COVID-19 made a tremendous impact in the meetings and events space in 2020, leaving many companies shuffling to quickly turn their live event into a virtual one. Now with 2021 in full swing, our specialized meetings & events division, cievents, is taking learnings over the past year and preparing for the shift into the world of hybrid events.
And while some companies may even consider bringing in-person experiences back to their event space this year, we recommend taking a look at these key considerations before starting your planning with any type of event:
1. Give your attendees control
After a year where control of our lives was somewhat taken from us, a key to a successful hybrid program is giving your attendees the control to choose their own experience. In its most basic form, a hybrid event allows your attendees to choose how they attend your event, accommodating for varied levels of risk tolerances. This sentiment should resonate throughout your event. We recommend:
- Giving your attendees choices when it comes to sessions to attend, as well as the way they consume your content.
- Have options to join live, or view on demand at their leisure.
- Provide options on how to engage and interact with chat functions, discussion forums or breakout rooms. For example, some technologies allow attendees to choose their seats for sessions both in person and virtually to accommodate comfort levels and preferring view options.
2. Align the experience for your virtual and live attendees
Probably the #1 challenge of a virtual event is replicating an in-person experience. In a hybrid format, you must understand the behaviors of each attendee type and play to their strengths. The challenge is not letting your virtual attendees feel like they're not getting the same experience out of the session. If your event host is in person, why not have a second host that addresses just the virtual audience, or represents them in the room? If the in-person attendees have networking functions on-site, what technology allows for these same interactions in a virtual format? When putting together your event agenda, carefully consider both attendee types to strategically craft the same experiences.
3. Make your in-person attendees feel safe
When returning to in-person events, things will be different. Social distancing, masks, and temperature checks are some of the new normal we will experience onsite. Communication is key to help your attendees feel safe before they arrive.
Through your registration site and event emails, let your attendees know what practices are in place by governing bodies and the event planners so they know exactly what to expect. For onsite, research technology options that allow attendees to feel safe and make choices based on their level of risk tolerance. For example, touchless registration experiences which can include name badge printing and temperature/mask checks.
4. Include micro experiences in your agenda
Creating micro experiences in your agenda allows your attendees to have the power to choose their own experience. If you are on-site, consider offering a variety of options to choose from for attendees to gather in smaller groups. This could be as simple as dine around options, or they could also opt in for room service credit or time at their leisure. Remember to offer your virtual attendees a version of these experiences as well.
5. Consider different hybrid event formats
A hybrid event can be set up in an endless number of formats. For example, you might have a fully virtual audience, but your speakers are on-site at a location for the live broadcast or any pre-recoding. Or perhaps you want to offer an in-person option for your event, but you don’t want your attendees to have to travel by plane. You could set up a number of local hybrid hub locations where attendees can travel by car to your event or choose to attend virtually still. When attendance format is the attendee’s choice, you face the challenge of being able to forecast numbers for planning in person logistics. To meet your event’s objectives, cievents will work with you on your event strategy to come up with the best format.
6. Be strategic when it comes to attendance
With so many variables when it comes to a hybrid events, it’s important that you spend a decent amount of time planning your invitation list and forecasting attendance numbers. After you make your initial assumptions during preplanning, use this information to contract onsite venues and purchase your virtual platform package.
When giving attendees options, whether it is the choice in attendee format, which hub location they will attend, travel preferences or a combination of a few— build a robust registration site to capture the essential attendee information so you can plan accurately. Most importantly, make a contingency plan both financially and logistically if the numbers you forecasted end up changing drastically.
7. Know the importance of vendor relationships and contract negotiations
With the option to attend a hybrid event in person or virtually, the moving target of attendance numbers makes it difficult for event planners to contract vendors efficiently. You want to contract your venue with enough space, but how do you account for fluctuating numbers when there are minimums to meet?
In 2020, strong vendor partnerships proved their worth when it came to negotiating cancelation fees, postponements, and force majeure clauses. Going into 2021, these partnerships and negotiation skills remain critical. Utilizing an agency like cievents skilled in contract negotiations with strong global preferred partnerships will help you to contract your next hybrid event to mitigate lost funds.
8. Research venues built for hybrid events
More and more convention centers are upgrading their venues to be hybrid ready. This includes adding hybrid meeting studios and offering in-person event space equipped with technology to broadcast to a virtual audience.
With more spaces becoming hybrid-friendly, consider researching these places early on to ensure you’re booking a spot that meets your needs no matter the circumstance.
Wherever it is and whoever it’s for, you need your next event to captivate. That’s why it helps to partner with a dedicated team of experts who know the meetings and events landscape inside and out.
cievents compliments FCM’s corporate travel management services—operating independently as event specialists but alongside your corporate travel consultant teams to provide integrated booking and reporting.
If you’d like to learn more about the virtual and hybrid event services offered by cievents, please click here or reach out to you FCM Account Manager today.