We all know the line about humans having a shorter attention span than goldfish. Pre-pandemic, that attention span was only 8 seconds—and it’s not a stretch to hypothesize that it’s diminished even further since 2020.
To that end, the traditional content delivery model of a speaker lecturing a silent audience doesn’t cut it anymore. Event professionals must design experiential events with dynamic content that not only draws them in but makes them feel part of the conversation. For hybrid events, that also means developing programming that resonates with and connects two different audiences (in-person and virtual). Read on for tips to reinvigorate how speakers present during events and create dynamic, engaging content for event audiences.
The only thing worse than a long, drawn-out keynote speech is a long, drawn-out keynote speech with tech hiccups. When a traditional keynote is essential to a hybrid event, it’s critical to maximize production value by adequately prepping your speaker. If they’ll be speaking from afar, that means making sure they set up in a well-lit space, minimize background noise (including those annoying notification dings), and use high-quality equipment, like an HD camera and professional microphone. Do a test run, evaluating how the speaker looks and sounds for both the in-person and virtual audience. Always have a backup plan in place should anything unexpected happen, such as your speaker losing Wi-Fi right before they’re scheduled to go on stage. After your keynote wraps, find ways to enable your audience to connect directly with the speaker and further personalize the experience. (Check out MeetingPlay’s Go Live feature, a hybrid product built to bridge the communication gap between virtual and live environments.)
2. Round Tables
This content format works well for small groups and is easy to implement differently for in-person and virtual audiences, as you can simply group together participants in a physical room or in a virtual breakout space. Round tables work best when there is a moderator who can tailor discussion topics or questions to your specific audience. You may wish to pose a problem that attendees can solve for solutions together in small groups or focus on broader topics within your industry and open up the floor to the conversation. The key is to set specific parameters and time limits for discussion to enable groups to reach the goals you’ve mapped out for the content and ensure things don’t sway too far off course. For hybrid events, you’ll want to make sure your event technology platform can host collaborative environments—such as MeetingPlay’s Join, a session format that combines native live video and chat.
3. TED-style Talks
We’ve all watched them on YouTube, but what makes TED Talks stand out? First, they’re delivered by a speaker who talks without notes and roams the stage, rather than standing behind a podium. Presentations are minimal (a few slides with photos and little text) or nonexistent. The talks are personal, about a topic that’s close to the speaker’s heart, and follow the arch of storytelling. Perhaps most important, TED Talks are short—no longer than 18 minutes. Judging by the 33 million subscribers to the TEDxTalks’ YouTube channel, this format deeply resonates. You’d be smart to incorporate speakers into your event using these same principles, for keynotes or education sessions. It translates well for hybrid events and works even better when you incorporate audience response systems throughout the talk.
4. Audience-driven Discussions
One of the simplest content formats can also be the most engaging and valuable to attendees. Audience-driven discussions are exactly like they sound, featuring a presenter answering questions that attendees ask live. This is a great way to provide attendees with the exact information they want to know, and to incorporate voices from both in-person and virtual audiences in a hybrid event. Start by having the presenter speak for a few minutes, introducing the format and the topic of discussion before opening it up to the audience. It’s best to have a moderator who can call on attendees who want to ask questions or provide a comment (to avoid multiple people talking over each other) and who can ensure an equal mix of questions from both audiences. Prepare a few backup questions for the presenter in case the audience needs to warm up a bit before they start engaging in discussion.
There are many formats a panel discussion can take, none of which involve an overly structured Q&A session. Try taking inspiration from television and hosting a talk show-style panel (think Ellen or Oprah), where a host or moderator interviews special guests on stage. If your content centers around a hot-button issue, try implementing a debate format, where two sides are allowed to speak and make points of rebuttal at timed intervals. Another fun option is to try a game show format, where you can incorporate trivia and/or choose-your-own-adventure-style content to enable the audience to drive the direction of the panel. You can even throw it back to your childhood with a musical chair format: For example, seven panelists must scramble for three chairs when the music stops to participate in the next segment of the panel.
6. Simulated Live Sessions
One great benefit of virtual is the way it opens your event to a global audience. When you have people watching your content from around the world, from two dozen time zones, it’s imperative you enable audience members to consume your content at a time that works for them. That means pre-recorded content is an essential part of hybrid events—yet it doesn’t have to be boring. Enter: Simulated event presentations, a special feature of MeetingPlay’s platform. As pre-recorded content plays, presenters can chat with the audience via live video, audio, or chat and answer questions as they progress through it (we call this “semi live”). This enables even those watching from home, after the live session has taken place, to feel part of the content and dive deeper into the points that are most interesting to them.