As planners are pivoting to virtual and hybrid events, venues need to take a lot into consideration. In this post, we take a look at hybrid events for venues. We discuss what they are, break down some of the steps venues should take to ensure success, and give examples of successful hybrid events from recent years.
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 future.
In fact, in an informal survey held during April's Global Meeting Industry Day, 62% of event planners said their events will be a hybrid-style moving forward, while 18% said there will be greater demand for virtual-only events.
In fully understanding hybrid events, it's important to not overcomplicate things. In fact, hybrid events are more common than you may realise. Take the NFL, for example. Football games feature thousands of in-person attendees, but each event is also broadcast to millions of people across the world.
"We use the metaphor of live sports, just because they've been doing hybrid events for decades, and they probably do it best," Cvent vice president of product management McNeel Keenan said during a Cvent CONNECT Virtual session. "That experience of the person at the game, in the stadium, is quite different from someone at home. But both are really first-class experiences."
It's time to embrace hybrid events
It’s possible that we’ll be dealing with hybrid events for years. As such, learning what it takes to host an engaging and successful one 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, this could have some long-term effects on the event industry. So as a venue, maintaining a high standard of transparency and open communication with the planner will be crucial. If one of the members of the event pipeline fails to be transparent, the whole event could be jeopardised.
Remember, virtual and hybrid events still need venues
Just because an event is virtual or hybrid doesn’t mean venues are out of luck. 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, because attendees will actually be physically gathering in your space.
Discover 5 equipment needs for hybrid events for venues:
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 everyone involved.
A high-quality video camera 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.
Hoteliers should ensure that they have the digital infrastructure to support these advanced amenities. And, with the emergence of 5G, venues should consider if the investments they make today will 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 business to competitors that can meet these needs.
The Professional Convention Management Association put together a list highlighting how to combine in-person and live-streaming elements. Here are five equipment-based steps venues can take to put together a successful hybrid event:
1. Use the right cameras
In order to create an abundant experience that will keep the virtual audience engaged, a camera is a necessity. 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? 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's less chance for ambient noise. Consider having an audio operator for the 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's a Q&A event portion, you’ll also need wireless handheld mics and mic runners for 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 venue — 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, 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. Test everything beforehand to make sure all equipment is functional. Set aside time before the event begins to test the lighting, camera, and audio.
Explore 8 hybrid event marketing ideas for venues:
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 — whether that be in the immediate future or further down the road.
1. Highlight any and all safety updates
This may not directly impact the virtual attendees of your hybrid event, but venues should be focussing on a few key things in order to provide the requirements for safe meetings and events: health and safety protocols, social distancing arrangements, and safe food and beverage. Planners and attendees want to know that they'll be safe when attending an event in-person, so it's crucial that you promote what you're doing to ensure a safe environment. For example, consider using Instagram Live or Facebook Live to take viewers on the scene at an event and show them the extra steps your team is taking.
2. Showcase real experiences
Provide planners and attendees with footage of past hybrid events you've hosted. This 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.
3. Implement a loyalty program
While this is a commonly-used MICE business marketing tactic, 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 attendees the option to enroll in your rewards program, there are tons of options.
4. Make hybrid events 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 is to produce a video showcasing your staff and all that goes into creating a hybrid event. Feature multiple employees and address the virtual attendees directly. Send the message that you wish they could be there and you hope to see them soon.
5. Utilise virtual tours
Virtual tours are a great way to get planners to book with you and get hybrid 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.
6. 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 and 360-degree tours of rooms. What better way to promote a future stay than with a breathtaking showcase of your destination?
7. Focus on content marketing
Just because an event is hybrid doesn't mean it doesn't need to be promoted. To stand out from the competition and inform people that hybrid events are part of your offerings, create content and share it across multiple platforms. Let customers know about your events with well-produced videos shared on all social media platforms. Write blog posts that detail your events and are optimised for keyword search terms. Craft click-worthy email newsletters with video clips, photos, and short content snippets letting customers know about your event options. Make sure to include these updates on your website and in your CSN profile as well.
8. Gather testimonials from planners and attendees
Once your event is over, incentivise the planner and their attendees — both those who attended in-person and those who attended virtually — to give testimonials about the event and the venue, if applicable. Having recent attendees talk about how great of an experience they had at your venue will not only make the planner look good on your various platforms, but it will showcase how great your venue is at exceeding expectations. Never feel bad about asking! When people have a great experience, they want to share it, so give them the platform to do so, and boost your hotel's reputation in the process.
Check out 4 examples of real hybrid events across various industries:
1. Apple's "Special Event"
It took place at the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple's campus in Cupertino, California, and featured both in-person attendees and a live-streaming audience. At the event, during which Apple CEO Tim Cook announced a handful of new devices and features, the online event audience's view was switched back and forth using multiple camera angles, giving the live-stream an extra sense of interaction.
2. CDC's Public Health Informatics Conference
The CDC held a hybrid event all the way back in 2011, which included 1,875 registrants — 911 attended in-person and 964 registered for the virtual portion, according to a BizBash profile of the event.
Strategic Management Solutions Inc., which helped put the event together, described it as "a highly successfully virtual conference option, including live streaming media of key sessions, on-demand sessions for viewing by the audience at their convenience, live interactive video chat sessions between attendees and panelists, virtual exhibition booths, and so much more!"
The event was named one of BizBash's most innovative meetings of the year, and with good reason.
“I tried to make the environment replicate the in-person environment as much as possible,” CDC virtual platform lead Adam Arthur said. “It was photorealistic, (showing) the lobbies and everything of the actual hotel where we were. If you wanted to go downstairs, you clicked on the escalator. We even green-screened individuals. There were people literally walking in the lobbies, checking their BlackBerrys. I had several people ask me, ‘Are we really there now?”
3. SBC Digital Summit
The 2020 event was fully virtual, so it wasn't technically a hybrid. But it used virtual elements to make attendees feel as though they were there in person. The summit utilised "an advanced digital platform (to provide) delegates of (the summit) access to a full-on virtual event spaces, featuring many of the benefits of a physical conference and exhibition."
Virtual attendees "arrived" at the Lobby Area and had access to different "rooms" such as the Exhibition Hall, where they were able to visit booths and meet with exhibitors, and the Conference Auditorium, where they listened to all of the speakers' panels and presentations.
4. Growth Marketing Conference
The event, which most recently took place in December 2019, gave attendees an incentive to go virtual by purchasing the Virtual Access Pass. While passholders didn't have access to the content in real-time, they received a log-in after the event was over and were able to view the content in on-demand form. Additionally, passholders were given access to "200+ bonus actionable webinars" and access to the organisation's "official private growth marketing community, where you can network with leading professionals in your industry and help each other grow."
As The Bizzabo Blog noted, the conference's decision to offer virtual attendees special content was a fantastic way to enhance the customer experience and promote future event registration as well.
Use this information about hybrid events for venues 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.