Image and survey from EventMb
Although gathering restrictions are starting to lift in some parts of the world we are not yet ready to hold large in person gatherings yet. Our industry is preparing for what the “new conference norm” will look like, when we get the green light to meet in person again. Our Elastic team has been meeting with clients to discuss the different scenarios when starting to move from fully virtual into hybrid events.
While we are believers in the power of face- to- face connection, it is safe to bet that hybrid events are here to stay. As planners we have been faced with the reality that hotels have reduced capacities and new standards for how they serve meals and host social functions. Attendees are hesitant about travelling and for international attendees the borders may still be closed. Hybrid allows for our clients to cast a wider reach and ensure people who are interested in attending can do so without travelling. Hybrid events also ensure that you are able to reach those attendees in countries where attending a physical event may have been cost restrictive.
Our clients have quickly discovered that planning for a hybrid event is like planning two events at once! Here are four elements to think about when starting to plan a hybrid event
1.NEW WIFI Requirements
Keeping your attendees connected can often be the most costly part of holding an in-person conference. We typically base our WIFI requirements on an average of 2 devices per person and cap the speed per device to help limit the usage. However, for many of our clients these contracts with venues were signed long before the pandemic. Now we are forced to think about how much bandwidth is needed to stream your virtual components. Will all your sessions be streamed live? Will you have online networking opportunities to bridge the gap between in person and online attendees? Will you have in person ambassadors streaming their experiences through a platform like Twitch?
The reality is we are all trying to come up with new and exciting ways to keep attendees engaged and bridge the gap between virtual and in person and these will require substantially more bandwidth. On top of bandwidth you may wish to consider having a hardline for an added back up plan to ensure your streaming of sessions does not run into problems. Start those conversations with your venue now and see what can be negotiated.
2. Venue Capacities
Gathering limits are different province- to -province, state -to -state and country -to- country right now, and this can be confusing! Our advice to our clients is always to prepare for best case and worst case scenarios. Start talking to your venues and discuss what gathering restrictions are in place in the local area as well as inside the venue. We are working with a client where we can only have 100 attendees per 4 walls. In many cases it is not as simple as just assuming you can hold half the capacity.
In person capacities are not all to think about, you also have to remember capacities on your streaming platforms. Depending on what you are using to webcast the sessions you may be limited to number of attendees. If you are using apps to facilitate networking there could be limitations on those as well. Check your accounts and contracts thoroughly so you are aware how many people you can host online and at what cost.
3. Registration Process
Everything from the way we set up registration pricing through onsite registration has to be thought through and in some cases completely revamped. Like most of the other aspects of planning, starting to think about this early is important. When setting prices it is important to think about what “add-ons or benefits” you can offer to your virtual attendees that will make the investment in time and money worthwhile. How you market the conference is also important and what story you tell will matter. Starting by sharing the safety procedures your venue is following can offer ease of mind for those thinking of registering. Having flexible cancellation policies can provide assurance to attendees in this time that is so uncertain. Or offering transferable registrations from in- person to virtual.
When it comes to preparing for attendees checking in you have to think about what is needed for an in-person attendee and virtual attendee. One tip for making everyone feel part of the same conference is to mail out name badges to virtual attendees so that they can wear them throughout the event. Although the online attendees may not be there in person to check in they will still feel part of the event.
When it comes to on-site registration, talking with your venue and understanding where the ownership falls [you or your venue] in providing PPE and safety equipment such as; floor decals to direct traffic, hand sanitizers, temperature checking stations, is very important in being prepared.
“You may even want to find ways of connecting your live attendees with the online audience in order to maximize the networking potential and minimize silos based on the privilege of attending in person.” – EventMB
Connection is going to be key, and creating a seamless experience between in person and virtual attendees is what we are focusing on. Doing some research and crowdsourcing among your potential attendees is a great first step in understanding what your audience wants to see in a hybrid event and how they plan to engage online. Creating ways for the virtual attendees to feel part of the experience and not an afterthought will be important.
Ephemeral content [temporary content] is quickly becoming popular in hybrid events because it plays on the attendees fear of missing out. Forcing attending to be online and engaged during the live event by stating up front which sessions will be recorded and which will not is one way to boost live engagement. If you are going to offer workshops you can let attendees know ahead of time that a session will not be recorded and even mail virtual attendees the materials they will need to participate encouraging them to show up. The most popular hybrid events right now are offering a mix of sessions that will be available on demand and ephemeral content.