July 07, 2020
By Megan Boley

As planners are postponing, pivoting to virtual and hybrid events, or sourcing for events later in the year or in 2021, venues will need to take a lot into consideration. In this post, we take a look at some of the steps needed to ensure a successful hybrid event. We also break down things to know about the future of events and how you can prepare, as well as how virtual tools can keep planners engaged and interested in your venue as they plan ahead.

Discover how venues can be best prepared for hybrid events

When in-person events begin again, some of them will be hybrid events – a combination of in-person and virtual live-streaming elements. As these kinds of hybrid events come about in the future, it will be important for venues to have the technology capabilities and infrastructures in place to support them.

For hoteliers, providing free Wi-Fi is not enough anymore, and exceptional Wi-Fi is no longer optional — venues need to be equipped with enough bandwidth and speed to cater to a large number of attendees and advanced event technologies, like augmented reality and virtual reality (AR and VR).

Hoteliers should ensure that they have the digital infrastructure in place to support these kinds of advanced amenities. And, with the emergence of 5G, hoteliers should consider if the investments they’re making today will still be relevant in a 5G world. Assure that your digital infrastructure is robust and top-of-the-line, so it won’t be obsolete when 5G technology becomes more widespread. Venues that don’t emphasise upgrading their technology could lose a lot of business to their competitors that can meet these needs.

LET US HELP YOU PREPARE FOR HYBRID EVENTS

The Professional Convention Management Association put together a list of tips for how to seamlessly combine in-person and live-streaming event elements. Here are five equipment-based steps for venues to take to put together a successful hybrid event.

1. Use the right cameras

In order to create an abundant visual experience, a camera is a necessity, versus creating a webinar with audio and slides. When deciding on how many and what kind, consider:

  • Is it a panel discussion or some kind of event that will require close-ups? Will you need more than two angles? If so, this will require multiple cameras. If you opt for multiple cameras, you’ll also need a switcher and someone to select the camera angles to show.
  • What size screen will those viewing the live-stream be using? What are your display screens on-site like? You’ll need a camera that supports all screen sizes.
  • Does the planner want HD and will the stream support HD?

2. Provide high-quality microphones

Wireless lavalier microphones are the best option, as they appear better on camera and there is less of a chance for ambient noise due to shifting. Consider having an audio operator for the hybrid event who watches the speakers and shuts the microphones on and off. This will avoid mics being accidentally left on and creating a poor audio experience for the hybrid audience. If there is a Q&A portion to the event, you’ll also need wireless handheld mics and mic runners to go out into the audience. The remote listeners will want to hear the questions, too.

3. Ensure that your venue has a robust Internet

An Internet line dedicated solely to the Livestream is essential. This means that no one else from the conference or hotel — staff or attendees — can use this Internet. The event planner’s streaming partner will be able to determine the amount of bandwidth needed. Wireless here is not an option — it must be hard-wired to support this kind of technology.

4. Provide onsite technical support

Have someone on staff who knows how all of your venue equipment works and all of the necessary information that a planner’s AV and streaming partners will need to know. When filming, they should keep an eye out for changes in focus or lighting, or anything that would be disruptive or noticeable to a remote audience.

5. Test, test, and test again

Have conversations with the planner ahead of time to make sure you have the right equipment to meet their needs and that the electrical setup is planned in advanced. Test everything beforehand to make sure all equipment is functional. Set aside time before the event begins to test the lighting, camera, and audio through the actual stream of the event.

Embrace hybrid events

It’s possible that we’ll be dealing with hybrid events for a while. As such, learning what it takes to host an engaging and successful hybrid event is becoming increasingly important.

“There is no way we are going to an event industry that is 100% offline,” predicts Julius Solaris, editor of EventManagerBlog.com. “The event of the future will be hybrid by definition. Face-to-face events will have a virtual component.”

As hybrid events become the norm in the short-term, this could have some long-term effects on the event industry. As the industry recovers and in-person events begin again, transparency throughout the whole process will be crucial in the event actually taking place. If one of the members of the event pipeline fails to be transparent — like the planner, the venue, the catering team, the event technology company, etc. — the whole event could be jeopardised. As a venue, maintaining a high standard of transparency and open communication with the planner will be crucial.

Another thing that venues will need to be on the lookout for is planners having to justify their spend on things like experiential food and beverage or other add-ons. Accountability will be key, and proving return on investment will be top of mind for planners.

As Solaris writes, “It will be tough to justify those amazing mini-burgers or the converted espresso truck if you are not able to show how many leads they bring in or how they impact the overall experience of the attendees, and in turn, how that improved experience contributes to the bottom line.”

Remember, virtual and hybrid events still need venues

Just because the event is a virtual or hybrid event doesn’t mean venues are out of luck. While some companies choose to host virtual events in their office, some still book a venue or space for live speakers and/or workshops and tradeshows.

The visual element of virtual and hybrid events is an important part of the whole experience. When filming the event, the camera will be zooming in and out and capturing the background – so the venue will be a part of the virtual viewer experience. While planners might not be looking for an overly lavish and spacious venue for an event that’s strictly virtual, they still need to find a venue with the basics like a stage with a podium and audio/visual equipment, to give the broadcast a polished feel. When it comes to hybrid events, the venue becomes all the more important.

Discover how hoteliers are using virtual tools to adapt and reach more planners

Hoteliers can look to these examples of how others in the industry are leveraging online tools to engage with planners and make the sourcing and planning process easier.

Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau and 360ATL

Four years ago, the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB) led the way in the industry with the launch of 360ATL — a suite of virtual tour products for meeting planners. With 360ATL, planners can get a birds-eye perspective of Atlanta’s walkable convention and entertainment district. To complement the virtual tours, ACVB also offers an online venue catalogue which allows planners to assess more than 300 restaurants, facilities, and attractions that double as event spaces. Planners can browse visuals, seating configurations, and amenities and have the option to create a personalised catalogue with up to 100 venues.

“Given the state of the industry, this immersive experience shows meeting planners the proximity between special event venues, attractions, hotel and dining options in lieu of an in-person site visit,” said William Pate, president and CEO of ACVB.

The Hotel at the University of Maryland and Realync

The Hotel at the University of Maryland is using another platform called Realync, which allows for live interactive video tours of sites. With this technology, meeting planners around the world can take guided, customised site tours of the hotel without ever having to step foot on the property. At the conclusion of the tour, the recorded video is automatically emailed to the client, where it can be saved and forwarded to other key decision-makers. Additionally, The Hotel has partnered with multiple video-conferencing companies to complement in-house capabilities by connecting groups of any size from anywhere around the globe.

“Our goal is to provide clients with the opportunity to begin planning now, even if they are unable to be on-site,” said Jeff Brainard, VP of sales and marketing at Southern Management Corporation. “We must be ready to respond to the needs of the market as soon as it recovers and, in the meantime, interactive video technology can help us overcome some of the challenges that have surfaced as a result of the pandemic.”

Threshold 360 virtual tours

Threshold 360 is another virtual tool utilised by hotels and DMOs to offer immersive virtual tours of properties and destinations. After adding Threshold content to their websites, DMOs have reported up to a 291% increase in RFP submissions. The tool gives users the ability to create maps of multiple virtual tours so they’re all displayed in one place. This allows for showcasing the restaurants, shops, and attractions around your property.

Threshold integrates with Google search results, Cvent, and your hotel website. Any Threshold Map can be customised to a meeting planner’s specific needs and shared directly on your Cvent landing page or in the open-link field in Cvent proposals. Tours can also be exported and shared via email or on social media.

Use these hybrid event tips and examples of virtual tools to your advantage!

As times are changing, so is the outlook of the industry. Being so, you must stay up-to-date and adapt accordingly. For more about what goes into pivoting to virtual and hybrid events and what planners are looking for, read our Ultimate Guide for Virtual Events in 2020.

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Megan Boley

Megan is a published web writer and editor with a passion for crafting stories. She specialises in planning and creating content across all platforms for brands and organisations, with a focus on demand generation. In her free time, she's a voracious reader and a blue belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu.

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