Holding an event with virtual and in-person elements? Follow these tips to success!
Holding a hybrid event for the first time? (For those who aren’t up on the lingo, that means offering both virtual and in-person attendance options.) You might feel daunted at the idea of getting the virtual elements right while still holding a fun in-person event. But organizations around the world are proving it’s highly feasible, even on a tight budget. And since hybrid events are becoming increasingly popular, it only makes sense to jump on the bandwagon.
Better yet, offering virtual and in-person attendance options can help you fundraise even more for your cause. Whether you’re holding a fundraiser for a school, church, or community organization, make the most of it by catering to both audiences.
Think virtual first.
Organizations are adopting a virtual-first approach in team meetings, catering to those Zooming in from home. It’s important to follow the same principle for any event. Virtual can easily become an afterthought, so before you begin planning all the details, think, “How will this look on a screen? How will it feel to virtual attendees?”
For instance, consider the layout of your event. If you’re holding a dog show (or any competition), position the emcee and other speakers in front of the action but set off to the side. That way, viewers can see the speaker in the foreground as well as the events in the background. Make sure the in-person crowd has a good view of the speaker and action too.
Include a strong educational element.
Showing your audience why your cause matters should make up a big part of your program. People will feel good about learning something and making a genuine connection with your group. Plus, you can easily live stream or even pre-record this content. Keep the informational component to no more than an hour, though, The Chronicle of Philanthropy advises. And fill it with stories that move people on an emotional level as well as facts that convince on a logical level.
In the virtual event, don’t focus on broadcasting everything the in-person crowd is doing. Depending on the event, the at-home audience could be entertained by it—or they could be bored or feel they’re missing out. If you’re holding a fun event, like a friendly competition, viewers may want to see it. But if you’re live streaming from a fundraiser dinner, at-home attendees will just feel left out if you dwell on the crowd, The Chronicle of Philanthropy notes. Give the at-home folks their own experience, rather than making it feel like they’re eavesdropping on the real fundraiser.
Create great visual content.
Along the same lines, consider creating visual content specifically for the at-home audience. Perhaps some slides with pictures, or video snippets spliced together, would accentuate a talk or other event content. Put it together ahead of time so it will be polished and ready to deploy.
If possible, also film and broadcast the event from different angles (or hire a team of videographers to do this). We’re all used to watching content that shifts perspective regularly, and this will make the virtual event more engaging (think close-ups and wide views). In contrast, looking at one static scene can grow tedious, even if you’re watching people perform or compete. But if that doesn’t feel feasible yet, splicing in other audiovisual materials will help.
For instance, putting together video success stories can grab viewers’ attention, as Alliance magazine says.
Design virtual (or joint) participation options.
Create fun activities for virtual attendees to participate in. If feasible, design activities that virtual and in-person participants can both take part in.
Here are a few examples:
- Auction (don’t make the pacing too fast, in case of time delays)
- Trivia contest
- Cooking class (or any type of workshop that people can do from home too)
- Talent show (broadcast at-home attendees in!)
- Film screening with a discussion afterward
- Masquerade (highlight photos of virtual and in-person participants)
- Game night (offer games on virtual platforms as well as in-person)
- Dog show (give every pup time in the spotlight!)
- Virtual concerts (invite the at-home audience “backstage” for a meet and greet)
Showing at-home attendees on a screen at the in-person event can give them more of a presence. Not everyone will want to be visible, but for specific activities like a talent show, it makes people feel included.
When you recognize virtual donors, they’ll feel more connected to the event. Show names of donors on the screen, thanking them in real-time. If possible, share both virtual and in-person donors’ names to affirm that they’re both working toward the same goal together. Also, show a meter that reveals your progress toward your goal.
You could share a screen at the in-person event that shows donations and comments from at-home participants in real-time, too. You might even find in-person attendees joining in on the same chat!
Create shareable materials.
Both in-person and virtual guests can share promotional materials on social media. Send supporters engaging posts and encourage them to share with friends and family to help make your goal. This can really make an impact as they listen to a compelling talk. And make it super easy to donate by text or online payment platforms.
Finally, track the number of new donors and which ones attended in person and virtually. This will help you gauge whether one platform is more effective (and whether you need to up your game in the other).
Both virtual and in-person events are extremely popular today. And now you know how to hold an event that covers all bases—and raises more for your church, school, or community group fundraiser. Plus, you can post your video broadcast on your website and social media to reach even more people in the coming days!
Alliance Magazine, “15 Best Practices for Hosting Virtual or Hybrid Fundraising Events”
The Chronicle of Philanthropy, “Tips for Planning a Hybrid Fundraising Event”
Forbes, “5 Trends to Watch in Peer-to-Peer Fundraising in 2022”
Nonprofit Hub, “How Hybrid Fundraising Can Sustain Nonprofits”