Event professionals are fielding more questions than ever as we look towards the future of the industry. How will we get back to in-person events? What does a safe onsite experience look like? And what does the value of virtual mean for the future?
While the path forward may be confusing, the consensus seems to be that small in-person and hybrid events will help us get safely back onsite without losing the potential reach of virtual. One of the organizations leading the field in this respect is the Society of Government Meeting Professionals (SGMP).
How SGMP Pivoted from Virtual to Hybrid Events
SGMP was in the midst of planning their 2020 education programming when the global health crisis hit. Nicole Roames, First Vice President of the National Capital Chapter, and her colleague Melissa Woodruff, President, quickly pivoted their program to virtual. With over 3,000 members, SGMP is uniquely situated as the only organization for government meeting professionals and is therefore governed by unique standards. However, Nicole and Melissa were eager to meet in-person if it could be done safely.
Knowing they’d need the right tools in place, they decided on a small hybrid meeting in late 2020. They worked with the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center in Alexandria, Virginia, where an hour-long education session would be livestreamed within the Cvent Attendee Hub®. Both virtual and in-person attendees could attend for CFP and CGMP credit. A short networking session would be provided in an outdoor dining space and through virtual conferencing within the all-in-one platform.
Managing Onsite Attendee Safety with Cvent
Working closely with their venue, SGMP ensured the safety of attendees through plentiful hand sanitizing stations, social distancing reminders, capacity limits, mask requirements, and optimized room layouts. They hosted 15 in-person attendees and another 35 online attendees.
All registration data synced directly from the Event Management solution to OnArrival Touchless Event Check-In & Badge Printing. This created an entirely contactless check-in experience for attendees and controlled access point for SGMP. “It was amazing that attendees could come in with their phone and scan the QR code to have their badge printed automatically,” says Nicole.
SGMP and Cvent: The Perfect Partnership
With the meeting focused on hybrid event best practices, attendees could participate either virtually or in-person depending on their comfort level. Inside the Attendee Hub, Nicole was able to run a livestream for the one-hour education session through the embedded Cvent Video Player. The fully-branded hub included an event overview page with key info, session page with embedded links for one-click access, and a dedicated section for sponsors.
Nicole and Melissa partnered with Cvent’s Virtual Event 360 professional services to manage the entirety of the event. The Cvent team helped tailor session content to both audiences and implemented interactive elements like Q&A to encourage a sense of community. “Without assistance from Cvent, we would not have been able to pull this off,” Nicole says. “Any time I had a question, the Professional Services team was right there to help guide us through it and build out our best looking program.”
Hybrid Event Essentials: One Event, Two Experiences™
SGMP used interactive Q&A and the Cvent mobile event app to engage attendees in real-time during the education session. “All of the questions were in one place, so we didn’t have to delineate between our in-person audience’s questions and those from our at-home audience,” Nicole explains. Attendees were able to upvote questions to keep them top-of-mind for the presenter.
Melissa and Nicole also highlighted a small selection of sponsors on the dedicated page within the hub. These easily-navigable pages offered sponsor overviews, key links or information, and direct contact functionality. These digital touchpoints provided valuable inbound leads and increased visibility for sponsors with the virtual audience.
After the hour-long session, onsite attendees safely socialized in the outdoor patio space while digital attendees connected through a Cvent Video Conferencing in a collaborative networking session. Nicole and Melissa also used the integrated registration data to automate their post-event surveys with questions tailored to attendees based on registration type. “We got some great feedback,” says Nicole. “People really appreciated the effort we put in to have a hybrid event and to showcase the difference between the two experiences.”
Leveraging Actionable Insights
Having an all-in-one solution to manage the entire event process was key to SGMP’s hybrid event success. “Running your registration and everything through a centralized system is important, especially for follow-up,” explains Nicole. The platform helped automate cumbersome manual processes in tracking and measuring parallel data points across audiences. It also gave SGMP the ability to target attendees with relevant communications after the event to increase engagement with the brand. “The Event Management system is really crucial, especially when you’re doing a hybrid event, because it keeps all the data in one place,” Nicole adds.
Planning for the Future of Hybrid Events
With a successful hybrid event completed, Nicole and Melissa are now looking to replicate the experience as soon as they can. “I really think hybrid is going to be the way of the future, as many still have travel restrictions but there also many people who want to get out and meet,” says Nicole. In fact, she was recently certified in Cvent’s Virtual Events certification and has completed the complimentary Hybrid Events training course. “The training was great,” she says. “It covers everything to do with virtual events and then goes into great detail on how to use the tool for virtual events.”
Nicole adds that small, local meetings with a hybrid component will likely be the path forward as the industry looks to meet face-to-face once again. She says, “I think small meetings are the way we come back. We have to think hybrid to keep our numbers small and local, but that will get us in the door for getting back to in-person events.”