You’re planning an event and you select your venue. What’s next? In a venue, a floor plan provides limits to stay within the physical boundaries of the building itself. What happens when you introduce the digital environment of a hybrid event? How does that impact your participant experience?

I’ve put together three easy-to-remember environmental cues that provide the excitement of a live event experience, with considerations specific to hybrid events. Without knowing your event type or participant size, these tips aren’t meant to cover everything you’ll need. Think of them as a basic foundation you can build upon:


1. Create a backdrop that works on-site and on screen

Start simple with graphics and other design elements from your on-site signage by replicating the same look and feel on your event platform. Event platforms that have engagement tools or uploadable resources typically allow for some flexibility in customizing colors and adding in branding elements. Take that same approach with slide content. Add transitional slides or motion graphics that appear between presenters or during breaks.

In your venue environment, keep everyone’s attention focused on your content. Place cameras strategically to capture different recording angles, audience reactions, and close-ups of the stage. Then, display them on screen at your venue. This gives your on-site participants the ability to see what your remote users view – another way to bridge the two experiences. Don’t forget to test your lighting on camera to make sure it’s bright enough to capture well for a broadcast.

 

 Take it a step further:

  •  If a presenter is broadcasting or pre-recording from home, here are some tips to enhance your attendees’ experience and give your presenter more confidence.
  • Be open to production solutions that have been designed to be cost-effective. For example, a stage set like Encore’s Backdrop Pro gives you professional polish while still allowing for some customization at tiered pricing. Depending on your needs, pre-built studios like a Presentation Stage™ are another great option to consider. These solutions are cost-effective in that they’re set and ready for use or they’re mobile (can be brought to your venue or office), with efficient processes in place to reduce setup time.
 
 

2. Be intentional about seating

Before the pandemic, traditional event seating never took social distancing into account. These days, it’s front and center in its influence of room and seating design. Depending on your event or meeting type, seating and tables can be positioned to observe, present, or placed in a specific area to appear on camera for other attendees.

For a conference room-style meeting with multiple presenters, consider each participant’s viewpoint and how you might integrate them. A low-profile 360° camera, like a Meeting OWL, positioned in the center of your room or table shows all participants at once or focuses solely on whoever is speaking. You might also consider a device like ClickShare that allows attendees to share their laptop screen with a click of a button. By staying seated, presentation content can be viewed quickly without any unnecessary foot traffic.

 

Take it a step further:

  •  Curious about Meeting OWL and ClickShare? See these and more small meeting solutions here.
  •  In the “Hybrid Event Handbook,” we use three examples of tiered meeting styles to show you different seating, room layout, and camera capture options to consider
 
 

3. Don’t forget lighting and music

Besides making sure you have adequate lighting to appear on camera, lighting influences the mood in your event space. Try dimming the room lights and using LED uplights in different colors to frame a stage or to separate your overall event agenda into segments. A little variation goes a long way for your online viewers.

Another great mood enhancer for hybrid events is music. Music can motivate, calm, and serve as a bridge or buffer between sessions and presenters. For example, you could use the same ‘waiting room’ music in your event platform as you do on-site as one more method of joining the two experiences.

 

 Take it a step further:

  •  Create your own playlist or try one of ours. Encore music is a catalog of already-licensed tracks that includes  popular music from well-known artists as well as mood-lifting and relaxed instrumentals. Pre-built playlists and custom playlists available.
 
 

Creating a versatile hybrid event environment

Creative, production, and technology event solutions have been mainstays for in-person events because of their ability to inspire people, facilitate education, and provide engagement.

With hybrid events, you can deliver the excitement of a live event experience for your in-person guests with the same physical elements, graphics, and sounds shared by your remote participants. In this post, I’ve touched on a couple of considerations for your hybrid event environment. I hope they prove helpful and that you feel more confident by having a foundation to start with.

Visit our virtual and hybrid events page or fill out the contact form below if you’re interested in learning more.

In November of 2020, we surveyed 2,000 of our customers and asked various questions about hybrid events. When we asked them to give a general forecast of their 2021 events, our survey respondents shared that they plan to allocate nearly 80% of their total spend on virtual and hybrid solutions. To maximize your total spend, create a plan that prioritizes the experience of each participant type. In the design phase, you can measure each experience against your event objectives and make adjustments as you go. To help, here’s a framework for designing a hybrid event based on traditional planning strategies and methods, with updated considerations for hybrid.

 

Why Hybrid?

Hybrid events allow people to choose their experience based on how they want to take in information and engage with one another. As a result, planning is more experience-driven and customer-led than ever before. This consumer-led strategy will set the future for events, innovating how we deliver and how we engage in these experiences.

The transitions within the events industry have designated hybrid events not just as of-the-moment alternatives to in-person events but instead as key pieces within an integrated portfolio of event offerings. While the shift to a virtual and hybrid focus feels abrupt, the planning of these experiences is still deeply rooted within the familiar elements of event design.

Hybrid events offer highly-scalable experiences with dynamic design possibilities, removing the barriers to allow for community growth and connection. With options for live, recorded, and on-demand content, global attendees, can join experiences that may have previously been limited. This geographic flexibility minimizes financial, time zone, and physical location blockers. The increased reach and personalization of these events lead to improved ROI and MTV (Money and Time Value.) The success of hybrid experiences directly correlates to the strategic framework behind designing an experience that speaks to all audiences, whether physically present or virtually engaged.

 

Strategic Framework of Hybrid Event Design

To create a strategy for your hybrid event, start by establishing experience goals based on each participant type and their unique journey. As with in-person events, it is critical to set benchmarks, objectives and define KPIs. Setting these KPIs and objectives positions you to create a content and engagement strategy that’s built to meet them.

Human-centered design principles provide the insights necessary to develop creative that inspires and engages, no matter where your audience is. The creative content is directly informed by these insights, equally personalizing experiences for virtual and in-person audiences. The personalization of engagement methods drives the collaboration between virtual, in-person, or dual attendees. How will the experiences intersect, and how can participants engage with one another? Selecting a platform that supports these levels of customization has proven to be a key driver in customer decision making. While Encore utilizes the Chime Live platform, we remain solution agnostic. Our ultimate goal is to provide creative, production, and technology solutions best suited to each event.

 

Platforms and Content for Hybrid

Event platforms should scale for audience size, the number of hosted events, and the live component’s eventual expansion into other forms of content and delivery. With the time and resources you spend to create your live event, your technology and produced content should serve current and future experience needs.

Creating content with intention allows it to serve its present purpose and audience while also having the longevity to be relevant beyond the principal event. Core content should be concise, engaging, and accessible, with a tiered strategy that clearly distinguishes and connects to all attendees. Delivering a quality hybrid event involves all the care and planning of live events, with some specific nuances to ensure a seamless and high impact experience for all. Rehearsal time should be utilized to acknowledge the particulars of live and virtual audience interactions, while branded content and custom graphics can help to achieve a professional and polished look. This high level of personalization will make for a transformative and impactful event experience for audiences near and far.

 

Everything and Nothing has Changed

With live, virtual, and hybrid events, the central tenets of event design still stand. It will always be critical to know the audience, set benchmarks, and determine which experience will best resonate with those objectives. While there are two experiences with hybrid, the core elements remain the same. Leverage the commonality but be mindful of the unique audience perspectives. Whether in-person, virtual, or hybrid, the event design’s strategic framework keeps attendee engagement front and center, actualizing the intended objectives through inspired creative and intentional content. Hybrid experiences are not a 1:1 comparison to in-person, but the design process and considerations are analogous.

Event framework, creative, engagement methods, content, and delivery quality remain the key elements when designing a successful hybrid experience that connects and captivates all audiences.

 

 

Have a question about designing
a hybrid experience for every participant?

As the events industry starts to return, it’s becoming clear that hybrid events are going to become part of the new normal. While there are countless tutorials, resources and products that are geared towards making the technical transition easier to understand and execute, one challenge that remains is how to maximize remote audience engagement.

Founded in 2009 by Anthony Scaramucci and SkyBridge Capital, SALT is an annual global thought leadership forum and networking platform that encompasses finance, technology and geopolitics. In 2019, working with Encore Productions, SALT wanted to reinvigorate this high-profile, invitation-only event and take it back to its roots; a thought-leadership forum filled with conversation-based keynotes and fireside chats that blended together the intersecting areas of finance, tech, politics, academia, sports, military and entertainment.

“Although past events had historically been successful, SALT wanted to continue pushing the envelope on their events to stay ahead of competitors. They were looking to transform it into the event of the future,” recalled Chani Mintz, Senior Producer, Encore Productions.

After coming to an understanding on how to further evolve the in-person event, the task became more complex—how to take the event into the digital sphere in a unique way? The event planners wanted to make sure their virtual audience was given an experience that not only mirrored the specifications of the in-person event, but enhanced it. “We really had to change our mindset on how we approached this – it was really to incorporate the best of live show production with more of a television broadcast approach,” confided Jamey Gallagher, Vice President of Creative Strategy, Encore Productions. With this in mind, the production team leveraged three key techniques: creating an immersive environment, graphic elements and exclusive content.

Create an Immersive Experience

Create an environment where attendees can find and explore your content in a way that easily allows for sharing and participating actively in the experience.

In the case of SALT, there were multiple touchpoints for virtual attendees to interact with: a virtual lobby, exhibit hall, keynote presentation and networking lounge, to name a few. These creative elements allowed attendees to interact with one another and the material presented in a way that made them feel connected and part of the action.

Add Graphic Elements

The producers were also mindful of how keynotes and video content was presented to the digital audience. To mimic the energetic atmosphere at Bellagio, they crafted graphic elements that made each keynote feel as if it were a segment on a news channel. By using these graphics, along with picture-in-picture elements, call-outs for the next presenter, and making it look and feel like a highly-produced television show, the creative minds on this project brought a dynamic experience into existence for these users.

Create Exclusive Content for the Virtual Attendee

Between speakers, they utilized roaming cameras to make those at home feel like they were truly in the room. “The virtual viewer actually had a bigger experience than the live viewer,” said Jamey. “They went right from a live session, to an interview backstage and immediately to the conference center. The virtual attendee could attend up to five functions in an hour, where the live attendee could see maybe only three.”

These elements culminated into an event that SkyBridge Founder & Managing Partner and SALT Chairman Anthony Scaramucci proclaimed to be “by far the smoothest and coolest event we’ve ever done.”

The current environment across the globe has presented the meetings and events industry with a clear focus on virtual opportunities. As a result, there are some natural questions that come to mind. Are virtual meetings the new normal? Will they ultimately replace live meetings? And, can people do without face-to-face events?

The answer is understandably nuanced.

Technology to deliver virtual events continues to improve and offers a credible alternative in an environment where people cannot physically gather. Dramatic increases in use of webinars, livestreams – even the reality that ‘Zoom’ is becoming a verb – all demonstrate that virtual events are thriving. And with more of us becoming comfortable with the medium and more thoughtful in how to design virtual events, we will absolutely see an increased use in purely virtual meetings as well as hybrid events, even after governmental restrictions on public gatherings are lifted.

But this does not mean face-to-face meetings can be fully replaced. At their core, meetings and events are meant to connect and inspire people. This happens not just in general sessions or breakouts, but also in moments of serendipity on exhibit floors and the social networking times outside the formal program. According to Meetings Mean Business, 84 percent of executives agree that team productivity is at its best when people meet face-to face. We learn, change, and innovate when we are together. This is due to real value we all get from human connection.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Our world is certainly forever altered. Virtual meetings will have their place and all of us need to learn how to leverage technology to increase the opportunity that our meetings can connect even larger audiences. Face-to-face meetings will also continue to have an important role as virtual cannot satisfy the purpose of every event. The opportunity for us all is to understand how to create hybrid events that give attendees the best of both solutions in order to multiply the impact of our meetings.

On Global Meetings Industry Day on April 14, 2020, I sat down to discuss this topic in detail with Tara Higgins, President at Hargrove, Tricia Rawh, Executive Director of the Cardiovascular Research Foundation’s Center for Education, and Jim Huss, Director of Employee Events at Intel. We discovered that now, more than ever, we’re positioned with a wealth of tools at our fingertips to go virtual. But as we move forward, when is the right time to use which format? It boils down to strategy and purpose.

“Now our toolbox is bigger,” said Jim. “Now we have more ways of accomplishing things. Sometimes that’s a great thing, sometimes that’s daunting because – which one do I choose in which situation. But if you start getting very clear on what the purpose and goals of your events are, I think that leads you down the right path for what technologies to deploy.”

Tricia agreed, astutely stating that “meeting objectives will have to drive the delivery method whether that’s virtual, in-person or a combination of both.”

There’s an opportunity for all of us to have louder voices around advancing the strategic goals of our organizations with the right combination of virtual and in-person for our events. The time to start these conversations is now.