As the vaccine rollout expands and restrictions ease, there may be a desire to return to our standard routines, our pre-Covid norms, and our traditional ways of gathering and communicating. Yet, the pandemic has pushed us to adapt and innovate in ways like never before. We cannot abandon these efforts and developments for sake of nostalgia.
Moving forward, societies and organizations are expected to lean towards the hybrid approach (featuring an in-person event along with a virtual online component) when organizing academic conferences. Hybrid events combine the best of both worlds, meshing the inclusivity, accessibility, and flexibility of virtual formats with the ease and familiarity of the physical conference hall.
Are you prepared to present at hybrid conferences and events in the coming months?
Worried about how to captivate your audience when half of the attendees are spread out across the world?
Read on for tips and best practices on effectively engaging your hybrid audience.
Make Sure You’re On Schedule
When presenting on-site at a hybrid conference, it’s easy to get distracted by the thrill of finally being able to gather in 3D. However, don’t let this excitement draw you away from your individual timetable. Make sure that you arrive at your presentation site early so that you can set up your slides and sort out any technical issues ahead of schedule. Remember, with no need to travel, virtual attendees are more likely to log on promptly. These remote participants might opt to skip your presentation if they arrive to find that you are not prepared.
Dual Audience Engagement
In order to effectively engage your hybrid audience, you need to be mindful of both virtual and in-person attendees. It’s important to remember that virtual audiences will not have the same attention span as those on-site. Recent Stanford University research has described the extent of virtual meeting ‘fatigue’ and the way in which video conference calls can ‘exhaust the human mind and body.’ Due to these effects, opt in favour of shorter presentation times when presenting at hybrid events.
In addition, try to engage with and incorporate virtual attendees into the presentation. Take a few moments to acknowledge those at home, make direct eye contact with the video camera if possible, and include interactive elements in your presentation for them to take part in. For instance, an in-person show of hands can easily be supplemented with a quick virtual poll. You should also make sure to keep an eye on the questions rolling through in the chat during the Q&A session and read out each person’s name when answering. Moreover, look out for digital gestures like face emoticons, applause symbols, laughter, and more. These functions serve as live virtual feedback for your presentation and work just like the audible or visual reactions from your in-person crowd. Finally, make sure to enunciate clearly so that the mic can catch what you're saying for remote participants and so that your voice can carry for socially distanced in-person attendees.
Dress to Impress for both Audiences
As remote meetings became the new standard, you most likely became used to only worrying about your waist-up attire for presentations. Clearly, this will change when presenting on-site, but don’t forget to continue certain virtual event habits when dressing for hybrid conferences, like refraining from wearing sequins or flashy clothing. Although this may not matter to your physical attendees, we’ve learned from over a year of presenting at home that this could cause an unwanted glare or reflection in the camera for those watching online. Try to stick to solid colors and avoid distracting patterns for best results.
Presenting From Home
Keep your Background Area Neat
Opting for an on-camera format adds a personal touch to your presentation and helps you deliver your content in a more engaging way. On platforms like Morressier, videos can actually be run alongside presentation material, allowing for a more seamless viewing experience. However, it’s important to ensure that there are no visual distractions in your background. A cluttered bookshelf or stack of items may seem insignificant, but they can draw attention away from you and your work. Try to avoid virtual backgrounds for this same reason. Instead, work on keeping your surrounding area clean and simple with lots of light. Put up a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door of your presentation room so that you can steer clear of loud background noise and interruptions. See more practical tips for creating and delivering at-home presentations here.
Limit Technical Glitches
Ensure that you have a strong WiFi connection at home and, if possible, try to avoid having too many people using the internet at the same time to avoid crashes. Go over your presentation slides several times and try to familiarize yourself with the conference platform beforehand. Additionally, it might be helpful to be in touch with conference organizers so that you have a direct contact in case of technical glitches or for general questions. You should also make sure that you are aware of how you will be presented at the conference. Will your screen be displayed live on-stage to all attendees or do you need to submit a pre-recorded presentation video? Learning about these details long before the event will help you ensure that you have the needed technological capacities to present at your conference.
Get to Know Other Virtual Attendees and Presenters
Before the event, make use of social media to try and find other people who will be attending the conference. This allows you to get to know the in-person attendees that you'd otherwise meet via random networking encounters throughout the conference. It also helps you familiarize yourself with other remote participants who may also be looking to network and interact from home. During scheduled coffee breaks and networking opportunities for in-person attendees, catch up with other virtual participants. Building these connections is not only important for networking, but it allows you to foster reciprocal relationships with all audiences during the event - if you make sure to attend their presentation and provide them with individual feedback, they might just do the same for you!
More Best Practices
Know Your Audience
Ensure that your Presentation is Ever-Green