Annett Polaszewski-Plath, CEO at Interprefy, shares several best practices to help pull off an impactful show on both fronts
The past couple of years has forced event managers to rethink how they host global conferences, seminars, workshops, and other meetings.
Safety remains the biggest obstacle to hosting live events, meaning event managers find themselves needing an alternative.
At peak disruption, digital events provided a natural and cost-effective solution, allowing event managers to continue while adhering to social distancing guidelines.
But as lockdown restrictions ease across the globe, more and more event managers (two-thirds, according to research) are adopting hybrid event formats, increasing their onsite presence while taking advantage of online solutions.
Why hybrid events?
Compared to traditional onsite setups, hybrid events are fundamentally more accessible and offer the “best of both worlds”. The online component of hybrid events means that they can be expanded infinitely, allowing event managers to reach previously unreachable audiences.
New audiences speaking different languages can also easily be catered for by bringing in interpreters – both of whom can work remotely as your event is online and there’s no need to pay for visa permits or aeroplane tickets when you can log on online.
Of course, hybrid events can be challenging, from logistical planning, creating new value for exhibitors and sponsors, and catering to different timezones. But the real challenge will be to flip the mindset of whom you’re catering to, as having an onsite event with online access offered as a bolt-on may leave remote participants disappointed.
The key to solving this challenge is to create one event, but two experiences. Here are five tips on how to do exactly that.
1. Cater to both audiences
Understanding your audience will help to filter down an extensive list of hybrid event needs, starting with how it’s hosted. Only when you know what your attendees need can you choose the right technology, such as video conference or event management platforms, and define the experience.
Focus on the needs of both of your diverse audiences equally. While one may be tempted to focus on onsite participants slightly more, as they will probably have higher costs associated with participation (travel, visa, tickets, etc.), remote audiences may exceed onsite participation by high numbers.
2. Offline and online hosts
To make it easier for your audiences to interact and engage with you and other attendees, have representatives for both the onsite and online experience. These representatives can cater to your guests, providing them with event information and content, as well as direct them to what they are looking for.
Online representatives are especially important, as they can help attendees with any technical issues or problems they may be having, as well as share useful content and help them to connect with other online attendees.
3. Technical support
What happens if a microphone fails or connectivity issues appear? For every possible “problem” you need available support, more so than you would with just an offline or online event. What’s more, both online and onsite teams need to have good communication. In the case of Interprefy, we can use our network of onsite AV partners. You can also choose to collaborate with partners the client has.
Ideally, for your hybrid events, you should have technical personnel and partners monitoring closely to remedy any issues – you should also reassure attendees (both online and offline) that normal service will resume relatively soon.
If your online event management solution fails, it’s always worth having a backup option that can be rapidly deployed.
4. The venue
No two venues are the same; many will have their own capabilities as standard. Some will be better suited for events than others – i.e. podiums and surround sound already set up – so you’ll have to carefully assess each option to see what’s appropriate for your hybrid event.
Bandwidth capabilities are essential, as you’ll be catering to online audiences and need high-quality video and audio streams. Similarly, the aesthetic of the venue will matter for both those onsite and online, so make sure to choose somewhere that looks good and embodies the “theme” of your event.
As well as finding the right venue, work together with the venue operators to create the “ideal” onsite architecture. You should also try to make it as “safe” as possible, especially in line with social distancing guidelines to reassure attendees.
5. Speak their language
As a hybrid event is infinitely more accessible, you should expect people from around the world to attend. With this in mind, you need to ensure that you have translators and interpreters who can accommodate the most “common” language needs. The easiest way to find this information out is to look at your attendee data – what languages do most people speak? Based on that information, find translators and interpreting partners to suit.
Real-time interpretation can ensure a seamless experience for both onsite and online audiences, allowing them to listen to content live while having it interpreted. Solutions like this make it easy for events to be delivered to multinational audiences at scale, while interpreters can work from anywhere at any time.
Hybrid events are here to stay
As event managers and attendees continue to realise the benefits of being able to choose how they host and attend events respectively, hybrid events will continue to attract audiences around the globe, both online and offline.
The challenge for event managers is the complexity of a dual affair. One event, two experiences – and they need to be consistent. What’s offered online must be replicated offline as closely as possible. Event managers need to pay close attention to how their events are engaged with by both audiences and use that information to continuously improve what they do.