On Wednesday 11th November, the Hire Space Virtual Team kicked off Part 2 of EventLAB 2020 Online, which was all about The Event Experience, Project Safety & Success.
This fireside chat explored the process of organising a hybrid event through the eyes of a venue. We welcomed Adam Simpson, Director of Marketing and US Sales at etc.venues to talk about his experiences in the session, facilitated by Ruby Sweeney, Founder & Director of The Events Hub .
Watch the full video below and read on for the key takeaways.
What do hybrid events look like?
There are three categories of hybrid events at etc.venues. The first is a simple and effective meeting style event, with standard tech. This is similar to what was delivered pre-pandemic, so the format is not new but now falls into the category of hybrid. The second type is more of an advanced, insight-rich and interactive experience. This could be a conference-style event with an in-person audience and virtual delegation too. This style of event would be powered by some external software that’s there to engage and interact with the attendees. The third type is bringing them both together - 1 main location where the live audience is, which is broadcast to a number of different hubs across the world.
These events are dependent on a few critical things. First is the infrastructure - speed, sound and TV-quality broadcasting are fundamental to the seamless delivery of the event. Security is also important; especially if there are sensitive discussions or high-profile speakers taking part as there may be interference.
The power of communication
There has been new recognition in 2020 that having speakers communicating with one another on a physical stage makes a huge difference to the delivery of the event. When the event is solely virtual, social cues such as body language are often lost, which can certainly detrimentally affect the experience. This is why hybrid events are a great solution - being able to use a venue to host the speakers will enhance the attendee experience without compromising the ability to tune in virtually if they can’t (or are nervous to) travel.
Therefore, working closely with venues has never been more crucial. Maintaining communication and having the ability to adapt to these changing times is really important and will be what sets suppliers apart from the rest.
The key challenges
- Making the transition from live events to hybrid or virtual events. Again, this in part relies on the infrastructure; making sure it’s in place and to a high standard will dictate how easy this transition is. Adam gives an example of his experience speaking at a recent hybrid event: there was a specially-designed, high-tech, brand-new stage set, yet speakers weren’t given a clicker for their presentation, as they would at a live event, thus lowering the smooth delivery of the presentation. This demonstrates how something so small can make a huge difference to the smooth running of an event and how important it is to consider all angles for a hybrid event, not just things you would only consider for a live event or things you would only consider for a virtual event.
- Participation. Attendees are more likely to actively participate in a virtual or online event due to the unpressured environment of watching a session at home. When’s the last time you asked a question in a room full of strangers at a live event!? This poses a challenge to making the live part of a hybrid event just as interactive and engaging as the virtual part. However, we are seeing more and more technology, such as Glisser, helping to bridge this gap and include both audiences equally.
- Sponsors. The connection between the organiser or the sponsor and the attendee is a tricky one to manifest at a virtual event and is something that’s important to overcome in order to get the best possible ROI for sponsors or clients.
The key to success?
Being able to change and adapt at short notice. Lead times are typically going to be shorter and there are likely to be more last-minute changes as there is so much uncertainty right now. Whatever the lead time might be, there is always time to create something worthwhile that achieves the objectives, it’s just about adapting to this new normal and being flexible.
Part of this is being prepared for every eventuality. Contingency planning is going to be much more important going forward, and there will be many different considerations from before, such as adjusting floor plans to accommodate social distancing, creating bento boxes instead of buffets or allowing for extras such as hand sanitiser and extra cleaning.
Do you imagine there will be any events without a hybrid element going forward?
Yes! The power of in-person events is going to be really tough to replicate. Where there is a large volume of audiences, it is a good idea to take some of it online in order to cover all of the audiences, whereas events for smaller audiences may solely remain in-person.
What makes a hybrid event a better option over a fully virtual event, and is it worth the additional complexities involved?
It’s the best of both worlds - you get to have the marriage between online and in-person. You get the full experience and it’s just that much more immersive for the attendees, which in itself is certainly worth it for the audience. The best part of hybrid events is that you can give attendees the choice of how they want to attend, which instils more confidence and is likely to make for happier, more engaged attendees.
What would be your advice to sponsors to help get the most out of a virtual event, and what should they be asking the organiser in the leadup to the event?
Firstly, figure out what platform you’re going to be using and understand what it can do for you in terms of reporting and metrics. This will make it crystal clear about what you can get out of it. If you're a sponsor, ask for a demo, ask them to show you how it’s going to work and get accustomed to it. Secondly, share with the organiser who you want to speak to. Tell them what you want to achieve and ask them to facilitate the introduction and do some of the ground work to ensure sponsors and key contacts can meet and talk.
In terms of equipment, what do you need to have within a venue and do you work with a specific company?
We’ve always adopted the approach of having a ‘plug and play’ solution in our venues - where you can run an event very simply with the conference equipment already installed in the venue ready to go, such as cameras, sound and lighting. When you scale up to the next level of event, where you’re looking for a bigger stage set or a different look and feel of the product, this is where you might want to be a bit more bespoke.
What’s the most successful hybrid project that you’ve seen?
UKickstart was one of the most impressive projects I’ve been involved in. The coordination, the participants, and the delivery was impressive, particularly the ability to adapt to last-minute changes.
Can you please tell us more about making sure hybrid events are sustainable?
Hybrid events can be made sustainable by analysing the in-person elements and working out what the most sustainable option would be to run those elements successfully and what the benefits are for everyone. For example, attracting delegates to a local event benefits them by connecting them to their locality and also saves on their carbon footprint. It saves all attendees having to travel to one large centre, which typically is much further to travel. The other great thing about hybrid events is that fewer people need to travel overall and therefore, the volume and numbers are far lower.
How do you manage hybrid events when the client uses their own tech, where the client is the platform 'expert'?
Demonstrate the value that you bring by supporting the process which allow the platform to function and ‘perform’. As event organisers, we are so good at multi-tasking and bringing all of the information for an event either to other stakeholders or into our own systems to then disseminate to our suppliers. Use the same steps to support your client. By clearly defining the roles and processes, you’ll be able to show them how you’re still able to deliver value even if they own or are experts in that particular platform.
About The Speakers
Adam Simpson, Director of Marketing and US Sales, etc.venues
Ruby Sweeney Founder & Director, The Events Hub
Ruby founded The Events Hub in 2011 bringing together a team of experts who are dedicated to providing clients with a bespoke service which meets their objectives. Her strengths in strategic planning, creativity and adaptability are crucial when a company is placing a great deal of responsibility in the team’s hands.
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Izzie brings a deep understanding of the events world to Hire Space, and keeps busy by writing lots of Hire Space and EventLAB content and managing the Hire Space social media presence.