Successful virtual and hybrid conference sessions are creative, fun and worthy of capturing and keeping guests' attention. Are you in charge of planning your company's next conference session and aren't quite sure what you need to plan a lasting and memorable experience? With a recent shift to online meetings, planning engaging, productive and memorable breakout sessions is challenging for even the savviest, most experienced event organizers.
You'll need to carefully manage your time and come up with fun ways to keep attendees interacting with your guest speakers and each other. To help get you started, consider these 10 ideas for virtual and hybrid conference themes that will help you plan and launch a valuable and impactful experience for your guests.
What's the Difference Between a Virtual and Hybrid Conference Session?
Before we dive into some ideas for your next virtual or hybrid conference session, let's break down the differences between the two. Virtual and hybrid conference sessions are a little different from one another. One consists of strictly online attendees, while the other is a combination of remote and in-person guests.
With a hybrid conference session, you'll use virtual technology to bring virtual and in-person attendees together. Hybrid conferences rely on online conference technology or platform to promote engagement and allow your guests to see each other face to face. A hybrid conference session requires careful planning and organizing to create a productive, enjoyable experience for your attendees.
You'll need to consider ways to keep your virtual attendees engaged while not neglecting your in-person guests and vice versa. The secret to a successful hybrid conference is engaging in-person and remote attendees without making either group feel disconnected from your event. A virtual conference session consists solely of attendees participating from a remote location over an online event and meeting platform.
If you're searching for how to plan a virtual or hybrid conference session, here are some creative ways to consider making your next event a hit with your company and guests.
1. Include Interactive Elements
One of the first steps to successful conference session planning in today's online business world is to include interactive elements for your guests and attendees. For example, your presentation slides might incorporate animations, videos and other graphic design specialties to keep your audiences engaged and attentive.
If you're new to this or don't have a large budget to work with, you can consider using free online presentation tools such as Google Slides, Canva or Prezi to create clean and meaningful interactive slides. These free, easy-to-use options offer tools with a minimal learning curve whenever you're responsible for putting together guest speakers and organizing presenters for your company's virtual or hybrid conference.
Other options involve using innovative event management and virtual conference software solutions to create and manage interactive materials. MeetingPlay + Aventri's virtual and hybrid conference software solutions make delivering interactive presentations to your attendees easy and effective.
2. Showcase Attendees With a Virtual Wall
Connecting your remote and in-person attendees is one of the most challenging aspects of planning and organizing successful hybrid conferences. Including a virtual wall is a fun and creative way to introduce your in-person and virtual attendees to one another and offer guests an easy way to connect. Hybrid conferences can feel disjointed when some guests are there in the flesh and others attend remotely. A virtual wall is a strategy to break the disconnect and make everyone feel included and present.
3. Host Q&A Sessions
Depending on your conference theme, consider setting aside some time for short question-and-answer sessions to allow your attendees an opportunity to engage with one another and any guest speakers you're hosting.
To foster engagement, consider small breakout groups that include a combination of in-person and remote attendees. You might also consider including longer Q&A sessions that offer your virtual and in-person guests an opportunity to have all their questions answered. You've likely left past conferences wishing you'd gotten to ask that one burning question, so what better way to promote engagement than holding an extended Q&A session?
Now is also an excellent opportunity to solicit feedback from your attendees and guests. Instead of having polls or surveys that require your guests to write and record their responses, a Q&A session is your chance to gather valuable feedback on your event and the topics you've presented.
4. Use a Mobile Event App to Connect Virtual and In-Person Attendees
Simplify hybrid and virtual conference session ideas with a mobile event app to connect virtual and in-person attendees. These apps are capable of much more than encouraging guests to interact. Industry-leading mobile event apps can handle several aspects of your hybrid and virtual conferences. Consider MeetingPlay + Aventri's mobile event app to create a productive experience for your attendees.
Gamification is a new way of engaging attendees and one of the top features of MeetingPlay + Aventri's mobile event app. This strategy allows your guests to connect, network and learn through the power of games. Gamify your conference with our mobile event app and take your conference activities to the next level by offering digital currency, points and rewards your attendees can redeem for prizes or merchandise. Our app also provides conference organizers with a range of options designed to develop an enjoyable event for all parties.
Features of our mobile event app include:
- Event registration and check-in
- Attendee and guest speaker matchmaking and networking
- Fun gamification options and tools
- Unique branding opportunities for sponsors or corporate partners
- Social feeds updated in real time
- On-demand session library
Whether you're a global organization planning a large-scale event or a small business putting together its first hybrid or virtual conference, our mobile event app brings you the features you need to create a productive and impactful experience for your attendees.
5. Include Elements All Parties Can Enjoy
Encouraging everyone's participation is vital to planning virtual and hybrid conference sessions. Consider including a mix of the following.
- Interactive games: Most people warm up quickly with icebreaker activities and friendly competition. Sprinkling these throughout the conference is an excellent way to keep guests interested.
- Magic show: While you want your conference to be mostly serious, a virtual magic show can create some lighthearted moments for your guests. Think about having your company's CEO or other top executives participate with the magician on stage.
- Digital swag bags: Give attendees a welcome or parting gift in the form of a digital swag bag. You can include online gift cards, a free annual subscription to an industry-related publication or journal and complimentary online skill-building courses.
- Digital happy hours: Build in some time for your attendees to relax and socialize with one another using a mobile event app or other online meeting software to host a digital happy hour. After the day's activities and speakers wrap up, invite your guests to grab their favorite drink and take time getting to know their peers during weekend-long conferences or other multi-day events.
Whether attendees are in person or joining your conference from a remote location, invite them to loosen up and enjoy themselves. These are only a few suggestions of exciting activities for your guests, but the possibilities are endless when you have event software with MeetingPlay's capabilities.
6. Allow Time for Storytelling
We all love telling stories and sharing our professional experiences, so why not provide your attendees an opportunity to do that by carving out some time dedicated specifically to those activities? When bringing people together at an event or conference, one of the best ways to foster engagement and promote networking is to allow people to talk about themselves.
Storytelling is a powerful tool that fosters togetherness and gives people an opportunity to learn more about their peers, discover new concepts and explore ideas. Invite your attendees to share their stories and provide something valuable to their fellow conference guests.
7. Create Breakout Rooms With In-Person and Virtual Attendees
You'll know your event is a success when you notice your guests mingling and chatting about the day's topics. However, forging these relationships can be challenging with a hybrid of virtual and in-person attendees. If you want your attendees to bond, you must provide time and space for that to happen. Promote networking and conversation by inviting guests to attend virtual breakout rooms of five to 10 people.
8. Offer a Lightning Round
Inviting relevant and industry-leading guest speakers is one of the backbones to hosting a successful conference session, but that doesn't mean they have to be overly long, drawn-out talks delivered by one person covering one or two topics. Consider organizing a lightning session to keep your attendees engaged. These five- to 10-minute presentations can include slides or other visuals, but don't always have to.
If you plan lightning talk sessions, be sure to provide everyone with a copy of related visuals using a mobile event app or other event hosting software solution. This tactic will ensure your attendees keep up with guest speakers and follow along with their topics. Consider automating slides to keep presentations moving forward and attendees captivated.
9. Chat by the "Fire"
Having engaging guest speakers is a priority, but what about involving an intimate conversation with a leader in your industry or expert in your virtual conference theme? A fireside chat is ideal for keeping your attendees interested in your conference by letting them sit down to interview experts and other industry-leading figures. Livestream a comfortable conversation between your chosen company representative and a widely known specialist in your industry or company's niche.
10. Make Time for Networking
A primary reason people attend conferences is to network with other professionals in their industry. Many of them expect to have time to make these connections, but that can be challenging when you're hosting a virtual or hybrid conference session. As we discussed earlier, breakout rooms can facilitate connections between your in-person and virtual attendees, but you can also use them to promote networking.
Help guests meet each other using virtual event hosting software solutions and other mobile event apps with features that allow users to create profiles, complete with links to their digital resumes and portfolios. Social networking features such as community forums and live chat make networking possible during your hybrid and virtual conference sessions.
Choose the Right Platform for Your Virtual or Hybrid Conference
Organizing a successful virtual or hybrid conference session usually involves selecting an ideal event-hosting platform. Finding solutions to the challenges that stem from having a combination of virtual and in-person attendees at your conference is vital to ensure you're meeting expectations and delivering a quality experience.
MeetingPlay's virtual and hybrid conference solutions have everything you need to organize premier conferences and conventions your attendees can't wait to talk about when they get back to the office. Our hybrid and virtual conference solutions help you deliver unforgettable breakthrough experiences for your attendees. Connect in-person and remote guests with features such as:
- Flexible content delivery options
- Third-party platform and API integrations
- Live exhibition hall for sponsor and exhibitor booths
- A user-friendly branded interface available in 2D and 3D
- Secure access and login for attendees
MeetingPlay's industry-leading hybrid and virtual conference solutions take your events to the next level and leave attendees with a valuable experience long after your event has ended. Are you ready to see for yourself?
Book a Free Demo of MeetingPlay + Aventri's Virtual Conference Software
MeetingPlay + Aventri offers user-friendly, feature-rich virtual and hybrid conference software designed to make your event an epic experience for attendees and guests. But don't merely take our word for it. We offer free demos that allow you to try out our software solutions before making any commitments.
Book your free demo of MeetingPlay + Aventri's innovative virtual conference software and get started planning your next winning event today!
Do you still have questions about virtual event software? Feel free to contact us anytime via our website and we'll be happy to answer any questions you may have.