We chatted with the event planning expert Ruby Sweeney, founder of The Events Hub about her pivot from in-person to virtual, and how hybrid events offer the best of both worlds for venues, organisers and attendees alike in today’s ever evolving world.
What makes a Hybrid Event?
In simple terms, hybrid combines the experience of in-person with the flexibility of virtual. The in-person attendance we were all used to before the unmentionable thing happened, and the virtual Zoom and Teams meetings we’ve become very familiar with.
Ruby goes a little deeper with her definitions of hybrid though. “There a number of ways you can combine the ‘live’ experience and the virtual one. The most obvious is the traditional conference setup with an option to join virtually to tour the site and participate in panel discussions and Q&A sessions.”
“Then there’s having an in-person speaker panel with the audience joining virtually, either entirely or with a smaller group in attendance at the venue.”
“And there’s a multi-location, smaller in-person conference at different sites, with virtual used as a technology wrap around to bring together the different groups.”
In truth there are any number of permutations for bringing the two worlds together, there’s no “right or wrong” in Ruby’s experience.
It’s about understanding the purpose of the event and designing it around the outcomes you want. Taking into account where your target audience is based and what that means for being there in person, and then factoring in logistics like time zones once you’ve gathered that information.
Your checklist for a successful Hybrid Event
So given the choice, how do customers and event organisers set about designing with success in mind?
Ruby highlights a couple of key considerations. “You’ve got to think about what the end user you are targeting is going to need, not about what works best for you. And you’ve got to plan with adaptability and flexibility in mind. What happens as social distancing changes, or local and national lockdowns are introduced? Can you still go ahead?”
Ruby suggested a checklist of things to support robust planning and positive execution:
Things that work well for Hybrid planning:
Be adaptable - creating something that is a binary choice between live and cancelling is a risky strategy
Work with a venue that allows for flexibility for changes to approach
Engage an experienced production partner to ensure a high-quality virtual delivery
Draw comparisons between live and virtual, but recognise that they are separate products
And to strike the right balance between the in-person and virtual experience:
Management and facilitation of the sessions is critical - run a tight ship
Engagement is key - keep encouraging people to get involved
Create breakouts, forums and sessions with focused topics - people have opinions
How venues can stand out as a Hybrid provider
Venues have understandably focused lots of energy on demonstrating that they are complying with hygiene and social distancing rules to encourage the return of smaller in-person events, but we talked about how the emphasis might need to shift back to differentiating themselves given we now come to expect safety as a minimum standard, and there’s only so much that can be done to encourage nervous consumers back through the door.
In the same way as eye-catching images and 360 tours helped stand them apart before, Ruby felt that showcasing your virtual and hybrid services ought to be where strategy shifts to.
“The tech has to work, and the setup has to be good. Venues have to look at their own suite of technology and connectivity and be clear about the capability they have. It doesn’t all have to be about investing in the best kit though, collaborating with production companies that know their stuff is a huge advantage.”
We went on to discuss the value in dressing the site as ‘hybrid ready’ for images and video and how that can bring a new concept to life for consumers.
Here’s some of the ideas we considered:
Examples of combined in-person and online events in progress
Dressing spaces up as studios for panel interviews
Show how you are collaborating with other venues to provide multi-site solutions
Do quirky stuff like running a participatory cocktail masterclass afterwards with ingredients shipped to people’s homes
The key is to prove you can deliver on technology and use your venue creatively to adapt for hybrid.
Who you can turn to for help
The industry remains rightly resolute that in-person interaction cannot be replaced, but as things stand and with longer term cost, logistical and environmental considerations in mind, being proactive about providing and delivering Hybrid events is an absolute necessity for venues and organisers.
The Events Hub
Ruby has been bringing audiences together at conferences and events for the past 17 years. It’s this experience, coupled with a passion for staying at the forefront of technology that means The Events Hub is leading the charge for virtual and hybrid events.
Her strengths in strategic planning, creativity and adaptability are crucial when a company is placing a great deal of responsibility in to an events partner’s hands during rapidly changing times.
In a connected world her team are able to tap into the most incredible speakers, suppliers, attendees, and thought leaders through the universal acceptance of virtual events to deliver incredible experiences.
Our new customer portal provides hosts and their guests alike with a way to capture all the details of virtual and hybrid events, and manage attendance of in-person and virtual elements.
Our ticketing services can manage a multitude of attendance categories, and our guest management and contactless check-in helps support social distancing and track and trace for in-person attendees.