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 deep dive into the world of hybrid events and break down some of the steps needed to ensure success before, during and after the event.
What are hybrid events?
Hybrid events are events that incorporate both in-person and virtual, live-streaming elements. They have grown in popularity in recent years, and with COVID-19 impacting the industry and the ability for large groups of people to gather, hybrid events are expected to be a significant part of the industry's future.
In fact, in an informal survey held during April's Global Meeting Industry Day in April, 62% of event planners said their events will be a hybrid-style moving forward, while 18% said there will be a greater demand for virtual-only events, according to Smart Meetings.
Discover 5 ways venues can be best prepared for hybrid events:
As hybrid events continue to grow in popularity, it will be crucial for venues to have the technology capabilities and infrastructures in place to support them in order to deliver a wonderful experience for both in-person and virtual attendees.
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 emphasize upgrading their technology could lose a lot of business to their competitors that can meet these needs.
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 successful hybrid events.
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. Keep in mind: The remote listeners need to hear the questions, too! It's crucial that their experience is just as valuable as those physically in attendance.
3. Ensure that your venue has 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 and setup is planned in advance. 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.
It's time to 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 effects long-term 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 jeopardized. As a venue, maintaining a high standard of transparency and open communication with the planner will be crucial.
Another thing 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 no matter what. 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.
Explore 6 hybrid event marketing ideas for hotels:
Hybrid events provide a unique opportunity for venues, as it gives them the chance to reach a new audience that may have never visited in the first place, whether that be for an event or leisure travel. While you may not be able to host everyone physically and show them all of the unique offerings your hotel has, there are tons of ways to sell planners and attendees on a trip to your space.
1. Showcase real experiences
Provide planners and attendees with footage of past hybrid events you hosted, which will showcase your versatility and attract the types of groups and events you’re targeting for the future. Nothing will promote your venue better than real footage of happy customers – both those who attended online and in person – who have had positive experiences with you.
2. Implement a loyalty program
While this is a commonly used marketing tactic for group business, it doesn't have to be limited to people who stay at your hotel. Whether that's promising future upgraded rooms to planners who bring attendees to your hybrid event or giving all hybrid event attendees the option to enroll in your rewards program, there are tons of options here.
3. Make it personal
If you go above and beyond to create an incredible hotel customer experience, the fact that some hybrid event attendees won't have the opportunity to interact face-to-face with your amazing staff can be a negative. But it doesn't have to be! One option here is to produce a video showcasing your on-site staff and all that goes into creating a hybrid event. Feature multiple employees and address the virtual attendees directly, telling them that you wish they could be there and you hope to see them soon.
4. Utilize virtual tours
Virtual tours can be a great way to get planners to book with your venue and get hybrid event attendees back for more business. Create a video experience where you walk clients through the venue itself, showing the layout and room dimensions. Or create a 3D diagram and interactively engage with the planner or attendees via the diagram. Be sure to share these tours on your marketing channels to increase visibility.
5. Consider drone footage
Drones aren't just for military reconnaissance or Amazon deliveries. They're also used for viral marketing for hotels, and can set the scene for amazing storytelling. Hotels across the globe are using drones to capture video of their properties, giving guests a birds-eye view of sweeping landscapes, 360-degree tours of rooms and the feeling that they're flying throughout. What better way to promote a future stay than with a breathtaking showcase of your destination?
6. Focus on content marketing
Just because an event is hybrid doesn't mean it doesn't need the same level of promotion. To stand out from the competition and inform people that hybrid events are part of your offerings, it's crucial that you create a variety of content and share it across multiple platforms for maximum exposure. Let customers know about your hybrid events with well-produced videos shared on all social media platforms. Write blog posts that detail your hybrid events and are optimized for keyword search terms. Craft click-worthy email newsletters with video clips, photos, and short content snippets letting customers know about your hybrid event options. Make sure to include these updates on your website and in your CSN profile as well.
Use these hybrid event tips to your advantage!
As times are changing, so too 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.