A hybrid event requires an increased level of coordination and partnership with your venue. As always, the venue is the epicenter for your on-site experience. But for a hybrid meeting where engaging a virtual audience is essential to event success, the hybrid event venue plays an elevated role in hosting safe and effective events and facilitating the technology to do so.
In Cvent’s recent 2020 Q4 Planner Sentiment and Sourcing Report, over two-thirds of planners stated that they looked to venues to provide support for ALL of the following: connectivity, AV equipment, room design, and overall guidance. From finding and managing space for a safe in-person experience to ensuring the AV infrastructure and support is in place support to capture and share with your online attendees, the venue is central to a well-run hybrid event experience for BOTH audiences. After all, the future of events is hybrid. Let’s look at three ways a venue is essential to hybrid events.
Hybrid Event Venue Safety Considerations
Let’s face it, attracting in-person audiences to large scale, indoor events in 2021 will be a challenge. Residual health concerns, coupled with strained marketing and travel budgets, will force event planners and marketers to ensure attendees that the on-site experience will be as safe as possible. The first thing many planners – and attendees – will evaluate is the safety protocols and policies of potential venues.
Common questions your attendees will expect from you (and you should expect from a potential venue) include:
- From surface areas to public spaces, what hygiene and cleanliness processes does the venue have in place?
- What are the cleaning practices for guest rooms?
- What social distancing policies does the venue have for their indoor space?
- How is the venue ensuring the health of their staff and the staff that will work your event?
- How will food and beverage preparation and service work?
Research on Potential Venues
Be sure to ask these questions early in your Request for Proposal (RFP) process. Fortunately, many venues publish this information in some detail on their websites, but you will want to ensure you understand each of these policies as they relate to your event. You can also find a summary of the latest health and safety guidelines and protocols from 40,000+ venues globally in the Cvent Source Safely Hub, an online resource of up-to-date health and safety information from hospitality partners around the world.
Once you’ve selected your venue and agreed upon each of these elements for your event, communicate these safeguards early and prominently in your marketing efforts to give your prospective in-person attendees confidence that their experience will be a safe one.
Space Layout Considerations
A hybrid event, especially one held in 2021 will require a new approach to how you manage and configure your meeting space. For starters, social distancing requirements mean that you’ll need to lay out everything from check-in kiosks and dining areas to session rooms, meeting rooms, and exhibit spaces to be in compliance with safety guidelines. Rooms that may have accommodated 100 attendees in normal times may now only allow for 50% occupancy or less.
You’ll have the added complexity of needing to arrange certain rooms to ensure you have space for the cameras and other AV requirements that will be capturing content for distribution to your virtual audience. And if that wasn’t enough, travel restrictions may mean you have to do all of this with minimal – or even no – site visits.
Use Technology to Plan the Event Space
Venues and technology providers are helping to solve these challenges. Most venues have detailed schematics of their meeting spaces and are used to working with planning teams to configure spaces based on new social distancing rules and the planner’s AV requirements. In some cases, venue floor plans are being digitized and fed into space planning software that allows planners to map out detailed seating and space configuration scenarios.
Planners can input their spacing requirements (e.g., 6ft apart) and then place tables, chairs, and even AV equipment in a scale model of the room to ensure everything is in compliance, and that site lines, etc. still work. Some of these tools even allow for three-dimensional renders of the space so planning teams get a good sense of what each space will look and feel like. While no substitute for an on-site visit, these tools can take a lot of the guesswork out of ensuring your space will deliver a safe on-site experience, and meet any unique AV needs you may have to engage your virtual audience.
Hybrid Event Audio Visual Considerations
For an online-only audience, the quality of their content experience will largely determine their event experience. This may take the form of livestreaming marquee sessions, recording content for later, on-demand consumption, or even conducting live sessions or panels in on-site studios right there at the venue. The possibilities are endless, but there’s no question that capturing, producing, and delivering high-quality, engaging content requires the right AV infrastructure and support from your venue and its partners.
What does it take to capture, produce, and distribute great content to your virtual audience? There are many models, and ultimately your approach must make sense based on your audience, your event’s goals, and your budget. In short, it takes the right infrastructure and the right expertise.
Basic building blocks for creating event content include:
- A setting, usually a stage or studio
- Cameras, usually multiple, to record your speaker and their content
- High-quality lighting and sound
- Content editing and production to ensure your content looks dynamic and professional
- Livestream distribution
- Wi-Fi/Appropriate bandwidth
Consider the In-Person and Virtual Experience During Planning
Given all the components required, the importance of the venue becomes clear. Let’s start with a simple example. If you plan on livestreaming to CEO’s keynote, you’ll need to ensure the session room has the right infrastructure and configuration to support a livestream. In most cases, simply putting a camera at the back of the room and streaming to your virtual audience is not a great experience for your virtual attendees, and you’re likely to lose their attention and engagement altogether.
Instead, you may want to consider having additional cameras in the room so you can cut from angle to angle, giving your keynote a more dynamic, more produced feel for your online (and in-person) viewers. Space layout and configuration becomes important, ensuring optimal placement of cameras, and sufficient number and placement of power outlets and internet connections (ethernet preferred).
Professionally Produced Content Sees Higher Engagement
On the production side, venues and event companies and increasingly offering the expertise needed to turn both livestreamed and recorded content into professional-looking, dynamic productions critical to engaging a remote audience. As any video producer knows, there is an art to transitioning between camera angles at just the right moment, knowing when to zoom into a speaker’s face or pull back and show the slide he or she is speaking to, even deciding what lower thirds (speaker name, title, location, etc.) will be applied to each shot to give the online audience additional context. Many venues provide this expertise through partnerships with production companies, although some event technology companies are beginning to offer this service themselves.
Some larger venues are now investing heavily in the infrastructure needed to capture, produce and distribute content to virtual audiences, installing permanent high-tech broadcast studios on-site with all the lighting, sound, and AV gear capabilities needed to livestream, record, and edit content. Some of these studios even contain seating for hundreds if the event organizer wants a live audience look and feel.
Thoughtfully Choose Which Sessions to Livestream
The cost of livestreaming session can be high, so many event planners reserve livestreaming for their “marquee” content, such as executive or external keynotes and major product announcements. Others are designating a limited number of “livestream” rooms which they will outfit with the required AV set up, and then schedule select sessions in this room such that they can be broadcast live to the virtual audience. Ultimately, the decision on what specific programming to stream to your virtual audience needs to align with the virtual attendee’s motivations and reasons for attending your event.
The Hybrid Event Venue Bottom Line
Venues play a critical role in the success of a hybrid event, providing not only the backdrop for a safe onsite experience but also the technology infrastructure and expertise to power virtual content capture and delivery. Ensure that your venue meets your space, safety, and AV requirements early on, and then partner closely with them and their partners to help your team deliver a great event.
- Select a venue with clear and well-documented safety protocols and policies. You’ll improve on-site attendance if your attendees see the venue’s commitment to keeping them – and your event – safe.
- Rethink your event’s layout and space needs. Use venue diagramming software to ensure meeting spaces and rooms meet safety requirements and your hybrid AV needs
- Deeply understand the venue’s ability and their partner network that can be used to support your virtual content capture and distribution needs. From AV capabilities in your session rooms to dedicated studio space, your venue can help you tap into the infrastructure and expertise to ensure your online audience experiences great content.
Key Elements of Hybrid Meetings
- Intro to 6 key elements: Learn about the tremendous improvement in virtual event technology
- Marketing: Targeting different audiences with the right experience
- Venue: Partnering with your venue to deliver safe onsite experiences
- Content: Producing and delivering content for in-person and virtual audiences