10 Considerations for 2020, let’s talk about organizing content. Whether you’ve just implemented your LMS and you’re starting fresh with your organization system, or you’ve had it for years and you’re learning catalog could use a critical eye, a good taxonomy strategy is essential.
For many associations, their LMS is the primary source for education and connection since the pandemic started and their digital assets are growing. Creating a simple way to search and find content is essential for learners. There are several taxonomy and organization strategies to optimize searching and presentation of content:
“The more robust your taxonomy is, the better you’re empowering the LMS to meet your goals and changing goals,” Arianne Urena, Elevate Implementation and Project Manager. Arianne recommends establishing a taxonomy strategy as your first step when implementing your LMS. Consider these questions when developing your strategy:
What content is offered on your site? Make a list of everything.
What is the priority of each offering? Start with the essential items for your learners and then add in the supplemental pieces.
Which assets are revenue generators? Mark those.
Who is your audience? Are they familiar with an LMS? New members? Old members? How are they accessing the LMS? Member role? Job type? Apply the necessary categories.
Use case: How will they navigate? How long does it take for them to find an asset? How do you correct any navigation delays?
What is the ideal layout for your content on your LMS? What is the first thing a learner sees on the site? Second, third, fourth?
Once you’ve organized your content and you’ve established a robust taxonomy strategy, you can apply other organizational methods:
One-click imagery or terms: Make finding content a snap by organizing it into categories and requiring only “one-click” to navigate.
Keyword search: Include a keyword search bar on your LMS site so learners can search through your well organized content library.
Personalized learning paths: To help your learners get started on their learning journey and navigate through all the content options, provide them with personalized learning pathways based on career paths, member roles, etc. with the individualized attention of an “advisor” from your staff. To learn how to create these paths, join us for our upcoming webinar Creating Personalized Learning Journeys.
Self-Assessment Quiz: This is your chance to become the advisor. CommPartners’ Elevate has a new feature that allows administrators to gauge competency and make personalized content recommendations to learners based on their quiz results. Click here to find out more about the self-assessment quiz feature.
Creating a simple and easy-to-follow path to content within your LMS will eliminate frustration while encouraging your learners to register and keep coming back for more. To learn more about organization options for your LMS or Elevate, contact Meghan Gowen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learners, meet your new advisor. Elevate admins can now make personalized content recommendations to learners through a Self-Assessment Quiz. The assessment gauges a learners’ knowledge of specific focus areas or quiz categories. Upon completing the assessment, the learner is presented with a list of asset recommendations designed to improve their knowledge level within each focus area. Lower scores will offer learners beginner-level courses, and higher scores will offer more advanced courses.
As the learner completes the recommended products, they are encouraged to repeat the quiz to identify areas they have improved in and target where they still need to continue their journey based on their scores.
This is a great onboarding tool for new members to gauge a baseline in certain competencies while helping them sift through your association’s extensive learning catalog. It’s not limited to just new members, anyone learning a new skill can take a quiz to receive individualized attention, “introduce the quiz at any time as a tool to provide a more nuanced and personalized learning experience for end-users,” says Eve Finstein, Elevate Implementation Manager.
To learn how to set up a Self-Assessment Quiz, click here. If you’re interested in learning how to integrate learning path strategies into your LMS or more about Elevate, contact Meghan Gowen at email@example.com.
Going Virtual with Kate is a weekly chat on Facebook Live with CommPartners’ Kate Ratcliffe. Kate discusses popular topics, answers questions, and shares ideas about all things virtual events during this time when many organizations are going virtual with their events. We know this decision can be a daunting task that brings with it many questions, especially for organizations that have never hosted an event online and now have to transition an entire conference to a virtual platform.
Find past episodes of Going Virtual with Kate right here, after they’ve aired on our Facebook page. Catch Kate live every Thursday at 4 p.m. EST on our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/CommPartners.