Live events are *almost* back. Now they are hybrid (a combination of virtual and live). vFairs decided to host our own hybrid conference on product management, EpicZero. 

What is EpicZero?

EpicZero is a first-of-its-kind hybrid conference on product management. It took place on July 17th, 2021. epiczero logo

Product Managers/Owners/Leaders/Designers from Airlift, Bazaar, Zameen & several others came together under one platform to share their experiences on growing products in a rapidly evolving world, plus the challenges and learnings that come with it. 

Here we will take you through the ins and outs of EpicZero. Let’s dive right in.

Takeaways from EpicZero and its Features

Entrance

Virtual Lobby

The virtual audience entered into a 3D animated lobby. The EpicZero lobby featured logos of the brands attending the hybrid conference. It also clearly marked the auditorium so our attendees could directly head towards the speaker sessions.  

The 3D animated lobby replicated the real-life experience that attendees can get at a live event. Moreover, additional branding opportunities provide extra eyeballs to partner and sponsor brands. 

Physical Lobby

The live location invited our attendees to the 3rd floor of Arfa Karim Tower in Lahore, Pakistan. The lobby featured branded standees which directed incoming audiences to the final venue. On the third floor, the audience was directed to the auditorium to be seated. The auditorium was mapped out to seat people at a safe distance from each other as per COVID-19 protocols. All attendees were asked to wear their masks throughout the conference. We distributed our own masks and sanitizers for people to use. Plus checked attendees’ temperatures as they arrived on site. 

Key takeaway:

Ensuring your audience is vaccinated against COVID-19, and is then abiding by the COVID-19 SOPs is a priority. Make sure your attendees wear masks, get their temperature checked and sit with enough distance between them. The auditorium or hall that you use for the conference can not be used at full capacity. If it can house 100 people, reduce the capacity. Check the COVID-19 regulations of your area/country so you can better devise rules for your hybrid conference. 

A/V Team For Live Streaming

An A/V team was present onsite which assisted in streaming speaker sessions to the online audience. It also helped in setting up the virtual speaker sessions ensuring everything was in place and there weren’t any last-minute surprises and glitches. 

We recorded the session and simultaneously broadcasted it to the virtual audience using multiple cameras and audio inputs/outputs. A multi-camera setup with DSLRs, webcam, and mobile phone camera was connected to our streaming software. 

Recording the session and at the same time broadcasting using multiple cameras and audio input/outputs

“We monitored screens to moderate and keep an eye on the quality of the streaming. We made sure our internet connection is perfectly working and has good bandwidth. The team also arranged for battery backups, charging devices, and cable extensions”. – Salman Saeed, Business and Product Manager, vFairs. 

In short, every possible thing was accounted for and arranged preemptively. 

epiczero virtual lobby

Key takeaway:

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. 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. 

Interactive Speaker Sessions

EpicZero had an epic lineup of speakers. 12 speakers in prominent product roles joined live whereas 2 speakers joined the hybrid conference all the way from Dubai and Karachi. There were 4 presentations (2 live and 2 virtual), 2 fireside chats and 2 panel discussions. 

Both the live and virtual presentations were live-streamed to the virtual audience via Zoom. 

epiczero fireside chat

Each session was followed by a Q&A round where live and virtual audience members each sent in questions answered by the speakers. 

epiczero presentation

Topics centered around product management and covered ‘Building Product Culture in an Organization & Leading Product Teams’, ‘Principles for Product to last the pandemic and beyond’, ‘Breaking into Product Management in Pakistan’ and much more. These highlighted the problems and challenges faced by people in the industry with the panelists and speakers offering insights from their own experiences. They provided valuable insights to the audience which consisted of people in product management roles and aspiring product managers. 

Key takeaway:

With a hybrid conference, it gets easy to bring in inspirational and accomplished speakers from the industry regardless of where they are based. A couple of remote speakers presented at the hybrid conference to a live seated and a virtual audience. The objective of a hybrid event is to provide flexibility to your audience. Be it, speakers or attendees. Giving them the choice of joining in and adding/deriving value from the event is what makes a difference. 

Social Media Wall

To further encourage interactivity between the attendees, a social media wall with Walls.io was created. Attendees were posting about the events on all platforms from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn which were all hosted on the live social media wall at EpicZero. 

epiczero social media wall

Zoom Polls

The online audience at EpicZero was engaged via Zoom polls to get their thoughts on product management. Questions such as “What is your career goal in product management?”, “How would you prefer working in the future as a product manager?” and “What is the top product management challenge you face?” among many others. Attendees enjoyed answering these questions on Zoom. 

A QR code was also added to the printed agenda handed out to our onsite attendees. This QR code led them to online polls that they could also participate in. Thus, including both audiences in a fun activity. 

Key takeaway:

With an increased reach of a hybrid event platform, your message is not restricted to the onsite attendees, rather online attendees are very much a part of the event. They also participate, ask questions and contribute to the conversation. With Zoom polls you can effectively engage the virtual and live audience, all the while gaining valuable insights. 

Post-event Audience Connection

When the audience registered for the event they could choose if they wanted to attend physically or virtually. They were asked what opportunities they were looking for and their professional background. This was in addition to the basic contact information that was gathered via the registration form. 

epiczero registration

Key takeaway:

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. 

Finally…

A Word From The Attendees

The first hybrid conference for product management in Pakistan by vFairs was a huge success. Attendees from within the field ended up taking a lot out of the entire conference. They expressed their excitement at the conference. 

One participant expressed his excitement at EpicZero by saying “Pakistan is evolving in the world of startups. This conference was a good initiative for product managers, as it will help them and help the industry flourish”. 

Maham Alvi, a product manager from xiQ also attended EpicZero. She was really happy with this initiative. She said, “This conference was tailor-made for people like me who want to learn about product management and see what other organizations are doing. I want to learn how others see product management and how they approach it”. 

As Experienced By The Speakers

Even the speakers invited to EpicZero had a blast engaging with people from the field. It provided an opportunity for them to network with other professionals, share experiences and ideas. They ended up learning from each other and getting comfort from the fact that what they struggled with, others in the field were going through the same obstacles. 

Reflections From The Organizers

As for the masterminds and strong force behind EpicZero, Aatir Abdul Rauf and Salman Saeed too shared their delight at the success and turnout at the conference. All the challenges they faced were worth it all. 

Salman Saeed, Business and Product Manager at vFairs relates his experience on EpicZero “It was the first-ever Hybrid Product Management Conference in Pakistan so we had a bit of pressure and at the same time we were quite excited to crack this”

“For the physical event, we planned to host the event in our office space, but to follow COVID-19 protocols we decided to book an auditorium. This also helped us in setting up the stage, getting mics, and setting up the projector in addition to the technical staff of the auditorium to help us”

“We had our own photographers for event coverage and speaker interviews etc. Additionally, we also had an event manager on-site to make sure the show runs smoothly. The seating arrangement on the stage had to change for the fireside chats and the panel discussions. We had to make sure it was done quickly and efficiently between sessions. We also put together a break where people could network together over a cup of coffee. Participants enjoyed this thoroughly, as this was their chance to meet other professionals, talk to them and build connections”.  

Key takeaways:

There are a few essential people you need for your hybrid event in addition to the A/V team. These are the photographers, the event managers, and the technical staff. 

Before the event is due to take place, rehearse with your moderators, and even your speakers. Conduct a dry run before the event. Moreover, test and check all your equipment. The camera, the live streaming device, the mics, the projector, sound quality and other tech, to avoid any last-minute glitches. 

Conclusion: Your Events Reflect Your Brand 

Your hybrid event shows your customers what your brand is about. You want your audience to remember your event for the good time they had, the memories they created and the learning and networking that was made possible. All because of YOUR event. 

vFairs made sure EpicZero was not a boring series of webinars, rather we wanted to create a platform where like-minded people networked and learned from one another and shared their experiences. 

There are numerous resources available on the theory of hybrid events, however, vFairs here has an example for you on how to host hybrid events! Go ahead, host yours! vFairs has your back. 

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