The events industry has changed, quite possibly forever, within the last few years. With the quick onslaught of COVID-19, many businesses scrambled to find solutions to keep in touch from a distance in early 2020. According to Pollstar’s end-of-year report in 2020, the live events industry lost around $30 million due to the pandemic.
If there’s one positive of the past few years, it’s the advancement of virtual and hybrid events. Virtual meetings swooped in to pick up where live events couldn’t to keep businesses moving and individuals connected. Hybrid events have become a popular alternative as we ebb and flow through uncertainty. Hybrid events give the option of comfort, safety, and a broader reach. Not everyone feels safe at in-person events, especially those with compromised immune systems, so giving a virtual option can be appealing to some. In contrast, it also tends to others who crave human interaction and prefer to attend in person.
From a planning perspective, planning a hybrid event reduces the risk associated with pandemic-related shutdowns. In the event of a spike in COVID cases or restrictions, it’s much easier to go entirely virtual if your event planning efforts have always included a virtual element.
If you’re planning on hosting a hybrid event this year, make sure to consider the following key aspects for a smooth and effective event.
Promoting hybrid events is similar to marketing in-person or virtual events, but you’ll want to be clear that there are options. You can send invitations out electronically and/or by snail mail that details the event, how to register, and attendance options.
When promoting your hybrid event, it’s essential to explicitly state your efforts to ensure everyone’s safety, including mask protocols, social distancing, sanitation stations, food segregation, etc.
You will want to ensure your technology is up to speed and can handle a hybrid event. One of the first steps you must take is deciding how you want guests to register or RSVP. Whether you have guests register on a virtual registration platform or by email, you will want to make sure they clearly distinguish if they’re attending in person or virtually.
Next, you’ll want to choose a platform to host the virtual portion of the event on. With the widespread growth of virtual events, Zoom is a top contender and constantly updating its services to make hybrid events as natural and seamless as possible. Still, there are a lot of platforms out there you can use depending on your requirements, so make sure to do your research.
One of the most significant steps on your to-do list is testing all forms of technology before going live, including the camera, sound, and connectivity. If possible, it’s best to have a designated tech team that can manage these virtual aspects and serve as a liaison to make sure information shared online is communicated with the in-person attendees and vice versa, so everyone has a memorable experience.
Another aspect you’ll want to troubleshoot ahead of time is time zones. With hybrid events, people from all over the world can attend, so make sure you’re clear about the time and location of the event. Furthermore you will want to have some built in flexibility for unexpected time delays or technical glitches. Don’t forget about bathroom breaks for events lasting longer than 90 minutes.
As if event planning wasn’t complicated enough, hybrid events bring about new concerns, especially on how to ensure your virtual guests still feel engaged. During a recent virtual Zoom Event, Tessa West discussed research at NYU on Building Communication in a Hybrid World. Their research shows that face-to-face interactions are a crucial part of interactions often excluded from virtual events. Most communication is nonverbal, so it’s important to allow virtual guests to see speakers’ and attendees’ facial expressions and physical stature to get a true feeling of the event.
West also recommends using as few screens as possible and having people in the same room share one camera instead of everyone having their own. This creates a sense of community often found during in-person events.
Another way to build equal engagement at hybrid events is taking turns with the speaker view, so people feel more comfortable speaking up. During question-and-answer sessions, make sure to take turns between virtual and in-person guests by alternating between in-person and virtual attendees.
Lastly, you’ll want to make sure you are setting realistic expectations for all attendees. Remember, we are still dealing with a global pandemic, and things can change quickly. Protect yourself from liability by ensuring that your in-person attendees understand and assume the risks of attending live events. You can do this by putting reminders and highlighted text on your invitation, registration, and reminder emails so guests know you’re taking precautions, but also make it clear that they assume all risks if they contract COVID during or after the event.
Need help getting the word out about your upcoming event? Schedule a 1:1 consultation with Nahamani Yisrael and learn about how clients like yourself are using our Mini Media Kit to keep key constituents up to date and informed as things change quickly and often unexpectedly.