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The Covid-19 pandemic has required event managers to devise creative strategies for safely conducting corporate events. Although virtual and hybrid (part virtual, part in-person) events were initially offered as safer alternatives to in-person events, event managers are finding that these two formats offer additional benefits.

Virtual and hybrid events allow attendees to access the event from anywhere globally, which leads to higher attendance rates. Operating costs are also lower for these two formats because there’s no need to rent a venue (or as large a venue). For these reasons, virtual and hybrid events are expected to stick around post-pandemic.

However, for all of its benefits, the hybrid event format can make networking more challenging. It doesn’t readily allow for the kinds of spontaneous networking opportunities found at in-person events. Hybrid event attendees are looking to build effective relationships with like-minded professionals and expert event managers to facilitate those interactions. But how can event managers foster an effective networking experience when some attendees participate via an online portal and others are at the physical event site?

During breaks, in-person attendees will typically assemble and interact with one another, while virtual attendees will use an online forum to network. How can an in-person attendee network with a virtual attendee?  Also, how can the virtual attendees feel as much a part of the event as those attending in person?    

Although challenging, event managers can create a positive networking experience at hybrid events. Here are eight ideas for making it happen:

1.   Devise a Plan

To make the most of the hybrid event experience and offer attendees the networking opportunities that most interest them, event managers must be cognizant of what attendees really want. If some attendees have opted to participate in person, how eager will they be to interact with virtual attendees?  Will virtual attendees be satisfied connecting only with other virtual attendees?  A pre-event poll could prove helpful in ascertaining how best to facilitate networking at your hybrid event.

If you find that the majority of both in-person and virtual attendees are interested in connecting between groups, plan to provide a way for them to communicate and collaborate. The method that you decide to implement shouldn’t feel forced.

2.   Connect Both Groups Using Technology

Designate an on-site space/room for in-person attendees to log into your virtual event platform and have face-to-face video chats with virtual attendees. In-person attendees could also connect to the virtual platform via their phones or laptops.

Event managers can also use virtual matchmaking tools such as vFairs to connect in-person attendees and to connect virtual attendees. These tools allow attendees to be matched based on profiles and chat face-to-face or via online chat.

Using social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn offers additional opportunities for attendees to connect. By creating an event hashtag and encouraging attendees to track it, you’re providing another way for them to find others who are talking about the event.

3.   Enable Face-to-Face Interaction

To keep both in-person and virtual attendees fully engaged, provide opportunities to connect in a way that allows face-to-face interaction. There are various methods for accomplishing this:

  • Set up breakout rooms for group discussions
  • Integrate the virtual platform into the in-person event space
  • Arrange for both in-person and virtual speakers to answer questions from both attendee groups

4.   Include In-Person Attendees in Virtual Group Chats

It’s common for virtual event attendees to post comments or ask questions within the virtual event space. Consider giving in-person attendees at your hybrid event the opportunity to do the same. They’ll appreciate it even more if you allow them to access the discussion group via their smartphones for easy access and mobility.

You could also use a large projection screen to show in-person attendees what virtual attendees are saying within the online discussion group.

5.   Include Virtual Attendees in Breakout Rooms

If your hybrid event will have breakout rooms or include activities (scavenger hunts are popular breakout games), take advantage of technology to allow both in-person and virtual attendees to participate. Make sure your venue can accommodate your equipment and technology needs.

6.   Let the Games Begin

Another way to encourage interaction between in-person and virtual event attendees is to incorporate games into the hybrid event. Healthy competition is an ideal way to unite groups. When teams are created, their shared goals (winning the game) will foster invaluable networking opportunities.

7.    Don’t Forget Virtual Attendees’ Swag

To ensure that virtual attendees feel as much a part of your hybrid event as in-person attendees, send them the same swag (welcome packet) they’d receive if they attended in person. Also, send any items required to participate in activities.  

 8.   Don’t Underestimate the Value of Surprise

Although there’s something to be said for executing a well-structured event, add excitement for attendees by creating unexpected moments. An event that’s too structured could cause attendees to lose interest quickly. Leave space in the itinerary should attendees want to connect with friends or start a spontaneous face-to-face chat.

Final Thoughts

Planning an event in any format can be challenging but planning a hybrid event presents unique challenges. Event managers are tasked with ensuring that both in-person attendees and virtual attendees have a positive experience. In fact, a survey conducted by Swapcard found that of 352 event planners polled, 33.5% stated that their biggest challenge when hosting hybrid events was engaging two audiences. Most managers find that connecting the two groups of attendees allows for more organic networking opportunities and makes it easier for speakers and moderators to engage with all attendees.

With adequate planning, creativity, and taking advantage of available technology, managers can provide all hybrid event attendees with opportunities to make meaningful connections. At eShow, we provide event managers with customizable web-based solutions and interactive networking tools that make it easy for attendees and speakers to connect before, during, and after the event. We can provide everything you need to manage all aspects of your event – from planning to execution.

 Contact us today for a no-obligation demo.

One of the beautiful things about in-person events is the ability to make true connections with the people you meet. Whether you’re interacting with clients, vendors, or speakers, there’s just something about being able to engage in natural, organic conversations.

The good news is, it’s totally possible to spark memorable conversations during your virtual or hybrid events as well! The key lies in taking deliberate steps to increase interaction in ways that create a natural and exciting experience for your attendees. Start with these tips.

1. Allow for Detailed Profiles

Allowing attendees to create detailed profiles is one of the best ways to encourage engagement. Make sure your virtual event platform gives online attendees the ability to add a photo, bio, contact info, and more. Not only will this allow everyone to showcase their personalities and interests, but they’ll also easily be able to follow up with each other after the event is done.

2. Add a Private Social Feed

Adding an environment where both in-person and virtual attendees can chat with each other during the event will create bonds. This will also allow them to share their thoughts and ideas and interact with each other in a way most people are already familiar with. To ensure the best possible participation, make sure you let attendees know about the platform ahead of time and encourage them to use it throughout the event.

Once your social feed is in place, you can also spark interesting conversations by asking interesting questions. This may be something event-specific, like “Which upcoming speaker are you most excited to see?” or something more random, like “What smell brings you back to your childhood.”

3. Use Breakout Rooms

Using a virtual event management platform will allow you to incorporate breakout rooms into your virtual and hybrid events. By allowing smaller groups to get together at certain points during the event, you’ll give everyone a chance to speak, ask questions, and share their thoughts and opinions.

4. Make it Fun!

No matter how exciting your event is, sitting in front of a computer all day can start to feel a bit boring. Break things up by adding in some fun and light-hearted sessions throughout the day or, at a minimum, at the end of the day. Virtual happy hours have grown in popularity. If that doesn’t appeal to your audience, you could add a cocktail class, virtual baking class, or a fun craft.

You can also involve your sponsors by having them offer swag that goes along with your planned event. For example, a sponsor could mail each attendee a cocktail glass engraved with their logo. While this is will require some pre-planning to make sure all attendees have the materials they need, the payoff is well worth it.

5. Add a Chat Feature

Providing a chat feature will keep your off-site attendees engaged and ensure they feel like they’re an important part of the event. By allowing attendees to chat with each other, you’ll also encourage personal connections that they can pursue after the event has ended. For best results, make sure your platform allows for both group and one-on-one chatting.

6. Group Attendees by Interests

During sign-ups, it’s a great idea to ask attendees why they’re joining the event or have them choose from a list of interests. Then, when you’re planning your smaller breakout rooms, you can use this information to match up attendees based on their shared interests.

7. Create Comfortable Spaces

When planning hybrid events, it’s important to pay attention to the comfort of both on-site and off-site attendees. In addition, you’ll also want a set-up that makes it comfortable for in-person and virtual attendees to interact with each other.

Luckily, there’s plenty of modern technology that does just that. Many event spaces are already equipping their conference room with systems that help everyone communicate. While it’s normal to focus on the comfort of your in-person space, it’s also critical to make sure you can make it work for everyone. Live attendees must feel that they have enough space to walk around and not feel over-crowded, while virtual attendees must be able to contribute to the conversation just as if they were there.

8. Pan to the Crowd

One of the benefits of hybrid events is the ability to use cameras to make everyone feel connected. When recording your events, take advantage of the opportunity to cut to the crowd and put their faces up on the big screen right alongside your featured speakers. This can break up an otherwise monotonous event and create unexpected conversations. Even better, the randomness of this unexpected move can make everything feel even more real.

9. Add Some Friendly Competition

There’s nothing quite like competition to get the conversation going. Plan a fun event that both virtual and in-person attendees can do together. This could include taking certain actions during the event, solving puzzles, posting photos, or having a scavenger hunt. You may even consider creating teams made up of virtual and in-person attendees, so they have to work together to achieve their goals. This is also another way to involve vendors, as they can provide branded prizes to the contest winners.

10. Get Social

The excitement of your event doesn’t have to end after everyone goes home! Consider creating a Facebook group for attendees. This will allow them to connect more deeply. You can also share photos of the event, create posts to spark additional conversations, and start generating excitement for the next year’s event right away.

eShow Helps You Create Unforgettable Events!

At eShow, we provide the technology you need to make true connections during your virtual and hybrid events. Ask us today how we can help you create memorable conversations that will have your attendees thinking about you and your company long after your event is done.

As an event manager, you may often find yourself having “champagne” aspirations for your events, but you’re working with a “beer budget.” A tight budget will require you to flex your event-planning muscles to make the most of the resources at your disposal. You can still pull off the successful events that you aspire to even if your funds are limited; you’ll need a healthy dose of creativity and ingenuity to do it.

Add the practices below to your event-planning arsenal, and you’ll be able to host legendary events despite a tight budget:

1.  Pin Down the Budget

Before you can start planning how to make the most of a tight budget, you have to be aware of just how much money you’re working with.  Knowing this can be instrumental in determining the best format for your event.  For example, you’ll know if you should opt for a virtual format if your finances don’t allow for venue rental, catering, decorations, and other aspects of in-person or hybrid events.

As you’re assessing your budget, keep in mind that you’ll need to allocate part of the budget for promoting your event.  Your budget will dictate the types of promotional methods that you employ.  Buying television ad spots and full-page spreads in popular magazines aren’t likely to be part of your promotional plans.  With proper planning, however, you can research cost-effective methods of reaching your target audience.

 2.  Cost-Effectively Booking Your Venue

If a virtual format isn’t right for your event and you must host your event in a physical location, there are some things to consider when searching for an affordable venue.  Of course, the venue needs to be large enough to accommodate your attendee list, but it also has to fit your budget.

As you search for venues, go off the beaten path and consider non-hotel conference/banquet rooms. Hotels typically charge a premium for meals and beverages, and there are often added service fees.  Also, compare venue rental rates for different days of the week and at different times of the year. You may be able to get a lower rental rate on your preferred event space during the venue’s off-season.

To get the best deal on your venue rental, start your search well in advance and stay flexible on event dates. This will give you time to weigh all of your options and compare different locations before making a final decision.

If your event requires specialized equipment (i.e., audiovisual), ask if the venue provides this as part of your rental rate or if you will have to pay extra.  Added fees can wreak havoc on your already tight budget.

Don’t be afraid to ask for discounts or waiving add-on fees. For example, if you plan to have a concert pianist provide the entertainment at your event, some hotels will charge for the use of their piano. If you’re hosting a large enough event, ask for this fee to be waived. Stress to the venue manager that your event could result in repeat and new business for the venue.   

 3.  Keep Food Costs Under Control

If you’ve ever had to organize a social event, you likely know that the way food is served to guests ultimately affects the cost. For example, if you’ll need to hire waiters to provide guests with table service, that will be more expensive than a buffet arrangement.  

Don’t feel that you have to provide a full meal. You could serve lighter fare such as crudités and other finger foods that guests can help themselves to. A spread of desserts, fruit, and coffee is another way to go.  Also, the costs associated with an open bar can add up quickly, so consider eliminating liquor and offer less expensive options such as wine, beer, and non-alcoholic beverages like soda and juice.

 4.  Book Local Guest Speakers Early

Corporate event attendees are accustomed to guest speakers being part of the program. However, booking guest speakers on a tight budget requires a bit of savvy and adequate planning. Not only will speakers’ fees likely be higher if you book them close to the event date, but if they’re not from the area in which your event is held, you’ll need to provide transportation and lodging.

To find suitable speakers in your area, check local public speaking groups or your local Chamber of Commerce. Some speakers may be willing to work for free as a way to promote their businesses if your event topic is in line with their industries.  An online search is another method of finding speakers willing to work pro bono.

5.  Defray Costs Through Sponsorship

The tighter your budget, the more you could benefit from event sponsorship. Not only can a sponsor(s) help offset the costs of hosting your event, but sponsorship from a popular, well-respected brand could also add prestige to your event.

To get sponsors on board, you’ll need to convince them of the benefits of partnering with you. The sponsor(s) that you choose should be closely related to your business/industry (you’ll likely have the same target market), but their product/service shouldn’t clash with yours.  Also, their interests shouldn’t clash with those of your event attendees.  

6.  Make Use of Technology

When you’re planning an event on a tight budget, you’ll need to keep a close watch on all expenditures made by planning team members.  Each member must stay within the budget set for his/her particular task(s). To keep expenses under control, consider using event management tools that make it easy to see where every budget dollar is going.      

Final Thoughts

Planning an event can be stressful, but a tight budget can heighten the stress level. By implementing the above practices, including using technology via budget-friendly event management tools, you can host an impressive event.

At eShow, our tools and web-based solutions can be customized to meet the needs of event planners working with limited resources. We not only help you stay on budget, but we provide you with everything you need to manage all aspects of your event. We’re with you every step of the way: from planning your event to executing it. Contact us today for a no-obligation demo.

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.

Virtual events are getting bigger each year and it’s bound to get even bigger and bolder in the future. With bigger events coming at a rapid pace, bigger responsibilities are inevitable. As a planner, it is of utmost importance to compose a full team with a diverse set of skills and expertise that’s going to bring out the best in your event.

Map out the roles and assign necessary responsibilities to your team. Having a dedicated person to a designated task creates a solid foundation and eases the process in terms of planning and execution — creating a well-oiled team machine. Listed here are the most common virtual roles to keep in mind:

Identify the key roles according to your team’s strengths and you can even combine them if need be. One person can take on multiple roles and be a flexible member of the team. Once you have delegated these roles, you can breathe easy since you are now prepared with any possible challenges with a specific person that can instantly and directly jump into it when needed. Do note that each member of your team should be well versed about the theme of the event. Provide all the necessary training and brief them with your goals. Once you have all the pieces together, all you need to do is put some oil on that machine and step on the gas now that your virtual event is good to go.