Hybrid events–a type of event that uses both an in-person component and digital component– are quickly becoming the new norm for hosting an event, conference, or tradeshow. Some hybrid event examples include having a portion of participants travel locally to attend in person while inviting a national and international audience to use a digital platform enabling them to attend from their preferred location. Another option is to host an event where your speakers are in person but everything is being live-streamed to an audience at home.
In Hybrid Events Part 1, a previous article, we talked about general tips for setting up a hybrid event and nailing the virtual and physical experience (read Nailing the Hybrid Experience Part 1 here!). In this article, we’ll discuss the changes you’ll need to be aware of when hosting a multi-faceted event.
Follow along below for some tips and tricks on setting up the physical component of your next event!
Research Your Venue Thoroughly
With the ongoing pandemic, most venues and conference centers have completely changed their event policies. To be prepared for your upcoming event, make sure you research your venue thoroughly and have a list of questions prepared to ask the manager of the venue. Some venues now require you to use their pre-approved list of staff and services to host your event and handle any livestreams that you may be conducting. To avoid any confusion or unexpected expenses, discuss these details in depth before moving forward with the venue.
Here’s a list of questions and details you should consider discussing with your venue ahead of time:
- What is your policy on using outside vendors and services for set-up and break-down of the physical space?
- How many days ahead of time can I set up my venue?
- Do you have an A/V tech team available onsite? What is the cost of hiring them for this event?
- Can I get dedicated, hardline, Internet in each location I would like to stream from, and at what upload bitrates and prices are available? (Remember to never sign a hotel or convention center space contract until these issues are negotiated.)
- Does the venue have a list of exclusive suppliers?
- Are there any health screenings or procedures our attendees should be aware of?
- What is the maximum number of attendees who can fit in this space?
- How do you handle last-minute cancellations in case of an emergency?
Doing the work to research your venue ahead of time will make a world of difference come event day!
Determine Which Staff Need to be Hired
In addition to researching your venue, you’ll need to figure out which additional staff you’ll need to hire. Since you now will be adding a digital extension to your event, you’ll need to think about the components that will be needed (or nice to have depending on budget) to run a Livestream or to record the sessions to upload them at a later time.
Here’s a possible list of services and individuals you may need to hire:
Emcee: an emcee is perfect for connecting your in-person audience with your digital audience. They can help transition between sessions and keep your agenda on schedule in a professional and exciting way.
A virtual event manager: a virtual event manager will handle everything on the digital side so that you can stay focused on being physically present. This person will be responsible for handling the set-up of the event and ensuring that all is running smoothly throughout the event duration.
Video & encoder operators: Many times, with remote-controlled cameras, your technical operator will be able to do both video operations and run the encoder (the tool to get that video coded, graphics added, and uploaded to the streaming servers). Sometimes you will need a two-person crew and those chores will be split. This video will be used in your live broadcast to your digital attendees and may be used on the screens onstage as well.
A/V tech specialists: audio/visual technology specialists are going to be your go-to people for your physical event. They’ll be responsible for making sure the projector is working, audio is dialed in and the speakers are prepared to give their presentation without AV issues. Your encoder operator will likely take an audio feed from the AV tech table directly to the encoder.
Server specialists: with a digital component, a strong internet connection is imperative. Server specialists should be onsite to diagnose any connection issues that may arise. (These should be included in your contract and not someone you’ll need to hire.)
Include Your Speakers in the Set-Up
Your speakers should be well-informed, regardless of the type of event you are hosting; however, with a hybrid event, there are additional steps your speakers should be made aware of. First, your speaker will need to know where the cameras are located throughout the room. This will ensure that they not only present to the physical audience but the digital audience as well. Second, you’ll want to include them in a rehearsal of some sort so that they can practice with the microphone they will be using and solve any problems they may have with using presentation slides.
The third, and perhaps most important, aspect that you talk with your speakers about is how to handle the live Q&A. It’s easy with a live, physical audience present for your speaker to forget about the digital one and sometimes even the in-room audience if they forget to have people ask questions using the microphone so everyone in the room can hear as well as the remote audience. In the case where a question is asked without the microphone being used, the speaker should repeat the question into the microphone. Discussing with them ahead of the conference will give them time to adjust to the dual audiences and prepare their presentation accordingly.
With a live Q&A, you’ll want to figure out the best approach to taking both in-person questions and questions from your virtual audience. One solution to consider is using a moderator during this portion of the presentation so that they can feed the speaker questions asked in the virtual platform and take questions from the audience.
Help Your Sponsors Determine a Plan of Action
As with speakers, your sponsors will likely want to engage with both the physical and the virtual audience. To maximize their exposure to attendees, you’ll want to have them set up a physical booth and a virtual one as well as designate staff members to each site. This ensures that all attendees’ needs and interests are covered throughout the conference.
Test Your Livestream–And Then Test It Again
Testing your Livestream is undoubtedly one of the most important preparation items to tackle. Without a properly functioning Livestream, your entire virtual audience will not be able to view your content. To properly prepare for your hybrid event, test your Livestream a few days in advance as well as the morning of. Additionally, prepare a backup plan in case the Livestream ends unexpectedly. This backup plan can include having a second stream running, hiring a technical support team to be onsite and ready to handle any issues that may arise, and offering your content as on-demand videos to be uploaded to the virtual platform at a later time.
Connect Your Digital and Physical Attendees
Lastly, with your hybrid event, you’ll want to think about ways you can connect your virtual and physical attendees. This will heighten the experience for both groups. There are many ways you can connect your two audiences but one way is to allow your physical audience to have access to the virtual venue as well. Having all attendees be able to meet up and be present on a designated platform allows for discussion of the materials presented and general networking opportunities. Remote users and those onsite can jump into one-on-one video calls to connect with each other.
Hybrid events are multifaceted with both in-person components and digital components. While they may seem complex and difficult to achieve, when organized thoughtfully and executed well, they can yield powerful results. The benefits to hosting a hybrid event are endless but one you’ll likely notice is the expansion of your audience size and the level of engagement a virtual platform can offer to your attendees and sponsors. Want to see how many attendees you can reach with a hybrid event? Book a demo with us today to learn more!