As the restrictions of COVID-19 took hold of the events industry last year, organisers turned to virtual and hybrid events as a means of staying in operation.
The accessibility of virtual conference platforms made it a seemingly easy switch for some businesses. Still, for a more tailored approach - many relied on a hybrid event management company to deliver a professional offering.
The evolution of the live events industry
The primary hurdles that events organisers faced last year and face still are the restrictions on public gatherings and the related social distancing measures that must be adhered to.
By the Summer of 2020, live events ‘going virtual’ wasn’t just a consideration - it was commonplace. Businesses from all manner of sectors turned to online event management companies to organise engaging and captivating events for their customers.
This study from Wild Apricot found the number of organisations planning a virtual event doubled over the course of last year, whilst 32% of participants chose not to run a virtual event because they couldn’t provide the kind of value their members need in a virtual environment.
Whilst there are freemium versions of the popular software used to host online and hybrid events - like Zoom and Webex - a lot of planning, organisation and production goes into creating a professional event that accurately represents your companies standing.
To solve this issue for our customers, we utilised our 30 years of experience in interactive training and events management to confidently place ourselves as a trusted virtual and hybrid event management partner for 2024.
The challenges of hybrid event management
While staff are unable to return to offices, factories, and construction sites - where maintaining a 2-metre distance is far more attainable than at a conference, large-scale events are still unlikely to be safe to attend until Autumn 2021 the earliest.
Keeping this in mind, it seems as though hybrid and virtual events are here to stay. This report by IMPACT projected that in 2024, over 80% of all internet traffic would be generated from video content, which includes web conferencing.
Hybrid events offer a versatile solution to the events industry’s challenges in 2024, providing a bridge between the in-person events currently unable to take place and the virtual events hosted exclusively online.
They are usually consisting of a small group of participants who take part in a face-to-face session of some kind, which is then shared with a larger audience using a digital platform.
The main hurdle that the businesses we work alongside come up against is producing and managing their event.
Planning and executing a professionally finished, large-scale hybrid event is a very involved process. By employing a virtual event agency, you can save your company time and money in the long run.
We wrote an in-depth article at the end of last year that explains everything you need to know about hybrid events in 2021 - click the link for a deep-dive into the different elements available to your business and how MDA can manage your hybrid event for you.
Five questions to ask before planning your hybrid event
Before you begin planning your event, whether you’re thinking of using a digital events planner to organise the whole event or to assist your team in managing it, there are some useful questions to ask yourself beforehand.
You may have hosted virtual events during last year, in place of physical meetings, for example. Still, because hybrid events involve face-to-face and virtual participants, they come with their own unique set of planning challenges.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are five useful questions to ask your team before embarking on your planning phase.
What are the challenges involved in hybrid events management?
The first thing you’ll need to consider is the varying needs of your live and virtual audiences. To make sure that the experience is comparable for both groups, you’ll need to bear some of the following elements in mind:
- How will you keep your virtual audience as engaged as your in-person participants - how will this affect your content?
- Will a single host from your live event be enough to maintain communication with your virtual audience? Or will you need additional staff to ensure the digital audience is well-tended?
- Depending on where you are in the world, face-to-face meetings may or may not yet be permitted. However, if and when they can go ahead, are you prepared for the outlay of costs required to maintain health and safety measures?
- How will you navigate the obstacles that social distancing has created to give your in-person audience the best possible experience?
How big is your audience going to be?
To a certain degree, this will be educated guesswork, as attendance to the virtual element of your event will depend on your marketing efforts.
The in-person component to your hybrid event is far more predictable - you’ll just have to be sure to plan for fewer participants than the venue's stated capacity, to account for social distancing and health regulations.
If your event is planned for the near future, factor in fewer in-person attendees and more online participants. Invest heavily in your event’s virtual element; that way, the larger portion of your audience will be satisfied customers.
And to attract the largest audience possible, ensure your marketing budget can support the online promotion you’re going to need.
Who is your audience?
Making assumptions of one's audience is generally a big no-no, as you don’t want to marginalise anyone accidentally.
That said, you need to have a rough idea of the types of people attending to tailor your content accordingly.
An excellent place to start is with broad strokes. Age, gender and occupation can be useful signifiers for planning your event.
Older participants may be less willing to meet in-person than a younger audience, due to increased vulnerability to coronavirus in those over the age of 50.
Your event’s virtual element could also be a limiting factor for an older audience than a younger audience, who are used to interacting via video regularly.
How will you account for social distancing within the physical venue?
This may seem like an obvious point, but you need to make sure your venue is aware of social distancing measures and requirements.
If the venue has fixed seating, like in an auditorium, you will need to mark out specific seats for audience attendees to ensure the distance between each member meets the two-metre or six feet requirement. If your venue uses round tables, you may need to seat fewer audience members at each table than usual.
How will you keep virtual attendees as engaged as your face-to-face audience?
Try to put yourself in the shoes of both sides of your audience. Face-to-face attendees get to soak up the atmosphere, interact with one another and the presenter, they’re there.
Virtual attendees need to have the opportunity to do the same things and be involved with the live audience as well, or as close as possible.
The trick to keeping everyone happy is to ensure that all of the event’s features and elements are available to both audiences.
Utilise conferencing software to enable virtual and in-person attendees to interact with one another, to allow the presenter to interact with everyone and participate in the same games and activities simultaneously.
It is also important to maintain a fast pace and provide ample opportunity for networking and breakout sessions between activities and hosted content to optimise engagement.
Keep these five questions in the forefront of your mind as you begin planning your hybrid event, and you’ll make sure that both sides of your audience feel satisfied with their experience.
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with the organisation of a virtual or hybrid event, we understand - they’re a lot of work!
Just know that the team at MDA Training or hand to assist you in planning or managing your event. However complicated, however much or little help you need, don’t hesitate to contact us today.