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Let’s face it. COVID-19 has created a profound change in the way we meet and exchange ideas. Event organizers and managers are now faced with a sink-or-swim challenge – creating imaginative new ways to hold events or bust.

Out of necessity, but accustomed to always having a ‘Plan B,’ event organizers quickly pivot to a whole new world of challenges. Now the hybrid event, a combination of in-person and virtual experiences, is becoming the hottest trend in planning and holding events.

Organizing registrations, boosting virtual engagement, and networking for the hybrid option now propels your responsibilities to new heights. No less daunting is the task of ensuring that the technical aspects of hybrid events roll out without a hitch. Requirements for the audio, visual, and lighting aspects of a hybrid event have become doubly important.

Here are some tips to help you take on these technical challenges while considering attendees’ two different experiences during a hybrid event.

Choose A Venue That Can Support Technical Needs

For the in-person piece of your hybrid event, you have many new boxes to check when choosing a venue. Everything from a schedule to sanitize surfaces, to room airflow and physical distancing is now on your list. Audio, visual, and lighting capabilities should also be on your list when narrowing down the venue choices. But more on that below. First, let’s look at the factors affecting the streaming of your event.

High-Speed Internet + Loads of Bandwidth is A Must!

Maybe you’re planning a large-scale hybrid event that includes online learning applications, streaming audio/video, and the ability to download brochures or other digital materials. You’re going to need the highest speed internet and bandwidth possible. This is true, not only for online participants. In-person attendees also need uninterrupted access to their email and any streaming or virtual elements needed to connect with the remote participants.

Imagine a  couple hundred people using mobile devices and laptops simultaneously to participate in online polls, attend virtual lounges, and consume streaming audio/video. That’s going to take a lot of bandwidth! The more attendees you have, the higher the demand.

Inadequate speed and bandwidth can ruin your audio and video with remote participants experiencing lag time, or even worse – seeing a frozen screen and leaving the event thinking they’ve lost their own connection.

Ask the venue for their upload/download speeds. If your venue can’t support the demand or the cost is prohibitive, investigate purchasing an internet package from an ISP that provides wireless service for major events. You might even arrange for your own private network, which means you won’t have to worry about outsiders in the same venue gobbling up bandwidth.

Audio

What is the most common phrase you’ve heard online over the past year?

“You’re on mute.” 

“We can’t hear you.” 

“Sorry, we’re having technical difficulties.” 

Audio problems are one of the most common reasons people get frustrated in a virtual setting and leave, so you must get this aspect of your event right.

For crystal clear audio, include a quality microphone on the checklist for remote presenters. Ask them to ensure that they have a quiet room with no pets or children demanding attention. A good P.A. system is a must at the live venue, and presenters who move around will need lavalier microphones.

As for your web-based system, make sure you’re using an advanced online platform that includes reliable audio technology. For example, consider a Webinar Event Management platform that provides high-end customer support.

To avoid lag when remote participants interact with live presenters, ensure your audio streaming does not automatically include a delay.

Visuals

You’ve become a master of curating content at your events, packing them with fascinating guests, images, slides, and videos. At a hybrid event, you need to boost the engagement of virtual attendees who need extra attention to detail. For example, try adjusting your camera angles to show the presenters’ faces and expressions more clearly for remote viewers.

If you plan to show a remote guest on screen interacting with an in-person presenter, position a screen at the presenter’s side. When not used for conversation, this screen can be turned on to display remote attendees, connecting the two audiences. The live presenter can then turn to the remote guest and interact in a traditional in-person conversation.

For video and slide presentations, do tests to check if all visual elements can be easily seen when viewed on a laptop. You’ll need a high-resolution video feed to ensure your content is clear and legible, especially if the text appears on slides. Recorded videos should be shot with high-definition cameras for a crisp look, and screens should be big enough for both in-person and remote attendees to see the content.

Lighting

At a hybrid event, you need to heighten the immersive experience for your virtual attendees. Good lighting is crucial to ensure remote viewers feel like they really are a part of it all. Your expensive cameras and screens will be wasted without proper lighting.

One way to help remote viewers have the best experience is to include shots of the live audience during the action to ensure that lighting covers both the stage and the audience. In addition, lighting may need to cover specific audience locations, for example, where mics are set up for Q&A sessions.

Ask remote presenters to ensure a clean background with no distractions behind them and request they purchase a video conference lighting kit. These affordable video kits can include a stand, a phone holder, and an LED ring light that clips onto their laptop to soft light their face.

When looking for the best lighting options at the venue, consider brightness, adjustability, and durability. It would be best to choose durable LED floodlights for longer distances or a softer ring light for closeups of the talent.

Enlist Support

Even if you’ve thought of everything, minor and sometimes major mishaps can happen during any event.

If you want extra insurance for a smooth program, ensure technical support is dedicated to troubleshooting at the event. Internet connections, network, visual, audio, and lighting need constant vigilance to prevent and fix any issues.

Hold a rehearsal with support and include a team of testers viewing remotely on laptops to report any concerns. Keep a list of mobile phone numbers for each of your support contacts to quickly troubleshoot any problem that may arise.

The big day is coming! With eShow’s web-based products and services, rest assured you’ll have customer support helping you master the technical challenges of your hybrid event.

Slowly but surely, people are starting to emerge from lockdown and beginning to mingle once more. As this happens, governments focus on trusted vaccines to boost the level of immunity within the general population. Event planners may take some consolation from this situation and look forward to a sense of normality but, at the same time, realize that things may not be the same as they once were. So, if you’re thinking about staging a live event alongside an online version or as part of a hybrid approach, what do you need to consider – to give you the best chance of success in this new world?

More on Your Plate

For the foreseeable future, event planners will need to be careful and, importantly, will need to demonstrate to everyone else just how cautious they intend to be. Planning was never straightforward before and was always multifaceted, but now there will be even more hoops to jump through to ensure that an event is both safe and successful.

Screening Obligations

Most attendees are going to be very wary. As an event planner, you may need to introduce a screening regimen, so you know if your attendees are healthy or, perhaps, where they may have traveled recently. The easiest way to do this is by including a simple questionnaire within the registration process. You may also need to comply with local rules if regulators require you to screen those attendees upon arrival.

Eliminating Paper

You will want to keep paperwork to a minimum and move your entire registration process online. This move will minimize physical interaction and, at the same time, make your whole process much easier to handle anyway. You can use a product like eShow’s Advance Online Registration. This tool allows you to pre-populate these online forms and produce badge options customized and filled with barcodes before arrival. You will be able to take secure online payments and use all the gathered data for networking and event management.

Being Realistic

When it comes to targeting attendance figures – be realistic. Budget for a smaller attendance and make sure that you give people plenty of space when they are on site. The local government may set rules here, but even if they don’t, ensure that you keep at least 6 feet between seated participants. Work with the venue to handle meal functions and other activities as efficiently and sensitively as possible.

Be Seen to Be Clean

You need to go above and beyond when it comes to on-site hygiene. Event planners would typically leave this to the venue owner, but they will need to micromanage these more challenging days. Somebody will need to sanitize and clean all regularly touched objects during the day. You may need to place freestanding sanitizer stations at the entrance to each function room, and you should have a stock of facemasks available just in case. While the government may no longer mandate masks, some attendees may choose to wear one anyway. You’ll make people more comfortable if you show that you care.

Keep on Top of the Rules

You may also need to interact directly with the government in any case, as local authorities will surely look more closely at events during the early days of this new era. Consequently, you may need to provide them with a lot of information about your event – before, during, and after. You may also need to satisfy the authorities that you have taken the required steps to keep your attendees safe and ensure hygiene throughout the venue. Always be aware of the latest rules and regulations (which can change by the day), and don’t lay yourself open to any criticism.

Work Closely with the Venue Owner

Most event planners work with a third-party organization such as a hotel or conference center. Bear in mind that these companies may face their own challenges as they begin to reopen, and you may need to be aware of some shortcomings. After all, some of these venues may face staff shortages, which may mean that certain facilities on site are not open or running at a reduced rate. Many hotels have now eliminated the daily housekeeping routine. While this may make sense from a safety point of view, some of your attendees may not expect the change.

Always keep in close touch with the venue owner and ask all the right questions during the planning stage. Don’t wait until the event is upon you and run into a shortfall or find that you need to inform your attendees of a change. The more you know in advance, the better your communication can be – both with the venue and your attendees.

Tools and Platforms to Help You

There is no doubt that event planning will be more of a challenge in the post-pandemic world than before. It’ll be tough to create a hybrid and ensure that your virtual event is on par with your live experience. Therefore, it stands to reason that you should look for help from partner organizations that have as much experience in these fields as possible. 

For example, eShow has 24 years of relevant experience and can come to your rescue with a Virtual Event Management platform. This platform seeks to combine the worlds of digital and live into a full event experience. It can cover every element from registration through networking to session management, exhibitors, and sponsors.

You will find a powerful Webinar Event Management tool within the platform, a customizable environment to help you with your online presentations, interactive polls, chat sessions, or Q&A. You can organize customizable booths for virtual exhibitors so that they can promote their products to your online attendees. This can be particularly powerful if those exhibitors are not too sure about attending live events yet.

Opportunities Ahead – Choose Your Partners Carefully

One thing is for sure – you need to be flexible and aware as you plan any live or hybrid event. Yet remember, many of your attendees are hungry for that real-world experience, which will continue to present you with opportunities in the future. So, prepare well, stay safe and work with some forward-thinking partners like eShow to get you across the line.