As the vaccine rollout continues, hybrid meetings are being seen as the way forward for the industry, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution. And they bring their own share of challenges, as the results of the latest Convene COVID-19 Recovery Dashboard demonstrate.
To help planners build a safe in-person event paired with an inclusive and immersive online portion, event tech company MeetingPlay has released “Planning Successful Hybrid Events, a Step-by-Step Guide,” which meeting professionals can download for free.
“As we talk about hybrid, we cannot treat virtual attendees like second-class citizens. And this is where the planners’ jobs become so much harder,” Joe Schwinger, founder and CEO of MeetingPlay, told Convene. “Now they have to satisfy the needs of an on-property event and they need to be thinking about their virtual attendees — that they can fulfill their requirements as well.”
The guide offers several tips on how to make the digital audience feel more included in the in-person event. One idea is to set up multiple camera angles at the in-person event to give digital attendees a choice in how they would like to view the mainstage. Another way to include online attendees is to have a digital emcee who represents them relay their questions or comments to the in-person speaker. And, turning your attention to in-person audience, you can help them feel connected with the online audience by setting up a video wall of virtual attendees on site.
“Hybrid should be looked at as a new opportunity,” Schwinger said. “There’s a lot of discussion around planning these events, the cost of these events, and the lack of revenue. But I actually believe that you are going to see a shift on charging for virtual events as we move into the hybrid environment,” he said, noting that in the rush to go online in 2020, many virtual meetings were heavily discounted or free for digital attendees.
Schwinger said that hybrid events present an opportunity to create FOMO — fear of missing out of the in-person event experience — that standalone digital events cannot replicate. By adding an online component to an in-person event, planners are offering digital attendees a piece of the action.
They will be thinking, “‘Well, if the on-property folks are going to get all of that content, I’ve got to get it too.’ Today, there’s no FOMO. Everybody gets [to participate] virtually,” Schwinger said. “I really believe that the transition to the hybrid environment is going to open up a lot of solves for some of the downfalls of virtual environments.”