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virtual events

How To Decide If A Hybrid Holiday Party Is the Best Idea For Your Team

If your company is planning a holiday party this year, one of the first questions you will face is whether to host it online or as a traditional in-person celebration. But why not offer both in one experience?

That’s right, we’re talking about a hybrid workplace holiday party. The ultimate way to provide your team total autonomy in how they celebrate the holiday season with their colleagues, either online or in-person. 

A hybrid holiday party could be a great choice for your team, but there are unique hurdles and considerations involved when planning any sort of hybrid gathering. 

To help expedite your holiday party planning, let’s explore if a hybrid holiday party is right for your team and our tips for hosting a hybrid party will delight everyone. 

How To Decide If You Should Host a Hybrid Holiday Party 

What is the true purpose of a company holiday party? To celebrate your team, of course.

Your team members and their preferences should be top-of-mind throughout every step of your holiday party planning. A hybrid party could give them the much-needed freedom of choice for how to engage in the festivities. This is even more important if your company has a number of geographically dispersed locations that usually didn’t get to celebrate the end of the year together.

To understand if a hybrid holiday party is a good option for your team, we recommend you directly ask them. Gauge whether they are interested in a remote company holiday party, if they’d rather celebrate the season from the comfort of your office, or if they are flexible for either option. Also, check on their preferred activities during a holiday party in their preferred format. 

Beyond your team preferences, the following considerations will also impact whether a hybrid holiday party is a good fit for your company. Of course, these questions are also valid when planning a virtual holiday party, but they are amplified in hybrid settings:

  • How geographically dispersed is your team? You need to find a time that works for your whole team to meet, which could be difficult if your team spans multiple time zones.
  • Will in-person attendees drop out on the day of? Unforeseen circumstances like extreme weather or individual team member needs could lead to last-minute cancellations for the in-person event. 
  • What is your holiday party budget? Virtual parties can be more affordable than an in-person equivalent, especially if your team is known to host extravagant parties at exclusive (and expensive to book) locations. 

3 Tips for Hosting a Hybrid Holiday Party for Work

If your team decides that a hybrid holiday party will best fulfill everyone’s needs and work within your budget, there are a few planning considerations to be aware of.

First, familiarize yourself with the steps for planning an engaging virtual holiday party, which we detailed recently on the blog. Then, follow these best practices to ensure you plan a hybrid party that creates a cohesive and fun experience for everyone

Create a Seamless In-Person and Virtual Experience

The worst way to plan a hybrid party is to prioritize the in-person experience and simply add an option for people to stream the experience—leaving them to sit and stare at their screen as the in-person guests mix and mingle.

Everyone at your holiday party should have the same activities and opportunities, regardless of how they choose to join. This starts with your lineup of activities, and we share 10 workplace holiday party games great for a virtual or hybrid holiday party

Further build this sense of cohesion by replicating your in-person experiences for an online setting. If you plan to serve food and drink at your party, mail your virtual guests gift cards to acquire their own snacks. Or, send them goodies beforehand. If you have a photo booth at your event, consider creating custom webcam backgrounds to replicate a photo booth experience for your virtual guests. 

Designate a Delegate for Virtual Guests

For your hybrid holiday party to work, you need at least one on-site team member dedicated to engaging with the virtual attendees and ensuring they feel part of the experience. This person can monitor for messages from the remote attendees, help them overcome any communication difficulties, and grab the attention of the in-person group when needed.

The delegate will also be vital in helping orchestrate any of the games or activities you choose to participate in. 

Create Breakout Spaces to Mingle

At a traditional in-person holiday party, your team members often flock to small group conversations that they casually hop in and out of at their leisure. At a hybrid party, you do not want your in-person attendees to completely ignore your virtual guests.

In your virtual event platform, create breakout rooms with conversation prompts and others with room themes for your virtual attendees to join. Then, set up a few laptops and webcams throughout your event space for the in-person guests to come up to, chat with the virtual guests, and move through the computers over the course of the event. Again, your virtual guest delegate will be helpful to encourage the in-person guests to engage with the virtual attendees.

Hybrid Event Technology Enables Fulfilling Holiday Parties

We expect many teams will explore hybrid workplace and personal celebrations this year, be it a hybrid Christmas party, Kwanzaa celebration, or general holiday shindig. These event planners will need to overcome an unfamiliar set of challenges, but the fact is that the future of work is hybrid. And the future of celebrations will likely be hybrid, too.

By hosting a hybrid holiday party, your team can learn how to best overcome the hurdles of these gatherings and build a foundation to plan all of your workplace gatherings in 2022.

One of the essential ways to enable a successful hybrid event is to invest in technology that was created with your team’s experience in mind. Social hour was built to enable genuine engagement, with the features and capabilities your team needs to host a successful workplace party.

Learn more about what makes Social hour the ideal platform for virtual workplace holiday parties and try it out for free today.

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virtual events

How to Throw a Virtual Holiday Party Your Employees Will Love

What will company holiday parties look like in 2021? 

Despite an initial revival of in-person events this year, few tech companies will host in-person holiday celebrations in an effort to protect the health of their teams. Instead, more brands will host virtual holiday parties this year, in which the usual festivities like a gift exchange, holiday games, and company messages are coordinated through an online event platform—and we expect to see some incredibly inventive celebrations.

To help you adapt your company holiday party for an online environment, let’s explore how to host a virtual holiday party that your team will actually want to join. 

How to Plan a Virtual Workplace Holiday Party in Seven Steps

We recommend you start planning your virtual holiday party at least three weeks out from your potential party date. If you have less time than that, though, don’t worry—these seven steps will fast-track your ability to plan an engaging online holiday party for your team.

Step 1: Designate a Lead

Just like any other event planning process for your team, you should designate one person to oversee the holiday party planning process. In most cases, this will be a member of your human resources or executive support teams.

This event planning lead will help manage deadlines, pull in team support as needed, and partner with various departments to gain the necessary approvals and resources (like a budget). 

If you are designated the lead for your holiday party planning—don’t worry, it’s easier than you might think, and you don’t have to do everything yourself. Which leads us to our next step…

Step 2: Form a Holiday Party Planning Committee

Depending on the size of your company, the holiday planning lead should create a committee with at least one or two other team members. Again, these team members will most likely be from human resources or administrative support teams, because they typically have experience with workplace event planning.

However, encourage any member of your team to join the committee if they would like to. The holiday season may be the favorite time of year for some of your colleagues, and they can infuse a natural excitement and sense of delight into your planning.

Step 3: Survey Your Team’s Holiday Party Wishes

Do you want to know the not-so-secret way to ensure you host a great workplace holiday party? Use feedback from your team members to guide your planning.

The worst way to throw a holiday party is to force everyone to attend at an assigned day and time that they had no influence in choosing, especially if it is after normal business hours. 

Create a quick survey for your team through Google Forms or your preferred surveying tool. At a minimum, cover these essential areas:

  • Would you like to attend a company holiday party? Or would you prefer time off, a holiday bonus, or a charitable gift in your name instead?
  • What are your ideal days of the week and times for a holiday party?
  • What days or times can you not attend a holiday party?
  • Are you interested in a voluntary company-wide gift exchange or similar activity?
  • What would you like to do at the virtual holiday party? Select your top 3 preferences:
    • Open conversation with colleagues in a large group setting
    • Open conversation with colleagues in small-groups
    • Structured, longer group activities 
    • Short, high-energy activities that take just a few minutes each
    • Gift exchange
    • Hands-on cooking or crafting class
    • Other (please explain):
  • Is there anything else we should know to make this event great for you? 

In addition to your survey results, have 1:1 conversations with team members to further explore their hopes for the holiday party. All of this information will help you understand how many team members will attend, gather ideas for the best virtual holiday party activities to host, and the technical requirements to accomplish them.

Step 4: Pick a Virtual Holiday Party Platform

The technology you choose to host your virtual holiday party can easily make or break the experience. Keep your attendee wishes top-of-mind as you explore options, and find a solution that enables your attendees to meaningfully connect and mingle. 

You will ask many questions similar to what you’d ask when picking an ideal virtual conference platform, including:

  • What type of customization is available?
  • How many attendees can this platform support?
  • Does the price scale with attendance?
  • Are there custom breakout rooms for attendees to network? Is there a limit to the number of these rooms?
  • Are there built-in networking components?

Step 5 (Optional): Designate a Theme

If desired, you can now pick a theme for your holiday party to influence the activities you host (we’ll dive into that next), what your team will wear, and how you design your invitations.

A theme is a “nice-to-have” element that is completely optional. If this is your first year hosting a virtual holiday party, it may be best to skip the theme and focus solely on meeting the needs of your attendees (unless a theme is a must-have for them). 

If you’re looking for inspiration on what theme to pick for a holiday workplace party, this article has a handful of themes and activities you can explore.

Step 6: Build an Agenda of Activities

This is where the real fun happens! Now that you have everyone’s feedback in-hand, and know what functionality is available to you, your holiday party planning committee can determine your holiday party’s activities.

Save the first 10 minutes of your holiday party for everyone to log-in and get familiarized with the platform. Then, kick off your celebration with a brief welcome from a member of your company leadership or your holiday party planning committee.

Depending on how long your party is and what your team has expressed in your pre-event conversations, you should offer a combination of open networking rooms and structured activities to appeal to the range of your team’s needs.

To help you, we’ve created a list of 10 workplace virtual holiday party games that work great online, with details on how to approach each of them. 

Step 7: Invite team members

You’re almost there! The last step to planning a holiday party is to get the word out to your team.

Ideally, you should send emails to each employee to personally invite them to the holiday party. Include the date, time, and log-in instructions, as well as any details about the series of events and how they should prepare. Send a calendar invitation to all team members once the email invitations are sent. 

Ask everyone to RSVP as soon as they know whether or not they can attend. Follow up with anyone you have not heard back two days after sending your initial email and invitations. 

Throw Your Best Holiday Party Ever on Social hour

By using feedback from your teammates to build your virtual holiday party experience, you are more likely to host an event that your team will genuinely love.

If this is your first time hosting a virtual holiday party, do not stress about making the experience perfect. Instead, focus on opportunities to celebrate your team and enable them to connect with one another in the capacity of their choosing.

We’ve built Social hour to support holiday parties for teams of any size, with fully customizable spaces that give your employees the flexibility and freedom they deserve at your party. Learn more about what makes Social hour the ideal platform for virtual workplace holiday parties and try it out for free today.

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virtual events

4 Ways to Engage Membership Association Conference Communities Online All Year Long

Given the current state of industry trade shows and membership association events, teams must find new ways to generate revenue that would otherwise come from their traditional in-person conferences. 

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The best solution to overcome this challenge could also fast-track your community’s success. Savvy event planners are doubling down on their community by providing year-round engagement opportunities online, including member networking events, educational webinars, auctions and fundraisers, and more. 

Let’s explore how your organization can offer similar online opportunities to keep your community engaged without your usual slate of in-person events. 

How To Nurture Your Industry Trade Show or Membership Association Community All Year

Your community will weaken if everyone only meets once a year. Consistent events or webinars, content offerings, and other member-exclusive benefits are essential to spark engagement (which will help nurture and grow your community all year).

Plan a membership engagement strategy with at least one significant offering each quarter, like a webinar or virtual member meetup. Consider hosting an ongoing series like a weekly Facebook Live conversation or social activities such as a monthly trivia night. 

Start small with the number and diversity of offerings. Your team should experiment with just a few options at a time and strive to offer a great experience. Then, as your community begins to engage with these offerings, your team can refine your strategy.   

Consider any of these ways to engage your trade show or association community throughout the year (and we’ll explain a few of these in greater detail next):

  • Educational webinars
  • In-depth interviews with industry experts
  • Members-only discussions on social media
  • Participation in or access to exclusive industry research
  • Professional development opportunities, like training or certifications
  • Casual get-togethers and happy hours
  • Events and activities co-hosted with association partners and event exhibitors

Provide targeted content to help members overcome challenges

Not all of your community members will attend your webinars and members-only discussions. That’s OK, as you can reach these members through other targeted means.

Repurpose all your webinars and members-only discussions into blog posts that provide an overview of the discussion, plus a transcript and full video or audio recording of the conversation. Continue to spotlight this content across your channels, including your email newsletter, social media sites, and your membership website, to maximize the likelihood that it reaches your ideal community members.

Survey members to understand their needs

Survey your association members at least quarterly to understand their current priorities and how your association can help them accomplish their goals. Keep your surveys short and focused, and include open-response answers to ensure you don’t limit your community feedback to validating your team’s assumptions. 

Supplement surveys with one-on-one member conversations that reflect the diversity of your community. 

Elevate membership partners and vendors

Your association partners and vendors want to find new ways to engage with your association, especially given many exhibitors’ mixed results with hybrid event experiences.

As you plan your membership engagement activities, consider involving your partners and vendors in the following ways:

  • Offer a technology showcase day similar to a virtual exhibition hall, spotlighting select vendors and ecosystem partners. This can involve interactive booths, live demos, or casual Q&A depending on what will be most helpful to your members.
  • Use vendor and partner swag or product demos as giveaway items or raffle prizes for members that engage in your online activities.
  • Moderate multiple partners for a relevant panel discussion on a challenging tech topic.
  • Co-create content or co-sponsor research that provides an extensive look at a topic of interest for your community (ideally lending real-world challenges and solutions as relevant).

Host webinars and members-only discussions

As you build your yearly member engagement plan, webinars and members-only discussions will likely be the easiest (and most effective) to start with.

Brainstorm a list of topics to explore in these discussions and experts that can lend a credible perspective on these topics. Bonus points if these are experts that your community actively follows (or if those experts are part of your community).  

There are a few ways to build this list of content ideas:

  • Review the most-attended sessions from your last member event. What topics did your community rave about?
  • Collect any unaddressed questions or comments from your past event sessions. Can you address these in a webinar or discussion?
  • Conduct social listening within your online communities to see what challenges they’re facing and the topics they’re most excited about.
  • Review your association’s professional development and opportunities for continuing education. How can you extend this member value online?

You can easily host conversations on many social media channels, like a Facebook Live stream or a Twitter Spaces audio chat. Be sure to prioritize the channel(s) that your community is already most active on instead of trying to bring that community to a new channel or platform to host your content offerings. 

In addition to social media networks, you can explore a range of virtual collaboration and conversation options, like Social hour, to support your community webinars and discussions. 

Virtual Event Tools Bring Membership Association Communities Together

Your community may take some encouragement to join your initial member events, but these opportunities will gain traction if each one has a clear purpose and value add for your members. Actively listen to your community to learn how you can best delight them with online offerings. 

As you plan your events, your team needs to provide an effortless experience for your attendees. However, most virtual event platforms provide a mediocre user experience, leaving many attendees disengaged (and unlikely to attend your next event).

We’ve built Social hour to support any range of activities for your tradeshow community and keep member engagement at the heart of your event. Learn more about why we’re an ideal solution for monthly happy hours, webinars, and more!

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virtual events

10 Activities for a More Festive Virtual Holiday Party

The holidays are just around the corner! Is your team planning a workplace holiday celebration?

Although many work holiday parties were curtailed in 2020, teams now have a much better understanding of how to host a fulfilling online team event—and that includes the classic workplace holiday party.

To help your company plan an online holiday party that your team will actually want to attend, let’s explore how you can adapt 10 common holiday party activities for a virtual setting. 

Online Workplace Holiday Party Activity Ideas

Before you get too far in your holiday party planning, be sure to talk to your team and understand what they are looking for in a virtual holiday celebration. Gauge the ideal day, time, and length of the party, as well as what activities everyone is interested in and how they’d like to celebrate the season with each other. 

While there certainly should be some element of mystery or holiday surprise, you should gently gather the key information to guide your virtual holiday party planning. 

Consider adding any of these activities to the lineup to make your virtual holiday party one that your team will love:

Cookie Swap

What says “I appreciate you” more than a homemade or gourmet bakery cookie? Cookie swaps are a holiday-time favorite, and you can easily host a virtual cookie swap during your workplace holiday party. 

Depending on how dispersed your team is, you can approach this a few different ways:

  • The most straightforward option is to encourage your team members to bake or buy their seasonal favorites and drop them off with a local team member. This person will collect everyone’s baked goods and then mail them out or drop them off. However, this idea works best if your team primarily works out of the same city.
  • Alternatively, your team can share holiday cookie recipes for everyone to bake before the party. Then, you can spend a portion of the get-together discussing everyone’s recipes, sharing a story associated with each recipe, and enjoying the baked goods. This option is a perfect one if you have team members with special dietary needs or food allergies.

Cooking or Other DIY Classes

A hands-on cooking lesson or similar crafting or do-it-yourself class—like painting, soap making, or creating air plant terrariums—is a naturally engaging activity for your workplace holiday party. If a member of your team is an outstanding chef with a holiday recipe they’d love to share or a hands-on crafter, ask if they would like to host or co-host the class. Alternatively, you can hire a professional chef or crafter to lead the online activity. If you choose to host this yourself, first determine what DIY activity your team is most interested in and then mail the supplies to them ahead of your party. 

Gingerbread Decorating Kits

Do you want a casual activity for everyone to work on as they celebrate the holidays? Host a gingerbread decorating party or competition! Mail gingerbread decorating kits to your team, and have everyone work on their houses throughout the online holiday party. You can create breakout rooms for people to rotate through as they catch up with their colleagues, show off their gingerbread creations, and get some well-deserved catching-up time.

Holiday Virtual Happy Hour 

Who’s ready for drinks?! Traditional in-person holiday parties often feature fun and festive drinks for everyone to enjoy. Mail your team non-alcoholic supplies (branded Yeti wine tumblers make a nice gift) plus a BevMo, Costco, or similar gift card for them to purchase alcohol or other beverages. Create recipe cards that explain how to make a few seasonal drinks. Bonus points if your team submits their seasonal favorites for everyone to try! If you need ideas, check out this list of 50 holiday cocktails or these 15 holiday mocktail recipes.

Tabletop Game or Card Game

Sometimes the best holiday party games are the most simple. Consider hosting a tabletop game or a card game for everyone to play in breakout groups. There are 12 potential board games to play in this article, while PlayingCards.io is one option for hosting a virtual card game. 

Trivia Game

Trivia is perfect for an online holiday party. Create breakout rooms in your virtual holiday party platform so that each team can collaborate. Designate one spokesperson from each team to share answers, or create Google Forms that teams will submit their answers through. You can host any theme for this trivia. You can keep it holiday-focused with a theme like classic holiday movies, name that holiday tune, or holidays around the world. Or you can explore any theme that will delight your team (and you can ask them during your pre-event planning conversations). 

Scavenger Hunt 

A virtual scavenger hunt can be a high-energy activity for teams, especially if there is a prize to win. Create a list of items that most of your team members should have at home, including some obscure or lesser-found items. Read off the item and ask everyone to go grab that item if they have it. Whoever returns the fastest wins.

Another way you can approach this game is to deliver a series of clues that will take your team across the internet or throughout locations in their homes. Then, give them 10 minutes to work through the list and take a photo or screenshot of what they think each clue is referencing. 

“Ugly Sweater” Contest

It’s not the holidays without a holiday sweater contest. Make your online workplace holiday party a little extra special by encouraging everyone to dress to a theme. Designate a portion of your party for everyone to show off their costumes. You can designate a “winner” based on team votes (just don’t let people vote for themselves).

Virtual Escape Room

Escape rooms skyrocketed in popularity over the past couple of years, especially as a go-to team-building activity. Now, you can host a virtual escape room, too! Check out this article for 24 possible rooms to explore, with details on pricing for each. 

Virtual Holiday Party Gift Exchange

A staple of most workplace holiday celebrations is the gift exchange. No matter how your team usually describes its gift-giving—Secret Santa, White Elephant, homemade gifts only—you can easily host a gift exchange during an online holiday party.

Provide pre-paid shipping labels to your team and set a deadline of no longer than 2 weeks before your party for team members to ship their gifts. During the event, take time for everyone to open their gifts, potentially in small-group breakouts if you have many people attending the party. 

Pick a Virtual Holiday Party Platform That Puts Your Team At The Heart of the Experience

The 10 ideas we explored are just a few thought starters for hosting an engaging virtual holiday party. Consider these activities when discussing your holiday party plans with your team and gauging what they would like to do. 

Throughout your planning, remember the true purpose of an online workplace holiday party: to celebrate your team and provide an optional space to come together.

If you force everyone to attend your holiday party only to maroon them in a sub-par online meeting platform, their holiday spirits will instantly dampen. You need to pick an online event platform that gives your team the flexibility they need to hop in and out of rooms, network in small-group settings, and occasionally join as a full team for any announcements from your leadership (are bonuses on the horizon?).

We’ve built Social hour to host engaging online holiday parties for teams of all sizes. Our platform allows you to create fully customizable holiday events with networking spaces, full-group discussion spaces, and intuitive features that your team will love. Book a demo to see how easy it is to host your holiday party with Social hour.

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virtual events

Why Attendee Surveys Are Vital For Virtual or Hybrid Event Success [via Social hour]

This post originally appeared on the Social hour blog.

Virtual and hybrid event experiences have come a long way since the start of the pandemic, and we are about to hit a new stride in the evolution of online events.

Event planners can access more advanced event technology than ever before, enabling more engaging virtual and hybrid events. These new platforms create the necessary space for everyone to mix, mingle, and reap the greatest reward from the event experience. And many platforms also provide data that can help event planners continuously update their strategy event after event. 

But your in-platform event data can only tell you so much about what did or did not work with your last virtual or hybrid experience. To effectively improve your event strategy with each iteration, you need to actively gather feedback on the full range of attendee experiences before, during, and after your event.

Luckily, the secret to gaining this insight is pretty straightforward: ask your attendees directly. Let me help you get started.

How to Gauge The Virtual Event Attendee Experience

Post-event metrics like attendees per session, the average number of sessions per attendee, and the average number of conference connections are crucial to review. However, these metrics only provide a glimpse at how to improve your next event.

Put your attendees front-and-center during your event planning by actively surveying and connecting with attendees one-on-one throughout your event lifecycle:

  • Before your event, gauge how long your virtual or hybrid event experience should last, preferred topics, and ideal ways to engage throughout the experience
  • During your event, use quick one- or two-question surveys that capture your attendee feelings at key points during the conference or immediately after sessions
  • After your event, measure the satisfaction of each event component and session, and see how many attendees would return to an event from your team

Sample Event Attendee Survey Questions

You can learn more about how to use virtual event attendee surveys to improve your online or hybrid event experience—including sample event survey questions for before, during, and after your event—in my recent article on MarketingProfs

Tell me, what are your favorite virtual event attendee survey questions? Tweet me @AARiggs.

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virtual events

6 Proven Ways To Spark Virtual Event Engagement

As marketers have matured with their virtual events strategies, many of the initial challenges they faced have become significantly easier to solve. 

Most event planners know that it’s essential to set clear goals to guide their planning and support those goals with effective virtual trade show agenda elements. The best event planners collaborate with their exhibitors and sponsors to additionally ensure the planned schedule of virtual activities meets their needs. 

But there is still one major challenge that even the most experienced virtual event planners struggle with: attendee engagement

Cracking the code to engage your virtual audience is a significant opportunity for marketers and event planners. This post discusses current best practices for virtual event attendee engagement, drawing from recent successful virtual or hybrid trade shows and industry membership association experiments.

How to Engage Your Virtual Conference and Trade Show Attendees

Every successful virtual event includes a conference hub that facilitates interaction between all attendees and enables them to access key event details. Create a page for your event site and event app that outlines how attendees can engage with each other and speakers throughout your event. 

These opportunities should include live chat and messaging capabilities in your event platform, social media communities tailored to your event community, dedicated rooms for attendees to network 1:1 or in small groups, and interactive exhibition halls where attendees can meet with vendors. 

Expand on these essentials to deliver a truly engaging virtual event experience for your attendees by following these best practices to garner engagement:

1. Promote attendee engagement opportunities throughout—and leading up to—your event. 

As simple as it may sound, an essential step to garner engagement at your event is to prime attendees for these opportunities in all pre-event communications and during the event. 

Spotlight your event engagement details in a series of pre-event attendee emails. In these emails, further explain how attendees can actively participate during the event. In addition, we recommend you share at least one email exclusively dedicated to answering questions about the engagement opportunities available at your event. 

During your event, ask session speakers to encourage attendees to submit questions in the virtual event platform messaging interface (as appropriate). Conference speakers should also guide attendees to their next experience after that session, including the open networking spaces that attendees can join to keep the conversation going. 

2. Offer gift cards. 

Incentivize attendees to register for your event, join sessions, meet with exhibitors, or engage in sessions by offering a gift card. For example, we’ve seen several conferences incentivize registration by offering as little as a $5-$10 gift card to major retailers (frequently Starbucks) or randomly selecting a few attendees to receive $100-$500 gift cards.

However, you do not want to set an expectation that every attendee interaction will reap a reward. Instead, you want to provide an incentive to encourage attendees to engage, with the potential for a surprise. 

If your event technology allows, track how many times individual attendees join sessions or exchange messages within the platform to enter attendees into your raffle. Your team could also randomly give gift cards to attendees who actively talk about your event on social media, which could, in turn, encourage more attendees to post for a chance to win. 

3. Host partner and exhibitor raffles. 

Alongside (or in place of) gift card giveaways, partner with event sponsors and exhibitors to give away swag, product demos, or other items from those event partners. This builds a more authentic and immersive experience for your attendees compared to providing random giveaways.

An example of this was CXEnergy2021 Virtual Conference’s Tech Showcase, where attendees received prizes for joining and engaging during presentations. In addition, after every demonstration and Q&A, vendors held brand raffles, such as a one-year subscription for their software. These giveaways will likely boost lead generation and brand awareness efforts for your event partners, too, which will elevate their event experience.  

4. Coordinate a scavenger hunt or BINGO board.

Encourage attendees to explore every part of your event platform and use each feature to its fullest by hosting a scavenger hunt or BINGO board of actions to complete. Ask attendees to snap photos or take screenshots during sessions, visit specific event pages, or complete activities that you can track.

Reward attendees with gift cards or partner raffle items, or create exclusive prize packages—such as registration for next year’s event—that build additional excitement for the game.

5. Enable attendees to pre-submit questions.

Set the expectation with attendees that they can ask questions both before and during event sessions. Enable attendees to pre-submit questions to help speakers finalize their session content and help Q&A moderators prioritize questions.

At the end of each session, address a selection of the pre-fielded questions, and encourage attendees to submit more questions via the chat app. This way, your moderators can organize new questions while the speakers address the pre-submitted ones. Not enough time to get to all the questions? No problem! Give the speaker the list of all the submitted questions, and encourage them to create their own content to address those elements.

6. Strike up conversations on social media. 

Use an easy-to-remember hashtag to help your social media moderators actively find and engage with attendee Tweets and other social media posts. Ask attendees to share their favorite breakout session takeaways, and be ready to answer their event questions. Amplify their Tweets to encourage them to keep posting throughout the event. 

Post polls and quizzes to directly encourage engagement, and use event videos, GIFs, or visuals to stir up excitement for the experience. 

Choose a Virtual Event Platform That Enables Attendee Engagement

By thoughtfully creating opportunities for attendees to engage with your virtual event content and activities, you transform them from a passive audience to active participants in your event. 

But even the best-planned engagement opportunities can fall flat if your event platform is not up to par. You need a virtual or hybrid event platform that enables built-in messaging capabilities within sessions, as well as a way for attendees to find and connect with each other. 

With Social hour, you can deliver the engaging virtual trade show experience that your attendees deserve. The platform includes audience polling capabilities, robust chat features, and essential metrics that help you keep attendees engaged and uncover ways to improve their experience. Learn more and get started today

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virtual events

All Successful Virtual And Hybrid Events Have These Five Things in Common

Over the past 20 months, as the COVID-19 pandemic upended many of our in-person events and celebration plans, we all found new ways to keep celebrating all of life’s special moments virtually. 

We cheered on graduates as they walked the virtual stage, raised our glasses to our favorite newlyweds as they said their “I Do’s,” and even took our careers to the next level at virtual conferences, hybrid industry events, and online trade shows.

At Social hour, as we partnered with people across the globe on a range of events, at a time when human connection was more necessary than ever. We gained a deep understanding of what attendees expect at a hybrid or virtual event. It may surprise you, but we’ve found it all boils down to just five elements that are essential for your event success, regardless of what type of gathering you’re hosting. 

Five Must-Have Elements for Any Type of Virtual or Hybrid Event

Event planners can transition almost any traditional event component online. In some cases, the online environment may even enhance the experience for everyone involved. 

However, many event planners are still stuck on the idea of replicating their in-person event exactly as it was—just now in an online setting. This results in one-time talks streamed from the keynote stage, leaving attendees lost in a sea of webcam streams without a way to connect meaningfully with those around them.

When planning your next event, I challenge you to focus on enabling attendee engagement throughout the entire experience as your most important element. Engagement is the single most crucial factor that determines your event’s success. 

So how can event planners guarantee engagement at their next virtual or hybrid event? We’ve found these four elements are essential to your success, and they all help drive attendee engagement, too:

  • Limit the number of participants in each session or room
  • Ensure an equitable talk-to-listen ratio to help avoid listening fatigue
  • Give attendees opportunities to take breaks
  • Track metrics and analytics that help you assess engagement disconnects at your event

Enabling Virtual or Hybrid Event Engagement

In my recent article on Trade Show News Network, you can learn more about how each of the five elements we introduced above can affect engagement at your next event. I also share my advice on how to ensure a cohesive hybrid event experience (hint: you want to focus on virtual first).

What questions do you have about virtual event engagement? Tweet me @AARiggs.

Categories
virtual events

Why Attendee Surveys Are Vital For Virtual or Hybrid Event Success

Virtual and hybrid event experiences have come a long way since the start of the pandemic, and we are about to hit a new stride in the evolution of online events.

Event planners can access more advanced event technology than ever before, enabling more engaging virtual and hybrid events. These new platforms create the necessary space for everyone to mix, mingle, and reap the greatest reward from the event experience. And many platforms also provide data that can help event planners continuously update their strategy event after event. 

But your in-platform event data can only tell you so much about what did or did not work with your last virtual or hybrid experience. To effectively improve your event strategy with each iteration, you need to actively gather feedback on the full range of attendee experiences before, during, and after your event.

Luckily, the secret to gaining this insight is pretty straightforward: ask your attendees directly. Let me help you get started.

How to Gauge The Virtual Event Attendee Experience

Post-event metrics like attendees per session, the average number of sessions per attendee, and the average number of conference connections are crucial to review. However, these metrics only provide a glimpse at how to improve your next event.

Put your attendees front-and-center during your event planning by actively surveying and connecting with attendees one-on-one throughout your event lifecycle:

  • Before your event, gauge how long your virtual or hybrid event experience should last, preferred topics, and ideal ways to engage throughout the experience
  • During your event, use quick one- or two-question surveys that capture your attendee feelings at key points during the conference or immediately after sessions
  • After your event, measure the satisfaction of each event component and session, and see how many attendees would return to an event from your team

Sample Event Attendee Survey Questions

You can learn more about how to use virtual event attendee surveys to improve your online or hybrid event experience—including sample event survey questions for before, during, and after your event—in my recent article on MarketingProfs

Tell me, what are your favorite virtual event attendee survey questions? Tweet me @AARiggs.

Categories
virtual events

How To Engage Hybrid Event Attendees on Social Media [via Social hour]

This post originally appeared on the Social hour blog.

Congratulations! You’ve designed a compelling hybrid event schedule that thoroughly addresses the needs of both your in-person and remote attendees. All that’s left is to put on a spectacular event, right? Well, almost—but there’s still some pre-work to do!

As your team finalizes your hybrid event sessions and activities, it’s important to focus on a critical planning element that can easily make or break the attendee experience: social media.

From the moment you first announce your event on social media, your team needs to understand how to best use social media to drive event registrations and prime your attendees to gain the most value from social media throughout the virtual conference.  

Highlight Hybrid Event Attendance Benefits For In-Person and Virtual Attendees

Your team needs to explain how all your attendees—no matter how they choose to join—will access high-value sessions and engagement opportunities that make the most of each attendance option.

Tailor your conference website and all event promotional content to address the unique benefits of each attendance type, as well as how the two groups can connect throughout the conference. We recommend that you create a dedicated FAQ page on your event site that thoroughly addresses both types of attendance. 

At a high level, here are some of the benefits of attending a hybrid event in-person or virtually to highlight in your FAQs:

Hybrid Event Attendance TypeAttendee Experience Benefits
In-PersonIn-person conference experiences are beloved, and greatly missed, by many professionals. Emphasize the potential for human connection by joining in person, but also reinforce the CDC and local or state guidelines that will be enforced, plus any other ways your team will keep attendees safe.

Certain demos or activities are better coordinated with an in-person crowd, due to the energy level and ability for instant collaboration. Highlight these unique opportunities for attendees who join in person. This prevents virtual attendees from being disappointed or demanding a refund due to missing out on a specific in-person only activity.
VirtualFlexibility is a necessity for virtual attendees. Reinforce how your event is designed to fit within your attendees’ busy schedules, including details on whether sessions are recorded and later available for replay. 

A well-built virtual conference platform can greatly improve the virtual attendee experience. Spotlight the features of your event platform, including specific features that will help your remote attendees connect with the live experience. 

Make it easy to save your must-attend sessions to the virtual attendee’s calendar software of choice. It’s incredibly frustrating for virtual attendees who are excited for a session, and arrive with a question at the ready, only to see a notice that the session was held two hours ago thanks to the agenda only reflecting the live event’s timezone.

How To Promote Your Hybrid Event on Social Media

Social media channels are an invaluable avenue to market and promote your event with ideal attendees, especially given the potential reach of most social media channels. You don’t want to limit yourself to your existing mailing list and blog readers to promote your event when people can join from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. 

Share a steady stream of event promotion content to build excitement for the experience and drive registrations up until the day of your event. By engaging with your prospective attendees on social media, you’re also establishing those channels as a place for attendees to go during your conference to connect and engage with your team and fellow attendees (we’ll discuss that more in a bit).

Here are five ways to drive hybrid event registration through social media:

  • Tag confirmed speakers and spotlight their sessions. Announce sessions on social media by tagging the speaker and previewing their session. Include a video or image of the speaker to help “stop the scroll” on social media.
  • Create speaker, exhibitor, and sponsor social media kits. Share a social media promotion kit with all event speakers, exhibitors, and sponsors. Include event images and draft social media messages for Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn (at a minimum) so your partners can easily promote your event on their social channels. Consider including a unique registration discount code tied to each speaker, wherein they receive some benefit for getting people to register with their code.
  • Provide regular updates about your event’s COVID-19 safety preparedness. Although many people are comfortable attending an in-person conference, your team needs to address potential safety concerns early and often to reassure attendees who may be hesitant about joining an in-person experience. The goal is to provide transparent updates about your onsite plans to show your prospective attendees that you’re doing everything possible to protect their health.
  • Use an event hashtag. Create a custom hashtag to accompany your event. Ideally, this hashtag can be used throughout the year to reinforce a sense of community outside the conference. Research your preferred hashtag across channels to ensure it is not already commonly used for a different purpose. 
  • Share visuals and video sizzle reels. Visual content is more likely to be seen by your community on social media. Invest in custom event images and video sizzle reels that highlight what attendees can expect, both for the in-person and virtual experience. 

6 Ways To Use Social Media to Drive Engagement During A Hybrid Event

Your most engaged attendees will likely use social media to ask questions, share their learnings from the conference, and attempt to network with other attendees during your event. It’s important to prepare your team to effectively find and engage with this content in real time.

After you address these foundational ways to highlight your hybrid event engagement opportunities, follow these best practices to spark conversations and build excitement on social media during your hybrid event.

Create Event Attendee Social Media Groups

In addition to your registration website, your attendees need a central place to go to access all the relevant details about your virtual event and connect with other attendees. We recommend you create a private social media group to grow into an event community. Encourage attendees to join this group when they first purchase their tickets, and regularly promote this group during the event. Assign a staff person to monitor the community throughout the event. 

Enlist Social Media Moderators

Depending on the size of your event and the number of priority social media channels for your community, your team needs at least two team members solely focused on addressing attendee needs on social media. These moderators will engage with attendee content, including amplifying their takeaways, answering questions, and suggesting other sessions they should attend based on what they’ve enjoyed so far. They can also help create excitement by giving away prizes or other resources of value to attendees that are active on social media. Don’t forget to also have the moderators check in with the social media group to share photos and videos and post conversation-starters.

Build a Social Wall

A social wall is a live display of social media posts about your conference, typically centered around the event hashtag or geolocation tags. Your team should include a social wall in your in-person experience and on your hybrid event platform to provide in-person attendees encouragement to join the virtual conversation and help remote attendees feel part of the greater conference experience. You can check out these 10 social media wall tool options for your event. 

Share Polls, Quizzes, and Contests 

Encourage engagement and help attendees get to know each other by sharing polls and quizzes related to your conference. These can include fun facts about conference speakers or preview elements of upcoming networking opportunities. Consider having different types of activities—and prize drawings for completing them—for each social media channel. 

Host a Virtual Scavenger Hunt

Create a scavenger hunt activity that both in-person and remote attendees can join. Encourage them to snap photos or take screenshots during the conference, and share those images on social media to check items off their list. Offer a prize or swag bag for anyone who completes the list.

Use Twitter Lists

Help attendees connect with speakers and other guests at your conference by creating a public Twitter list that attendees can opt into. During registration, ask if the attendee has a Twitter handle that you can include on the list. You’ll want to create an additional list with all of your conference speakers. 

Cohesive Hybrid Event Technology Enables An Engaging Event Experience

Your hybrid event attendees need ample ways to connect with each other throughout your event and across the virtual communication channels they prefer. There are several steps your team can take to facilitate this, including creating a dedicated conference hashtag and actively encouraging conversations about your event on social media. 

But even the best-intended efforts can fall flat if your event platform simply cannot provide the interactive attendee experience that your attendees deserve. With the right hybrid event platform, your team can create beautifully customized event branding that highlights your event hashtag and includes a social wall alongside sessions to encourage engagement. 

Find out why Social hour is your ideal hybrid event platform.

Categories
virtual events

How To Engage Hybrid Event Attendees on Social Media

Congratulations! You’ve designed a compelling hybrid event schedule that thoroughly addresses the needs of both your in-person and remote attendees. All that’s left is to put on a spectacular event, right? Well, almost—but there’s still some pre-work to do!

As your team finalizes your hybrid event sessions and activities, it’s important to focus on a critical planning element that can easily make or break the attendee experience: social media.

From the moment you first announce your event on social media, your team needs to understand how to best use social media to drive event registrations and prime your attendees to gain the most value from social media throughout the virtual conference.  

Highlight Hybrid Event Attendance Benefits For In-Person and Virtual Attendees

Your team needs to explain how all your attendees—no matter how they choose to join—will access high-value sessions and engagement opportunities that make the most of each attendance option.

Tailor your conference website and all event promotional content to address the unique benefits of each attendance type, as well as how the two groups can connect throughout the conference. We recommend that you create a dedicated FAQ page on your event site that thoroughly addresses both types of attendance. 

At a high level, here are some of the benefits of attending a hybrid event in-person or virtually to highlight in your FAQs:

Hybrid Event Attendance TypeAttendee Experience Benefits
In-PersonIn-person conference experiences are beloved, and greatly missed, by many professionals. Emphasize the potential for human connection by joining in person, but also reinforce the CDC and local or state guidelines that will be enforced, plus any other ways your team will keep attendees safe.

Certain demos or activities are better coordinated with an in-person crowd, due to the energy level and ability for instant collaboration. Highlight these unique opportunities for attendees who join in person. This prevents virtual attendees from being disappointed or demanding a refund due to missing out on a specific in-person only activity.
VirtualFlexibility is a necessity for virtual attendees. Reinforce how your event is designed to fit within your attendees’ busy schedules, including details on whether sessions are recorded and later available for replay. 

A well-built virtual conference platform can greatly improve the virtual attendee experience. Spotlight the features of your event platform, including specific features that will help your remote attendees connect with the live experience. 

Make it easy to save your must-attend sessions to the virtual attendee’s calendar software of choice. It’s incredibly frustrating for virtual attendees who are excited for a session, and arrive with a question at the ready, only to see a notice that the session was held two hours ago thanks to the agenda only reflecting the live event’s timezone.

How To Promote Your Hybrid Event on Social Media

Social media channels are an invaluable avenue to market and promote your event with ideal attendees, especially given the potential reach of most social media channels. You don’t want to limit yourself to your existing mailing list and blog readers to promote your event when people can join from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. 

Share a steady stream of event promotion content to build excitement for the experience and drive registrations up until the day of your event. By engaging with your prospective attendees on social media, you’re also establishing those channels as a place for attendees to go during your conference to connect and engage with your team and fellow attendees (we’ll discuss that more in a bit).

Here are five ways to drive hybrid event registration through social media:

  • Tag confirmed speakers and spotlight their sessions. Announce sessions on social media by tagging the speaker and previewing their session. Include a video or image of the speaker to help “stop the scroll” on social media.
  • Create speaker, exhibitor, and sponsor social media kits. Share a social media promotion kit with all event speakers, exhibitors, and sponsors. Include event images and draft social media messages for Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn (at a minimum) so your partners can easily promote your event on their social channels. Consider including a unique registration discount code tied to each speaker, wherein they receive some benefit for getting people to register with their code.
  • Provide regular updates about your event’s COVID-19 safety preparedness. Although many people are comfortable attending an in-person conference, your team needs to address potential safety concerns early and often to reassure attendees who may be hesitant about joining an in-person experience. The goal is to provide transparent updates about your onsite plans to show your prospective attendees that you’re doing everything possible to protect their health.
  • Use an event hashtag. Create a custom hashtag to accompany your event. Ideally, this hashtag can be used throughout the year to reinforce a sense of community outside the conference. Research your preferred hashtag across channels to ensure it is not already commonly used for a different purpose. 
  • Share visuals and video sizzle reels. Visual content is more likely to be seen by your community on social media. Invest in custom event images and video sizzle reels that highlight what attendees can expect, both for the in-person and virtual experience. 

6 Ways To Use Social Media to Drive Engagement During A Hybrid Event

Your most engaged attendees will likely use social media to ask questions, share their learnings from the conference, and attempt to network with other attendees during your event. It’s important to prepare your team to effectively find and engage with this content in real time.

After you address these foundational ways to highlight your hybrid event engagement opportunities, follow these best practices to spark conversations and build excitement on social media during your hybrid event.

Create Event Attendee Social Media Groups

In addition to your registration website, your attendees need a central place to go to access all the relevant details about your virtual event and connect with other attendees. We recommend you create a private social media group to grow into an event community. Encourage attendees to join this group when they first purchase their tickets, and regularly promote this group during the event. Assign a staff person to monitor the community throughout the event. 

Enlist Social Media Moderators

Depending on the size of your event and the number of priority social media channels for your community, your team needs at least two team members solely focused on addressing attendee needs on social media. These moderators will engage with attendee content, including amplifying their takeaways, answering questions, and suggesting other sessions they should attend based on what they’ve enjoyed so far. They can also help create excitement by giving away prizes or other resources of value to attendees that are active on social media. Don’t forget to also have the moderators check in with the social media group to share photos and videos and post conversation-starters.

Build a Social Wall

A social wall is a live display of social media posts about your conference, typically centered around the event hashtag or geolocation tags. Your team should include a social wall in your in-person experience and on your hybrid event platform to provide in-person attendees encouragement to join the virtual conversation and help remote attendees feel part of the greater conference experience. You can check out these 10 social media wall tool options for your event. 

Share Polls, Quizzes, and Contests 

Encourage engagement and help attendees get to know each other by sharing polls and quizzes related to your conference. These can include fun facts about conference speakers or preview elements of upcoming networking opportunities. Consider having different types of activities—and prize drawings for completing them—for each social media channel. 

Host a Virtual Scavenger Hunt

Create a scavenger hunt activity that both in-person and remote attendees can join. Encourage them to snap photos or take screenshots during the conference, and share those images on social media to check items off their list. Offer a prize or swag bag for anyone who completes the list.

Use Twitter Lists

Help attendees connect with speakers and other guests at your conference by creating a public Twitter list that attendees can opt into. During registration, ask if the attendee has a Twitter handle that you can include on the list. You’ll want to create an additional list with all of your conference speakers. 

Cohesive Hybrid Event Technology Enables An Engaging Event Experience

Your hybrid event attendees need ample ways to connect with each other throughout your event and across the virtual communication channels they prefer. There are several steps your team can take to facilitate this, including creating a dedicated conference hashtag and actively encouraging conversations about your event on social media. 

But even the best-intended efforts can fall flat if your event platform simply cannot provide the interactive attendee experience that your attendees deserve. With the right hybrid event platform, your team can create beautifully customized event branding that highlights your event hashtag and includes a social wall alongside sessions to encourage engagement. 

Find out why Social hour is your ideal hybrid event platform.