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[ RESEARCH COMMUNITY ] June 30, 2022

6 Tips for hybrid conference engagement: speakers, chairs, and moderators

Engaging attendees in any conference can sometimes be tough. It's even harder to achieve when trying to provide outstanding in-person and virtual attendee experiences. Here we share tips on how speakers, chairs, and moderators can captivate their hybrid audiences and transform a typical conference into an engaging one.

Invite both audiences on stage

Audiences at any conference don't just want to be spectators, they prefer to be actors, playing their part in making the conference an exciting one. Inviting your audiences to participate through questions and answers, personal inputs, and thoughts on the topic is a perfect way to increase your conference engagement.

At a hybrid event, it can be easy to forget to involve your virtual audiences. Speakers should remember to engage these audience members by looking at the screen, calling out names, and even inviting virtual attendees to share the stage via the screen as made possible on the Morressier platform.


Ask open-ended questions and do Q&As

We’ve all been at events where we had questions in our minds but didn't want to cut the speaker off in the middle of their speech to ask. As a conference chair or moderator, you should create opportunities for questions from in-person and online audiences to build interaction and improve audience engagement.

Additionally, conference speakers should not just ask thought-provoking questions but also open-ended questions that nudge the audience to produce answers. Speaking directly to attendees and inviting them to respond to questions are great ways to engage your attendees. Try going back and forth between questions from in-person and virtual attendees, so everyone feels included.


Go straight to the point

The last thing you want to do as a speaker is to bore your audience with unimportant or unrelated details. Base your speech on addressing the science conference theme or focus on why your research matters to your audience. 

Go straight to the key points you want to deliver and if talking about something doesn't have a direct or indirect value to the topic, leave it out. But of course, allow room for some fun and social interactions that make meaning.


hybrid conference and virtual conference


Get online attendees to talk in live chat

To make your attendees feel more included in the hybrid conference, moderators need to provide chat functions that allow virtual attendees to interact with each other and with on-site participants as well as ask the speaker some questions. 

Having a live conference tool or conference hosting platform with interactive features in place will be the tip of the iceberg of great ways to engage your attendees. This will give people the opportunity to really interact with your content and facilitate hybrid conference audience engagement.


Forge in-person/virtual connections with networking

Aside from content, the most important aspect of scientific conferences is the opportunity for attendees to network and communicate with other people whose ideas they find interesting. At any hybrid conference, you may find virtual conference attendees who want to connect with in-person attendees and vice versa. Creating these opportunities and having networking tools in place will enable audiences to get in touch with each other and continue the conversation long after the event is over.


Acknowledge both audiences

At every opportunity, speakers should take the time to acknowledge virtual audiences while moderators make room for them to come on stage. If the speaker is virtual, then in-person audiences should be acknowledged as well to create a more connective experience. Treating those on-screen as part of the conference by looking at them or posing questions to them ensures they benefit from eye contact messaging where the actual feeling of the thought is passed across.

Although both audiences in a hybrid event have different needs, keeping them engaged and involved throughout the sessions will make your conference experience more memorable.


In conclusion

The benefits that we’ve seen from virtual conferences - from lowering carbon emissions to reducing cost barriers for global attendance - are too powerful to pass up by reverting back to exclusively in-person meetings. That’s why hybrid events have so much potential, but they’ll require experimentation and commitment from everyone participating in the program. The partnership between societies and technology partners will lead the way with creative thinking and user-experience-focused problem-solving.

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