Like many event planners, you still may be recovering from the quick transition from in-person to virtual events. The move back to face-to-face meetings doesn’t need to be such a jolt, especially since you can take the best parts of virtual events with you. Here are some things to think about as your in-person + virtual (hybrid) event takes shape.
First, define hybrid.
The term “hybrid” is broad. A 50,000 person in-person conference with just one remote speaker or visitor is a hybrid event, and so is an investor meeting with presenters speaking from a studio. So, it’s critically important to determine what hybrid means to your organization by choosing which event elements—exhibits, presentations, sponsorship activations, networking, or matchmaking, for example—participants will be able to access in a physical space vs. virtually.
Think one, not two events.
It’s too daunting to regard an in-person event with virtual components as two events. Separate the front of the house (what attendees see) from the back of the house (where the sausage is made). Software as a Service can take care of what attendees need, from registration to navigation on the front end. A production partner with both on-site and virtual capabilities can address where content comes from (a stage or a living room) and how to distribute it on the back end.
Use the same checklist but add more tasks.
Planners launched virtual events quickly because they followed a familiar framework involving space, equipment, people, and process. When going back to an in-person plus virtual event, the framework will be the same, but the to-do list will be longer. You may need more cameras, lights, monitors, and microphones on-site to capture content for the remote audience, and you’ll need additional human resources to keep track of more moving parts.
Avoid second-class citizens.
For most of 2020, you lavished attention on your virtual attendees—the only attendees you had. When hybrid events become the norm, attendees who choose to participate in your events remotely will expect the same amount of attention as you gave them before. The solution is to build an engagement plan (polling, Q & A, gameplay, networking, etc.) that puts both in-person and remote participants on a level playing field or re-set expectations appropriately.
Forget the “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” philosophy.
The days of cruising along on autopilot—using the same event platform, apps, and processes that worked for in-person events in the past—to enable the hybrid-event future probably won’t work. Your objective through this next phase of transition isn’t to wait until something breaks. It’s to actively try to break it through trials, rehearsals, and iterations so you can discover what works for you.
Schedule more time for a hybrid.
In-person events focus equipment, people, and processes on one physical location. Hybrid events take place in multiple physical spaces with both live and pre-recorded content. Scheduling snags, delays in back-and-forth communication, and the need for technical reviews and checks with remote presenters can extend an event timeline by months.
Add more speeds and feeds.
Internet speed and bandwidth figure prominently in the success of hybrid events. Before signing any contract for physical space, make sure you or your production partner negotiate the additional network infrastructure, connectivity, and costs with the venue. And, depending on the amount of content to be streamed and when, the additional fees could increase your prior year’s audio visual spend.
Electrify your hybrid programming.
Virtual audience members are less forgiving than their in-person counterparts. They have less patience (likely from being on Zoom calls all day), more distractions, and more opportunity to leave the event with few people even knowing. That means the portion of your programming meant for remote attendees has to be shorter in length and more dynamic if you want everyone to stay engaged.
Have “the talk” with your production partner.
Understanding that your hybrid is one event, not two, find a production partner that can handle both the virtual and live components. SmartSource is one of the few companies that offers both virtual and live event services. This reduces duplication in equipment and labor, saves precious time, and gives you one trusted partner who understands the entirety of your event. Our virtual, hybrid, and face-to-face event solutions are customized to your needs and come with an experienced team to help you every step of the way. The result is an easy-to-execute, cost-effective, and engaging event.
Find out how much more SmartSource® can do for you.