Here at vFairs we have one modus operandi: lead by example. A lot has been said about hybrid events. What they are, how they work and what benefits they provide to you as the host. But vFairs wanted to go a step further by hosting hybrid events. So we can show you how it’s done.
We hosted the first of its kind hybrid conference on product management, EpicZero. Product Managers/Owners/Leaders/Designers from Airlift, Bazaar, Zameen and several other companies came together under one roof. It provided a platform for them to share their experiences on growing products in a rapidly evolving world, plus the challenges and learnings that come with it. EpicZero took place on July 17th, 2021.
We learned a lot and wanted to share our wisdom and knowledge with our avid readers.
Let’s start at the start.
Set The Agenda
It is essential to outline the objective of your event. What purpose does it serve and how will it create value for your targeted audience? You also need to discern the segments, the breaks and the entire schedule. Setting the agenda early on will give you the direction you need and will set the base for the rest of your event and its preparations.
While you set the agenda, keep room for changes. You will need to stay flexible. There might be logistical issues that need sorting, such as venue availability, food and beverages, equipment, etc. which will change your schedule and agenda.
Lock in Speakers/Moderators
Reach out to speakers and moderators you want to feature in your hybrid event. Since anyone from any geographical location can participate as a speaker, reach out to influential people in the industry you think can add value to your event and provide your attendees with inspiration.
Protip: Once confirmed, communicate with speakers in advance. Give them an outline for the day and a rough schedule. You can communicate with them regarding their specific speaking slots closer to the day. Ask them to put forth their topics of conversation and begin preparations on speaking notes, presentations, materials, etc.
Be prepared for the ultimate crisis: speakers backing out due to other commitments, unforeseen circumstances, emergencies, etc. Do you know how you will fill up that time? Who can step in? Do you have backups? Or will you host activity with your attendees in case a speaker is unable to make it? It’s vital to have a contingency plan in place.
Outline ‘Things to Do’
There are a number of ‘tasks’ that have to be completed for each venue; virtual and physical. For instance, for the virtual venue, the lobby, the virtual auditorium, the branding and virtual activities have to be set up. Before that, a landing page needs to be set up in addition to the registration form. Visuals and graphics have to be designed as well which can be hosted on the landing page.
Similarly for the physical venue, you have to book the venue, arrange for mics, lights, speakers, projector and branding in addition to the food and beverages. There’s much to be arranged and sorted for the physical venue. So get started well in advance so nothing is left to chance and everything is accounted for.
Create an exhaustive checklist that takes into account every minor detail of the physical and virtual venue. Assign responsibilities, and set due dates for each task. Have a status check meeting with your team every day closer to the event. Align with your team as often as possible as it helps to keep things on track.
Your speakers might want to rehearse their parts or get familiar with the environment and the setting. Both virtual and live speakers will need to run through their parts. This is so they can time themselves and get used to presenting in front of a camera. These rehearsals can assist them and make the live session easier for them.
Invite your on-ground speakers and moderators for a rehearsal one day before the actual event. The virtual speakers can also be invited to run through their presentations and time themselves on the same day.
Prepare For COVID-19 Protocols
With COVID-19 still very much a part of our life, when hosting a hybrid event, the live venue will have to be COVID-free. Seat people 2 feet away, or keep one or more empty seats between them. Keep masks and sanitizers handy to distribute at the conference.
Also, make COVID-19 vaccination a prerequisite for attendance. Make sure your attendees wear masks throughout and get their temperature checked. The auditorium or hall that you use for the conference can not be used at full capacity. Check how many people can be hosted in the auditorium/hall while still abiding by the COVID-19 SOPs.
Check the COVID-19 regulations of your area/country so you can better devise rules for your hybrid conference. Make accommodations for venue cancellations, as COVID-19 regulations keep changing (on the off chance you’re forced to cancel your live event).
Set up A/V for Live Streaming
Keep an A/V team present on site which can assist in streaming speaker sessions to the online audience. It can even help in setting up the virtual speaker sessions ensuring everything is in place and there aren’t any last-minute surprises and glitches.
Whether you want to broadcast live to the virtual audience or upload a recorded session you will need multiple cameras and a seamless audio/video setup. You might need to consider a multi-camera setup with DSLRs, webcam, and mobile phones connected to the streaming software.
A hybrid event is dependent on a robust A/V team that ensures the smooth running of sessions, live streaming, equipment, sound testing and recording. It’s crucial to have a trusted team on hand and run everything with them a day before the event. Arrange for backup charging devices, cable extensions, extra batteries to ensure the live streaming and recording happens seamlessly.
Make arrangements to boost engagement during the event. Whether you do live polls on Zoom or include gamification or decide to include a social media wall that encourages people to post on their social media channels. This will help your audience connect with your event and be a part of it instead of just passively attending it.
With an increased reach of a hybrid event platform, your online attendees are very much a part of the event. They also participate, ask questions and contribute to the conversation. They should be included in all the engagement activities. With Zoom polls, Q&As and social media walls you can effectively engage the virtual and live audience, all the while gaining valuable insights.
Market Your Event
How will people know you’re hosting a kickass event, without you effectively marketing and spreading the word left, right and center? Decide the collateral needed for social media channels. This includes speaker announcements, event announcements, venue details, topics, and even countdowns. Ask your speakers to make some noise on their respective platforms as well for maximum mileage.
Create additional banners, standees, flyers and media walls for your physical venue. So when attendees enter the venue they know where to go.
Start marketing your event a few days in advance. Depending on the event, you may need to start 2 weeks before the event date. Rigorous marketing efforts will help you bring in virtual and physical attendees.
Pro tip: Once you know how many people can be housed in the physical venue as per COVID-19 regulations, you will also need to set a cut-off limit at the number of people who are registering for the live event. So your registration form which previously would ask people whether they want to attend in person or virtually, will now only have the option to attend virtually once the capacity has been reached.
Connect With Audience Post-Event
Don’t lose the connection you have formed with your audience. Keep them engaged and move towards forming a community. Providing them with useful information and knowledge even after the event will provide extra value to them. Moreover, in case they registered but didn’t attend the event, next time they will be compelled to participate.
Engage your audience members even after the event. Whether they only registered for the event and didn’t attend or if they registered and attended. Create a community online with the people who showed interest in your event. Provide valuable material to them that could interest them and help them in their professional development.
There you have it. When hosting a hybrid event of your own, make sure to take these learnings from EpicZero into consideration. Learn more about hosting hybrid events with vFairs now!