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The Look Ahead to Hybrid Events

We can all agree that this has been a year unlike one we’ve ever seen before, and there’s no “back to normal” in sight, so we’re all having to improvise, make changes, find that “new normal.” So what does that mean in the event space? 

It means planning can be complicated. And since we’re planners, that can be a little out of our comfort zone – more like completely and utterly out of our comfort zone. But the fact is that until we have a successful vaccine, most people probably aren’t going to want to attend 500+ person events. So we’ve all learned to — get ready for one of 2020’s buzzwords — pivot, yes, and we’re rocking Zoom calls, micro-sites, platforms, and a myriad of virtual events. With all of this innovation, we still struggle to replace the in-person experience. So how do we plan for the future when we can go hybrid? How do we offer some of that in-person, boots-on-the-ground experience without taking unnecessary risks? 

First, what does “hybrid event” even mean? Simply put, it means a combination of two aspects of an event – in this example it means some people attend in person and some people stream. 

Here are some tips for pulling off the best “hybriding” since Toyota launched the Prius. 

Begin with the basics — Begin with some basic precautions that will help minimize contact and allow for proper social distancing. This includes electronic registration and check-ins that can be done from a person’s mobile device, temperature checks at entrances, mask requirements, and socially distanced seating. Stay informed of the safety protocols your venue and vendors are following to ensure they are in line with CDC recommendations. Keep your numbers manageable by allowing only one or two representatives per company to attend the event in person, while others take part virtually. Skip the big opening panels and the keynote speakers in favor of content-based silos that reduce the number of people in one room at a time.  And do all of this only when it is allowed and safe in your area. 

Make it short and sweet —   Whether in person or online, you know the best way to garner interest in your event — offer top-notch content. This means engaging speakers, VIP or celebrity guests, surprise performances, and plenty of opportunity for interactivity, including between the virtual and live audiences. In the virtual space, it’s important to ensure you don’t just take your in-person event and plop it online. Consider cutting content, staying under an hour whenever possible, and putting only the most charismatic, appealing speakers on the stage. 

Minimize meal contact —  Forego the food stations in favor of pre-packaged reception food and sealed utensils. Assign one server to each table, and ensure “white glove and mask” service. Increase cleanliness by having several disposable napkins and packages of wipes at each place setting rather than a shared napkin dispenser for the table. Have a means of indicating that service is needed at a table rather than having the server come and check, therefore minimizing unnecessary contact and exposure. This might be an indicator card, akin to an auction paddle, a doorbell type of device, or a light switch. 

Take advantage of technology — If anything good has come from coronavirus, it’s the increased knowledge of how much technology can truly accommodate our needs. For those attending in person, make use of proximity-based mobile devices and RFID wristbands for registration and check-in, accept payments for tickets or auction items via mobile apps, and provide QR codes that attendees can scan to get more information about sponsors and presenters in lieu of brochures and one-sheets. Provide virtual networking opportunities through your platform or app, use chat rooms and push notifications to communicate. Utilize social media for polling, Q&A’s, and donation appeals.

What do you think 2021 will look like in the event space? We’d love to hear from you!

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