The second session of Hire Space's virtual event 'Business And Events In A Post-Pandemic World - Part 2' explored the trials and tribulations of organising a hybrid event in the current climate. This event was hosted in partnership with Swapcard and London Filmed.
Joining us for this session was Alexandra Gilbert, Operations & Community Director, ICE List, alongside Hire Space Co-Founder Will Swannell. Louise Broni-Mensah, CEO of Shoobs, moderated this session.
You can watch the video below, or read on for our key takeaways of the session.
Part 3, on Sustainable Venues and Events, takes place on Wednesday 17th June. Register here.
Table of Contents
Before the pandemic, ICE held monthly meet-ups for their members (founders of tech startups) in order to build their community. When the crisis struck, those events were taken online but now, as we start to emerge from the pandemic, Alex says her goal is to use hybrid events for these occasions. For her, it's important to be able to engage the small groups attending physically, and also to ensure members who are attending virtually are equally involved.
Together with Hire Space, ICE are aiming to create their first hybrid event at the beginning of July.
Step by step
Will says that he's had to think really hard around reducing the risk of COVID-19 at this event and making sure it's in-line with what people feel comfortable with. The planning for this event follows our Safer Events Accreditation, which you can read more about in our White Paper.
Firstly, invitations have been sent out which ask certain required information such as where people are isolating (so transport time can be minimised) and preferences on attendance (virtual or in-person).
The second step is to divide people into groups of 4 to 6 people, where they can either meet locally eg in a park, or virtually. The groups may be mixed with virtual and physical attendees, which is facilitated for too.
Keeping the fun factor
Alex notes that as this is their first hybrid event, they are going to play it fairly safe - everyone will meet up for some drinks in a safe space so they can simply enjoy being able to meet up once again. However, she says that they are also looking into running some simple activities using gamification, such as cocktail-making or karaoke. She also suggests allocating each person in the group a 'role' such as DJ, barman or games master. This allows some structure to keep it fun but at the same time isn't too organised.
Alex goes onto say that for ICE, they rely on feedback and knowledge sharing from their members, so for each event they hold they will gather a 'resources and ideas' list so that the events get better each time.
Will notes that a huge amount of thought goes into planning for potential risks, both for the event itself and also from the attendee perspective - if attendees are concerned about safety then they won't enjoy it and may not attend in future.
Some of the measures in place include providing hand sanitiser, masks and sterile brass keys to those who opt in for them. Some other measures include; keeping records of the event and attendee details for contact tracing purposes, and considering the localisation of meeting places; making sure they're local to each attendee and they can get there safely. However, it's also important to make sure the groups are not too close in proximity to each other - the last thing you need is for two groups to take matters into their own hands and merge. Read more about safety measures in the Hire Space White Paper.
How can we engage virtual attendees?
Alex states that for ICE, this is probably the biggest challenge, as it's important to make sure it's as smooth as possible whilst incorporating every attendee. She notes that one of the ways they are tackling this is to allocate all attendees to specific groups ahead of time and setting up a Whatsapp chat for each group. This means each attendee will be fully connected to their group and can bond with the other members ahead of the event. Additionally, there will be virtual green rooms for virtual attendees, which act as a safe space where they can catch up with other virtual attendees across all groups, just in case they no longer wish to engage with the activities happening physically.
Another inclusion tactic is providing everyone with an earpiece so that all attendees can talk to each other whether they're there in person or via Zoom. This ensures the physical attendees don't accidentally forget the virtual attendees are present and ensures the conversation is much more fluid and inclusive.
Are you going to do a dry run to ensure everything runs smoothly? If so, how many dry runs will it take before you go ahead with the event?
Hire Space is doing a dry run of this event on 11th June. This will be the first Hire Space Safer Event that is accredited with our programme and perhaps one of the first post-lockdown in-person events, so it's very exciting. It's important to do a dry-run to ensure everything goes well. This is new learning for the events industry and each event will have it's own different context. We will be sharing a case study on the Hire Space Blog after the event.
Are you looking at ways to create food and beverage offerings which can be provided to virtual attendees too?
Alex states that although ICE have looked into this for the fully virtual events, they haven't explored this specifically with this event. Groups will be given guidelines on food and drink outlets around each location, so the tricky part here is creating the opportunity for everyone to have the same food and beverage experience. The approach for this event is more on finding their feet around the safety and incorporation of the virtual element rather than food and beverage for now.
Do timescales look different for hybrid events?
Time scales for virtual events are certainly much shorter than live events. They're much simpler to plan and there are fewer logistics, but this doesn't necessarily apply for hybrid events. Hybrid events will likely require more planning (and time for dry runs) as it is unknown territory for many event organisers.
Do you think hybrid events will be here to stay, and how will they evolve?
Alex believes especially for the next 6-9 months, hybrid events will certainly be the focus as it is key for organisers to be as inclusive as possible. There will be a lot of testing and trial and error to hone these new events so that they become an optional standard within the industry.
How do you suggest people approach this new format with their budget holders?
Will advises that when talking to budget holders, there are two things to consider. Firstly, the justification for the hybrid event, which comes back to business objectives. If the event is about bringing people together, this can fundamentally be done better with those real in-person connections, so the return on the event is likely to be enough to justify it taking place. Secondly, safety is a key issue. They need to make sure they are minimising the risks, which is why Hire Space have launched a Safer Events Accreditation. This is a really useful tool so that organisers (and venues) can get themselves accredited to persuade their budget holders to push forward with hybrid events.
Alexandra Gilbert, Operations & Community Director, ICE List
Alex is the Ops and Community Director at ICE (International Conclave of Entrepreneurs). Previous to ICE Alex worked across startups, corporates, social enterprises designing and delivering accelerators and engagement programmes to help corporates and startups collaborate successfully. Whilst COO at L Marks Alex scaled the company from 7 to 30 people and landed partnerships with the likes of Lloyd's of London and Arsenal Football Club.
Will Swannell, Co-Founder, Hire Space
William Swannell is Co-Founder and CEO of hirespace.com, where he is responsible for the product and technical development of the platform. Will has been picked up for awards including Technology Project of the Year from Tesla and Entrepreneur of the Year from Spears Magazine. Before embarking on a career in events, Will worked as a strategy consultant and holds degrees Theoretical Physics and Finance.
Louise Broni-Mensah, CEO, Shoobs
Louise is the CEO of Shoobs, the leading event booking and discovery platform for urban events in London.
Safer Events Resources
We've released a whitepaper on Safer Events, our industry accreditation scheme for venues & events organisers. You can read about the measures to make an event safe, see the research behind it and find out how you can get yourself or your venue accredited.
- Understand Delegate Confidence (Infographic)
As part of our new safer events programme, we conducted a survey of delegates to understand an individual's confidence in attending events going forward. Here are all the results.
Give your clients the confidence to hold events at your venue with our independent safety accreditation.
Give delegates the peace of mind to attend your in-person events through our independent safety accreditation.
We have everything you need to run safer events, from face masks to floor markings. You can also save £5 off your first order with this link.
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If you're interested in holding a virtual event of your own, book a free consultation with our Virtual Event Experts below to get the wheels in motion.