Hybrid events became popular once Covid-19 entered our lives and, although restrictions are being lifted and in-person events are returning, this event format is expected to stick around. The adage “the more, the merrier” should come to mind when planning your hybrid event and direct you to create an inclusive event. You want everyone to have a positive experience.

You should aim to accommodate attendees with disabilities not only because the ADA requires it but because it’s the right thing to do. For being conscientious, you’ll be rewarded with increased attendance which translates to higher revenue from registration fees. You can also tout your attendance rate when promoting future events (similar to a promoter boasting prior sold-out concerts).

Here are ways to make your hybrid event more accessible for both virtual and in-person attendees.

Attendees with Mobility Challenges

For those who prefer to attend your event in-person, ensure that your venue can accommodate physical limitations. Consider the following:

Is there an elevator or ramp access? When researching venues, some will indicate on their website whether they can accommodate visitors with physical limitations. In addition to an elevator, a parking lot with a cut curb or ramp will give those in wheelchairs or scooters easy access to the building. The building entrance also needs to be wide enough. If it’s not included on the venue’s website, a quick call or email should yield accessibility details.

Is your venue easy to access (for all attendees)?  If your event will take place in a bustling metro location, what’s the best route for attendees to take? Is construction taking place nearby? Provide this information in your registration materials to save attendees time and make it easy for them to reach the venue. If some attendees use wheelchairs and will be arriving by subway or train, provide the link to Google’s Wheelchair Accessible Routes.

Is there nearby parking?  For attendees using wheelchairs, canes, and walkers, available parking needs to be close to the venue entrance.

What’s the seating set-up?  Is there enough space in the seating area to accommodate wheelchairs, scooters, canes, walkers, and service animals (this is important, as other attendees may be uncomfortable being near animals)? Having a designated area for those with physical disabilities is ideal to ensure that their needs are met.

Accessible hotel room options:  When reserving a hotel block, include rooms that accommodate persons with physical limitations.

Attendees with Hearing Challenges

For deaf and hard-of-hearing attendees, you’ll need to accommodate both those who attend virtually and in person.

Will you provide an interpreter?  For hearing-impaired attendees, will you employ the services of a sign language expert? Will you provide assistive listening devices? American Sign Language (ASL) includes signs for many words; however, there isn’t a sign for everything. Provide interpreters with written program materials in advance so they can decide how best to express unfamiliar terms to hearing-impaired attendees.

People born with the ability to hear may rely on other forms of communication besides ASL, so captioning video content (for both virtual and in-person attendees) will be helpful.  Insist that speakers and attendees use microphones and always face forward to allow for lip-reading. If you’re planning to have background music, this could be distracting to hearing-impaired attendees trying to hear what speakers are saying.

Attendees with Visual Challenges

For visually impaired attendees, ensure that sufficient lighting and print materials are easy to read (minimum 16pt sans serif font on gloss-free paper). Blind attendees may request handouts printed in Braille or screen-reading software (virtual attendees).

Double-Check Access Before the Event

As earlier communicated, you don’t want attendees showing up to the venue only to find out that an elevator is broken or something else isn’t in place.  A few days before your event, call the venue and make sure everything is good to go. If not, you’ll have time to devise a plan B or let attendees know about any changes. They may then opt to attend digitally (formally virtual).

Let Attendees Know They’re Covered

Make sure attendees know the steps you’re taking to make your event accessible to all. To do this:

  • Include accessibility information in event promotion materials.
  • Ask about the following during registration: (1) dietary restrictions, (2) need for an interpreter, (3) need for accessible parking or seating.
  • Mobility, hearing, and visual impairments are often accommodated at events, but what about those sensitive to event elements like flashing or strobe lights that could cause seizures? Sudden loud noises may affect veterans with PTSD. Ask about these conditions as well during registration.

Ensure Website Accessibility for All

All digital (formally virtual) and in-person attendees to your hybrid event should be able to access event information and registration easily. To create an accessible website

  • Ensure all website text is easy to read. Don’t replace text with graphics.
  • Provide larger buttons and plenty of space between buttons for those with low vision.
  • The website should be accessible via keyboard instead of via mouse.
  • Use descriptive link text.
  • Provide video captions and transcripts.
  • Eliminate CAPTCHA (spam discourager); it’s not easy for attendees with low vision to access.  

Master Your Platform

To ensure that your hybrid event goes off without a hitch, take the time to become well-acquainted with your digital event platform of choice (Zoom, YouTube, etc.) Conduct run-throughs of any technical and audio-visual elements ahead of the event to smooth out any glitches.

Final Thoughts

It will take more thought and work to make your hybrid event more inclusive, but if it makes your special-needs attendees more comfortable, it’ll be worth it.  Always gather feedback after your event to see if you hit the mark. Did attendees feel they were able to participate fully? Use their responses to continually improve on your accessibility efforts.

Consult disability groups and resources such as the ADA for planning guidance and solutions. Use the information gathered with eShow’s interactive Exhibit Sales & Floor Plan Management module to create an accessible floor plan. 

 At eShow, we can help with all aspects of your hybrid event – from planning to execution.  Our interactive online tools put successful and memorable events within your grasp. Contact us today for a no-obligation demo, and we’ll show you how to ensure that all attendees benefit from your event and much more.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 125,900 event planners in the United States in 2020. The event planning industry is expected to grow at around 18% over the next 10 years, a significantly higher rate than the overall average of 8%.

While these numbers are promising for the industry, they also show that competition isn’t going away any time soon. Instead of avoiding or aggressively going after your competitors, consider learning how to network and collaborate with them instead. You may be surprised to learn that doing so can help you strengthen and grow your business.

Benefits of Networking with Competitors

In business and in life, it’s critical to foster good relationships – even with your competitors. Not only is being friendly easier and more pleasant than viewing your competition as the enemy but making these connections can also yield unexpected benefits. Here’s a closer look at three advantages you can enjoy when networking with your competitors.

1. Creating Learning Experiences

If you’re offering a similar service in the same market, there’s sure to be some things you can learn about the way your competitor does business. What draws people to them? And what services do they offer that you don’t?

By going into the conversation with a learning mindset, you may be able to identify areas where you’re lacking or strengths you need to capitalize on. Take the time to truly listen, pay attention to your similarities and differences, and use what you learn to make our business even more potent.

2. Finding Mutually Beneficial Opportunities

Have you ever had to turn down a client because your business was at capacity? Or had a client ask for a service you didn’t offer? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to provide them with an alternative solution? It would also be great if your competitors looked to you when the same things happened to them.

By creating a friendly and respectful relationship with your competitors, you may be able to find ways to lean on each other. Whether you’re sharing resources or referring clients that aren’t quite the right fit, you’re likely to find at least a few ways to collaborate.

3. Strengthening Your Network

The events industry is ever-changing. Employees come and go, experienced professionals enter and leave the industry, and the demand for different services often ebb and flows. If your circumstances suddenly change, you may need to look to the people who know the industry best – those who are already in it.

Create connections with as many industry professionals as possible today, and you’ll be in a better position to adapt if you find that you need to make a change in the future quickly.

How to Collaborate with Competitors – The Right Way

While networking with your competitors can foster growth, it’s essential to do it the right way. The following tips will help you collaborate successfully while still maintaining your edge.

Start with the Right Mindset

When networking, it’s far too familiar for people to seek out opportunities that benefit them without any concern about what they bring to the table. Whether you’re dealing with someone in your industry or other individuals, it’s essential to look for ways to offer support and assistance. Not only will identifying opportunities to assist help to sharpen your skills, but it will increase the likelihood that the other party will eventually find a way to return the favor.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that a relationship with a “competitor” isn’t worth your time. Often, initial connections can lead to valuable future relationships, and it’s vital to remain open-minded when meeting people. Even if you can’t see an immediate benefit, you may uncover a profitable opportunity in the future.

That being said, it’s also important not to view relationships as nothing more than a means to an end. It will quickly become evident if you’re only interested in what you can get out of people. Instead, focus on the mantra of “givers gain,” and you will always come out ahead.  

Don’t Over-Share

While you must approach the relationship with a willingness to share some information about your business, it’s important not to overdo it. Even if you become very friendly with your competitor, don’t forget that there are certain things you must keep to yourself.

Feel free to share experiences, but keep information about your employees and clients private. Also, avoid disclosing financial information about your business or details regarding your strategic planning and market positioning initiatives. This type of information will be too tempting for your competitor to ignore, and you can be almost certain they will end up using it to their advantage, even if they don’t intend to do so.

Maintain Your Competitive Edge

While collaboration is terrific, you still need to maintain your competitive edge, which means making sure you continue to be an authoritative, savvy, and creative business executive. If you feel the need to bounce proprietary information off someone who is “in the know,” find an industry-specific coach or mentor who is not a direct competitor to your business.

Continue to stay on top of the latest trends and find ways to incorporate them into your events, so you’re always on the cutting edge. Keep these ideas to yourself until you’ve already earned a reputation for flawlessly executing them.

Forge Strong Connections to Ensure Survivability

The most successful event managers have found ways to forge strong connections with all of the crucial players in their industry – including their competitors. Approach this with confidence and the right mindset, and you’ll help ensure your business is strong enough to survive even the toughest of challenges.

For more guidance to help you navigate the world of event planning, take a look through our webinar series. Our team of experienced industry experts has created in-depth guides for everything from creating successful events to stakeholder preparations. We’re continually updating our offerings, so be sure to check back often.

When an event planner wants to attract attendees, they’ll typically think about logistical issues. For example, is the venue close to a significant airport, or does it have sufficient space and an “all in one” element to make movement easier? Yet times are changing, and it’s not enough to design an event this way anymore. Attendees are a lot more particular and will often buy with their heart as well as their head. So, if you want your next event to be a resounding success, why do you need to tap into some intellectual capital and make sure that your venue has the correct attributes?

Dealing with Convention

It’s no surprise that the key destination cities around the country have spent a fortune to develop sprawling convention centers. As just one example, Orlando’s Orange County Convention Centre covers 7 million ft.² and brings more than 200 events per year to this Central Florida city. In response, many event planners make a beeline for this type of facility as it will often have every base imaginable covered. Large hotels will stand nearby, and there are so many options for event configuration, there is little need to go elsewhere.

While nobody denies that the OCCC is a fantastic facility, you could argue that it represents “more of the same.” Attendees may get a sense of déjà vu as they progress through the event, and they may wonder if they are getting as much out of their investment as they could.

Off the Beaten Track

Maybe it is time to transition away from the conventional convention center and towards something more off the beaten track. Planners can look for facilities that may offer unusual facilities or a link to untapped resources. They may connect with local thought leaders or prominent individuals who can offer new experiences or education. In so doing, a planner will engage the intellectual resources of the venue or host city instead, and this may make the event far more appealing to the prospect attendee. The American Society of Association Executives suggest that Canada could be a source of meaningful, content-rich events for just such a purpose.

Remember, event space should not be simply a place to mingle or listen to somebody talking on a distant stage. It needn’t be a place where attendees feast on a menu designed by the hotel staff in a somewhat nondescript room. Instead, the venue could be an integral part of the experience, and this gives an enterprising planner a lot more scope for innovation.

Need to Be Flexible

For an event to be successful, everything starts at the planning stage. Potential attendees will look very carefully at any event agenda before deciding to attend, especially in the current landscape. These people are very conscious of safety and security and, if anything, even more entrenched in their ideas, feelings, and emotions. They’re not likely to be impressed by a venue or agenda that appears repetitive but may find something unconventional quite attractive instead.

Of course, a planner cannot throw all the rules out of the window and will need to consider accessibility, timing, and other fundamental logistical needs. After that, however, they should put all their previous experience to one side and start with a clean sheet of paper.

Searching Before You Build

To begin building the event’s intellectual capital, think about an unusual location with a special appeal. Look for a venue that is aesthetically pleasing and allows you to tap into local resources and provide some additional color. Business leaders, visionaries, scholars, or artisans could all contribute to the event in one way or the other, from an educational, artistic or support point of view. 

You could make this a core part of the event itself or weave some of these elements into breakouts, meals or closing functions. Your attendees will be impressed and far more likely to commit if they can see that you’re trying to do something different. They’ll feel that it is worth their time and, crucially, help you avoid their tendency to stay at home in this post-pandemic world.

Getting Started

But where do you start, especially if you’re working on a repeat event with its own proven agenda?

  1. Researching. Begin by looking at your attendee avatar. Send out some questionnaires and see if you can learn more about your potential attendee over and above their specific event profile. In so doing, you may decide that it would be better to relocate your events to a different city altogether. You might choose a location that is known for its food culture, vibrancy, or Bohemian nature, such as Portland, OR.
  2. Networking. Next, talk with the local convention and visitor’s bureau or other business support network in the town or city. See if they can give you some introductions to local leaders who could contribute to your event’s success. They may suggest an unusual venue that could meet your size requirements, so you can begin the negotiation process.
  3. Scheduling. You may have to be creative when it comes to scheduling. If you want to stage your event at a non-traditional venue, then you may have to work with their timing restrictions. If you’re bringing in scholars from a local university, then be aware of the end of term dates when they might not be around. Try to fit in with existing requirements that do not conflict with other obligations.
  4. Synchronizing. You will also have to convince your potential partners that your goals are aligned with theirs. This may be particularly important in environmentally conscious Portland, as you may need to work hard on your event’s carbon footprint. Ensure that your event objectives are clear and that they align with the goals and aspirations of your potential intellectual partners.

Worth the Effort

This may involve a lot of work at the planning stage, but it will be worthwhile. It may give your event an additional dimension and add a lot of color to your marketing mix. It may help you to move away from the predictable to the unusual – and enthuse your potential attendees.

Partners at Your Side

Of course, you will still need help when it comes to designing, planning, and executing and should work with an established pattern. eShow can take the strain while you redesign your package and bring a support package to help you manage the entire ecosystem of your event. Talk with eShow today to request a demo.