No one can predict how the event world will look this time next year, but one thing’s for sure; hybrid events are going to feature heavily for the foreseeable future, so make sure you understand how to hold a successful one.
Best of both worlds
There’s no denying the power of face-to-face meetings. Chemistry and charisma are hard to replicate on a digital platform and this is why in-the-flesh events have continued to flourish even in these (pre-Covid) tech-heavy times. However, with the world having spent most of 2020 honing their online inter-personal skills, this is the perfect time to start creating fantastic events for both delegates who can attend live and for those who can only engage from afar.
Hybrid conferences and meetings are events which happen live with attendees in the same physical space as the speakers. They are also simultaneously transmitted through video streaming to a remote audience. Done well, a hybrid event can extend your reach and keep a wider range of delegates happy in contrast to holding a meeting which exclusively caters to just one camp. But, as you can imagine, there are rules to follow and best practices to be aware of to make sure your event doesn’t fall somewhere down the crack in the middle of the digital and real worlds and ends up not serving either group of attendees properly.
Here at The HAC we’ve been hosting hybrid events using the high-tech facilities in The Prince Consort Rooms for years. We’ve asked our in-house teams to pull together some advice on everything you might need to put on a brilliant meeting or conference for all of your delegates, regardless of how they choose to attend.
1. Choose a venue with excellent tech facilities and support
This is probably the most important part of your planning journey as much of the success of your event will hinge on the digital capabilities of your chosen venue. The best way to do this is to ask to experience the venue online, rather than (or before) you visit in person. This way you will get to truly walk in your online delegates’ footsteps. Ask your venue how they plan to get your online delegates involved in discussions and to see the quality of the video streaming they will see. Always ask about similar events your venue has held in the past – you can also ask to speak to planners who have previously held events at the same venue to get an idea of any challenges they may have faced.
2. Keep registration flexible
As travel restrictions can change with little notice at the moment, it’s a good idea to let your delegates amend their tickets from ‘live’ to ‘digital’ and vice versa right up until the last minute. This will give your attendees confidence that they can book up without running the risk of missing out if the rules, or their personal circumstances, change. In uncertain times, you may find that without this flexibility attendees are reluctant to commit.
3. Keep all speakers and presentations live
Although it’s perfectly possible for your delegates to engage fully with your event from the comfort of their own homes, in our experience it’s far better to have all of your speakers attend in person. The buzz and energy created by a room full of people is always going to benefit their performance and therefore, your event. On this note, it’s a good idea to incorporate some live conversations – perhaps a panel discussion – into your schedule to guarantee the generation of ideas and debate.
4. Adapt your schedule
Although attending a conference in person is exhausting, it’s actually your remote delegates whose attention span you need to worry about. Dialling in from home or the office means that there are variables and distractions completely out of your control. As well as potential interruptions, your virtual attendees have to work a little harder to stay focused. Losing concentration is far easier when you don’t have the collective energy of a room full of engaged people carrying lagging individuals along. Try to keep sessions shorter than usual and break them up with interactive elements such as group discussions, polls and Q and As.
5. Encourage remote and live delegate interaction
There will, of course, be an easier and stronger connection between those attending your event in person, so you’ll need to work hard to get everyone feeling part of the same experience. Remember, networking and having their voices heard is just as important to your virtual visitors as it is your live ones. Ensure your speakers take just as many questions from both audiences and for group discussions mix up your groups between the two camps if technically possible. Most of your delegates will now be pretty ‘aufait’ with Zoom-esque situations so this will be second nature for most.
Creating a dedicated event hashtag for your social platforms is also a really good way to help interaction between your two types of audience member. As well as connecting your delegates as a whole, it will also produce a buzz around your event, essential for gaining traction if you’re planning on hosting the same event next year.
6. Don’t hang around
The last thing you want is a room full of people waiting for a handful of remote attendees who are running late or struggling with tech issues at their end. Make it clear to all delegates and speakers, that the start time is exactly that, the time when the presentation begins. Having a team member on site dedicated to assisting remote delegates with any issues they might be having will free up your speaker to get on with their job.
7. Your live stream
It goes without saying that you need a high quality, reliable live streaming system. Speak to any of your short-listed venues about the system that they use and ask to experience what your remote delegates can expect on the day. It’s also important to understand what branding opportunities there are open to you.
8. Don’t forget the live perks
Live visitors should be able to enjoy your event in exactly the same way as they would do if you didn’t have virtual attendees. So, don’t forget about serving delicious, energy-boosting refreshments and a healthy, restaurant-quality lunch. You should also still be thinking about the aesthetic appeal of your venue, its location, transport links and whether or not it will inspire your attendees to get creative.
9. Be Covid secure
Although you know you’d only ever book a Covid secure venue, don’t presume that your potential attendees would take this as a given. Make sure you communicate all of the measures that will be in place to keep your live guests safe during their time at your meeting or conference. You and every member of your team will need to become an expert in everything your venue is doing, so that you can help keep your guests safe and answer any questions with complete confidence.
Hybrid packages at The HAC
Our Prince Consort Rooms is a modern space, dedicated to conferences and meetings, boasting its own entrance, sun terrace and in-built streaming facilities. For our hybrid events, we partner with KSS Event Production. They are experts in live streaming and will be on-hand on the day to ensure everything runs smoothly. As well as streaming your event live to your audience, you will also be able to access a recorded version after the show. Packages start at £90 per delegate. Get all the details about our hybrid events here.