On July 17th, the UK government announced what we have all been waiting for: live performances can resume on August 1st, and conferences and business events on October 1st.  While this is great news for our industry, the threat of COVID-19 remains and events should follow our MeetSAFE guidelines to minimize risk.

With this announcement, the longing to host live events again has increased at a rapid pace. But because socially distant meeting layouts can lower the capacity of our venues by as much as 75%, we need to offer our clients solutions that enable them to connect with the same size of audience as before, but with a high volume taking part online. With a vaccine still some way off, these hybrid events could be our future for quite some time!

Hybrid events will have two audiences – one in the room, and one viewing from their home or office. I believe that we need to do everything we can to ensure that the guests taking part from home have the same experience as those in the room. At its simplest, we can stream a meeting to an online audience with little more than a camera and an internet connection. However, engagement is key for an online audience, especially with the distractions around the home or in the office.

When planning for a hybrid conference, there is a wide range of tools that we can use to bring together delegates in the room and online. Live-polling, Q&A sessions and even chat functions can ensure that everyone attending feels engaged and inspired. If speakers aren’t able to travel to present at your event, we can pre-record their sessions or even stream them into the room and onto the remote platform live.

Using Chime Live, the delegates who are attending the event in-person can interact with the conference using their own devices to answer polls, ask questions, check the agenda for the event or find out more information about individual speakers. The remote delegates are able to have the exact same experience, with the added functionality of a live stream of the event.

When producing a hybrid awards event for example, we can stream sponsors, presenters or even winners live from their devices into the room and onto the streaming platform. Competitions can be hosted using social media, allowing all guests to compete together whether they’re live or remote. Guests can even be brought together using live chat, so that people can interact and network as they would at a live event. Combining both audiences is key to ensure that those at home feel as much part of the event as those who are in the room.

It’s important to remember that the move to hybrid principles doesn’t always need to be viewed as a ‘problem-solver’. A hybrid event can actually increase the attendance at the event and add value – global pandemic or not. We have seen attendance numbers of virtual events outperform those of in-person events because of the convenience of attending remotely. Adding hybrid technology to an event will no doubt add some element of cost for event organisers, but this can be outweighed by reduced travel requirements and F&B spend, and can even add an extra channel of sponsorship for the remote platform.

We have an undoubtedly challenging time ahead of us, but hybrid events will enable us to support our clients to engage with large audiences both in person and online for some time to come.

Necessity is the mother of all invention, and our current environment has introduced more challenges into our personal and professional lives than anyone could have predicted.   

Be it as a planner, partner, or provider in the live events industry, how do we continue to provide value to our customers in a time when we cannot meet face to face? For PSAV, we’ve rallied together through tremendous cross-functional collaboration, commitment and leadership, finding creative ways to adapt and engage in this very fluid environment.  

Professional EDge: Industry Education 

The desire to remain connected has never been stronger, and despite stay-at-home orders, we knew we could share thought leadership content that would provide a lasting benefit to our community by pivoting to virtual. 

As a result, our team is excited to introduce Professional EDge – our permanent platform for industry education! We kicked it off with Global Virtual Events Day on April 2, where we welcomed more than 13,000 unique visitors from 5countries. Our family of companies brought a team of digital experts to share real-life applications and solutions to help professionals plan, produce, and promote virtual events from start to finish.  

On April 7, we continued our interactive sessions with the launch of an eight-week series of webinars running through the end of May. Featuring great content from industry experts, all of these sessions are approved by the Events Industry Council for attendees to earn continuing education hours. 

Launching Professional EDge has been a bright spot for us. It’s a platform we always wanted to create but found difficult to prioritize amidst normal business levels. The sense of accomplishment that comes from finding new ways to evolve and elevate is a benefit we can all derive from great teamwork and creativity in our current environment. 

Chime Live Virtual Events Platform 

In a poll we recently conducted, more than one-third of meeting planners responded that the most daunting aspect of hosting a virtual event was audience engagement. With this in mind, we’re excited to introduce Chime Live, a new platform we’re using to host Professional EDge. Chime Live offers both a live webinar feed and a rich suite of interactive tools such as Polling, Notepad, UpVoter, ForumAsk a Question, Feedback Forms and Networking. It also provides users an engaging forum that lives on after the event. We want to learn what matters most to you, so we can continue to develop fresh content that resonates and brings even more value to Professional EDge.   

See the Possibilities 

Whether it’s through 3-D renderings from our Encore locationsthe use of Vision Templates or virtual site visits, we have aligned resources to help you ‘see’ the possibilities in all our venues. We’re using Microsoft Teams to collaborate and can pull in solution experts as needed to talk through your organization’s objectives and discuss options to create engaging experiences for your attendees – be they inperson, virtual or hybrid. 

By leveraging technology, we have thopportunity to remain connected unlike any generation before us that has gone through dark times. The internet may be our conduit, but our connections are no less genuine or valuable. If anything, we are all learning new ways to create value and engage, which will make those inperson moments even more impactful in the future.