Live attendance is the new Not Normal. If you still want me there, don’t treat me like second class!

Have you ever felt like you are not treated well? Maybe yes, at the cash register when you didn’t have cash on you? Or as a child, when your parents didn’t buy you that huge cotton candy at the fun fair? I don’t mean those obvious mistreats though, I mean more the sublime ones, those that you only realise in hindsight.

I attended a multi-hub hybrid conference the other day as a Live participant. I was excited to attend and again meet and exchange with real people. That promise was definitely met and I was looking forward to the experience of also interacting with the other Live and Online audiences. We were about 40 Live in the room and about the same Live crowd in 3 more hubs plus approx. a few hundred Online participants.

In Hindsight for me the experience started to turn sour when the moderator welcomed the participants. Not really what you aim for from an event design perspective. She was on a stage in front of a large LED wall and was looking at a camera that was positioned in the back of the room above the Live audience. She was friendly, focussed, outspoken, everything you wish from a moderator.

BUT…she wasn’t communicating with the people in the room, she was talking to the people not in the room!

There were interactive parts when she did involve Live and Online but not together to build community, but in parallel. Over time I felt more like a not really necessary accessory. Like the type of studio audience you would cast for a cheap afternoon TV show and instruct when to clap and when to cheer.

What went wrong? No real stakeholder alignment and /or empathizing with Live participants before the event. Prime focus on Online audience.

My 4 main takeaways for successful multi-hub hybrid events:

1. Always have separate moderators for your Live and Online audiences.

2. Engage Live audiences in the different hubs and make them interact.

3. Connect Live and Online audiences frequently.

4. Do a very diligent stakeholder analysis and spend time on event design.

If you cannot provide the above, then don’t do Hybrid. Stay with Online only and focus on Online engagement strategies.

For me a Multi-Hub Hybrid Meeting, if done well, is the most complex type of event interaction and needs a dedicated event design team and #eventprofs in the execution phase.

What makes it so complex? Well, besides making the Live audience happy in the different hubs, you need to also make them feel part of the full event community so their experience is as immersive as Hybrid can be. Treat them as stars! Give them Cotton Candy!

Author: Gerrit Jessen CED CMM CMP

Senior Consultant & Partner Germany

The Creative Dots