We’ve learned in the past couple of years that virtual events allow the show to go on despite the pandemic. We’ve also seen their potential to draw in a bigger audience and include those who might not otherwise be able to attend for a variety of reasons (travel challenges, childcare issues, inclement weather, etc.) While in-person events are finally back, there are still plenty of benefits to holding hybrid events, which feature live and virtual options for guests.
At Andrew Roby Events, we specialize in hybrid event production and have mastered the art of creating hybrid events that cater to all. Consider a hybrid model for your holiday party and follow these 11 tips for executing it with finesse.
1. Create an Activity Map
An activity map is a great place to start for any type of party planning, especially where some of your guests are attending virtually. Think of it as a blueprint that you can follow as you fill in the details.
Your map can contain information on advertising and promotion for the event (with timelines), venue, registration details, food, theme, entertainment, games, speakers, decor, etc. Make sure that you are addressing both in-person and virtual audiences as you consider all of these aspects. For virtual attendees, consider digital options for promoting the event, audiovisual needs, online registration and check-in options, interactive activities, etc. A good activity map will keep you on task with planning and keep you from forgetting important details.
2. Be Smart about the Date and Time
It’s courteous and professional to give attendees ample notice about an event, whether it be in-person, virtual, or hybrid. You wouldn’t just send invitations the day of and expect people to show up to an in-person event, and you shouldn’t for a hybrid event either. Your turnout depends on this.
Brainstorm about a day and time that will bring the most guests possible from your desired audience. If this is a corporate holiday party, choose a date that doesn’t conflict with any other significant events in your industry. If this is a family holiday party, be cognizant of times that may not work for children. If you have attendees in different time zones, account for this as well.
If you are careless with a date, you gamble with your time, money, and effort. Be strategic with the event date and time, and it will pay off.
3. Choose a Reliable Virtual Event Platform
Perhaps you decide to host the virtual portion of your hybrid holiday party on Zoom because it’s user-friendly. Or maybe another platform has more features to help bring your hybrid event to life. Each has its strengths, and you should consider the number of people attending, your objectives, the activities, and so on. Some great virtual platforms to consider for your hybrid event production include:
4. Promote Through Digital Channels
Since your event is partly digital, capitalize on digital advertising. Promote your event with a theme that will stick with people and excite them about coming, whether it’s a Hawaiian holiday or a masquerade party or a Victorian Christmas soiree. Create a clever and memorable hashtag for your event and brand every social media post with it. Consider paid advertising and make sure to show your personality. Gradually announce entertainment, food, unique gifts, etc., to build anticipation and excitement.
5. Prepare for the Worst
Murphy’s Law is real, and you’ll need to have a plan B for potential virtual and in-person glitches. For the virtual side, identify which technology, tools, and equipment you’ll use and what problems could potentially arise. What if your Wi-Fi cuts out? What if your event gets hacked? What if Zoom decides to have a stroke on the day of your event? Make sure you have a tech expert present to handle any of these emergencies.
For in-person attendees, what if your host backs out? What if you run out of food? What if a guest has an emergency health episode? What if a snow storm threatens to keep people away? (Could you accommodate those who are marooned at home on your virtual platform?)
The more crisis scenarios you prepare for, the better equipped you’ll be to deal with any last-minute challenges threatening your hybrid event.
6. Encourage Engagement Between Both Audiences
The best hybrid events unite virtual and in-person guests seamlessly. Think of ways to get these two audiences working together. Do you have enough screens that your in-person audience can see your digital participants? And vice versa? Do they all have chat capabilities so that they can interact? Can everyone see the entertainers and any video clips that are shown? If you’re giving out prizes, consider digital gifts that everyone can access (e-gift certificates, etc.)
7. Plan Interactive Activities
When choosing games and entertainment for your hybrid party, select activities that in-person and virtual guests can engage in together. This may require some advance planning if you need to send supplies to virtual guests in advance. Make sure that your in-person audience has a good on-screen view of visual participants and vice versa.
- Holiday bingo (consider virtual bingo for all guests or help your virtual guests access their bingo cards online before the event)
- Ugly sweater contest (people can model in-person or on screen)
- Holiday Karaoke
- Holiday Rap Battles
- Hybrid Secret Santa
- Building gingerbread houses (mail out kits in advance to virtual attendees)
- Holiday magic show
- Hybrid Christmas caroling
- A virtual toast in tandem with the live toast (consider having goblets and drinks delivered to virtual guests)
8. Designate an Event Host
We can’t overemphasize the importance of a dynamic host to keep the party engaging and fun. Consider having a virtual co-host who works alongside the in-person host. The virtual co-host should interact with the virtual audience but also have speaking parts at the in-person event. The repartee between these two hosts can help carry the event.
9. Incorporate Food for Virtual Guests
It’s a no-brainer that food will be part of the celebration in person, but you can also go the extra mile and offer to comp meals for virtual guests or send food/dessert packages to their front door. This will instantly make their experience ten times more enjoyable.
Don’t forget to be mindful of food restrictions and personal circumstances for all of your guests (live and virtual). Does everyone drink alcohol? Does everyone eat meat? If you’re not sure, find out ahead of time.
10. Keep Inclusivity in Mind
Be inclusive in all that you do. It can be challenging for virtual guests to feel included, but not with your extraordinary ability to have an inclusive mindset and value your virtual guests just as much as your in-person ones. Think about everyone’s time zone, religion, and lifestyle, and then plan an event that will be inclusive, comfortable, and enjoyable for all.
11. Choose the Right Venue
You may think choosing a venue is only essential for the in-person portion of your holiday party, but it’s also crucial for the virtual part. Internet stability, lighting, and sound can make or break your hybrid event. So, choose your venue wisely, keeping both audiences in mind.
Orchestrating a hybrid holiday party is a balancing act. You want to make sure it’s one event with two different experiences, without one of the experiences feeling inferior to the other. Ensure all activities, entertainment, and conversation are relevant and engaging for your in-person and virtual guests. If you’re up for the challenge, make sure to get planning right away and emphasize preparation, inclusivity, and fun!
Feel free to reach out to us for information on our event planning services in D.C., Los Angeles, and Dallas. We are industry leaders in virtual and hybrid events and will help you create a holiday bash that is positively unforgettable for your in-person and virtual guests.