Going hybrid? How to think like a TV producer


By: Hannah Lee | Mar 11, 2022

Two of our MPI UK & Ireland chapter board members, Brian Hand and Emma Wellstead, have come together to give you their expert top tips on how to get hybrid events right - and it all starts with the planning…

Captivated by our ‘SPOWL’ article image by Arne Olav Gurvin Fredriksen? What a Photoshop whizz!  Seamlessly and meticulously blending one animal with another with eye catching results – check out his Instagram account for more ‘woah’ moments!: https://www.instagram.com/gyyporama/


10-15 minute time slots for content

It’s easier to engage with participants at in-person events.  But when you have a digital audience you need to think less like an event organiser and more like a TV producer.  The more traditional format of the ‘single’ channel in-person event does not readily convert into a successful digital multi-channel event.

When you start planning, think about:

  • content: this should be short, easily digestible chunks (maximum of 15 minutes)

  • taking breaks between sessions, let the audience breathe

  • communicating break times and durations so attendees know when breaks are coming

  • arrange optional activities or gamification during breaks

  • formatting: think talk shows, newscasts, on location interviews etc

Think beyond ‘LIVE’

In a traditional meeting, we didn’t have the opportunity to share presentations/content as much as we do now.  Filming and recording presentations and panel discussions for a hybrid event can become a valuable post-event resource.  So, when you are planning your hybrid event, think about sessions or segments of content that could benefit an audience after the event; make good social media posts or provide marketing collateral for your next event.

How to keep the momentum

Introduce new formats such as bullet point sessions: this is when each speaker presents 3 bullet points for 3 minutes, 3 slides, 1 minute per slide with only actionable advice. With 5 speakers, your audience gets so much practical advice in 15 minutes.

Give a voice to the audience

Try the ‘empty chair’ on the panel: there is an empty chair on stage which represents the voice of the audience.  Whether live or virtual, a member of the audience is selected to come and join the panel and share their opinion. 

Remove the predictability – let the audience decide

As a digital participant, it is easy to plan to leave your desk/the platform during presentations you deem not to be relevant or interesting.  Psychologically we are more inclined to follow the crowd.  So, use polls to allow the audience to decide.  This can be on what topic the next speaker should present on or what question they should answer.  Giving control to your audience will keep engagement levels high.  If you planned to leave an event early in the in-person environment, could you walk by a packed seminar room without wanting to see who the speaker was and what they were talking about?  Fear of missing out can be a strong pull…weave this into your format.

Relax – curate the right atmosphere for your event from the start

Neither Brian or I would ever begin an event (any event) without music.  Silence can have a negative impact in an event setting.  ‘Breaking the silence’ is a familiar phrase – and it is difficult to do.  Entering a quiet space, we (as people) naturally tend to whisper.  This sets the tone for your event.  Unwittingly you could re-create the atmosphere of a library rather than the positive impact you are hoping to achieve.  Music is powerful and can instantly create the right start for your event.  As the in-person and on-line audiences gather, use music to connect the two audiences.  You can use a live musician, a DJ or simply a playlist.  You can create an oasis of calm with something more classical or a buzz of energy with an uplifting, energised beat.  But don’t neglect the power music has on all of us.

Think about different learning styles

Make it visual. Have an artist illustrate sessions with sketch notes.  Graphically recording what was discussed helps those who learn visually and is always a success on social media.

People love prizes.  People love giving.

A virtual platform allows you to build quizzes and gamification into your event.  There are now platforms that connect your remote and in-person audiences like not other.  You can benefit from learning more about you participants and encourage networking.  You can think about setting collaborative challenges.  For eg. if 250 new one-to-one conversations are achieved, you could commit to donating resource or money to charity – you’ll be surprised to see how altruistic people are.

Getting the benefits of attending in-person or on-line to be the same

No one wants to feel like the poor cousin.  At their worst, the on-line participant experience is like watching CCTV footage.  Everyone is a digital participant before and after the event, so start building your community long before the event starts and plan the legacy you want to happen from your event.

At a recent hybrid event (where we only assisted on the day of the event), there was a pre-registered on-line audience of over 1,000.  On the day the digital audience reached a maximum of 39.  When you are investing your time and budget to make a successful hybrid event, you need to start engaging with your audience at least 6-8 weeks before the event.  If the audience feel like they are actively involved with the event they are much more likely to participate.

Choosing the right platform

Ideally you want your virtual platform to also be an event app.  This means both audiences have the same Q&A; the same polling and same access to content.

Virtual audience only

We can all see the benefits of being at an in-person event.  In breaks, you might have the opportunity to ask your question or get clarification from a speaker.  It is easier to target your networking and spot people you’d like to talk to.  You can ‘read the room’ quickly gauging reactions and the enthusiasm for different topics.  And you are more likely to have that internal boost from the energy in the room.

We highly recommend to make some content ‘Virtual Audience Only’ to increase the value for a virtual audience.  This might take the form of ‘Meet the Speaker’; a virtual backstage pass; a post-event Q&A etc.

Notes about authors:

Brian Hand is VP Events for MPI UK & Ireland and is also Founder + Project Manager at Eventcomms Consulting.

Brian helps people plan meetings & events to deliver flawless experiences through effective cost management & project planning, globally.

Emma Wellstead is the VP of Community for MPI UK & Ireland and is also Founder and Director of Warwick Events, a certified B Corporation®.

Emma works with companies planning more sustainable events experiences; structuring programmes to be imaginative, thoughtful and highly impactful.

If you’d like to get in touch with Brian or Emma, they would love to hear from you:




Hannah Lee


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