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Overcoming technical challenges

Part 2 of our series on staging a hybrid event

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We looked at the basics of staging a hybrid event in Part 1 of this series, but now it’s time to consider the nitty gritty details — the factors that will ensure there are no loose ends waiting to trip you up.

As the business tourism sector continues to be impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, there are many benefits to planning a virtual and hybrid event. However, logistics remain complex and safety concerns are paramount. Virtual might be here to stay but beyond having top-level technology and great audiovisuals, what can conferences, meetings and events do to create a standout, safe and memorable event?

Tap into digital expertise

As outlined in a white paper produced by AIM Group, we are witnessing the rise of digital specialists within PCO teams. Your chosen PCO will bring you specific knowledge of virtual event planning and connect you with in-house experts who can strategise and maximise both full and partial digital elements across a variety of events.

As with in-person events, virtual events are made up of multiple moving parts and need specialist focus on each element to ensure success. Experts in this field include digital event strategists, content managers, digital tools experts, social media moderators, virtual exhibitions specialists and moderator coaches.

For hybrid events, your chosen PCO will help you navigate specific cybersecurity considerations, as well as COVID-19 safety and government guidelines. For in-person elements, you might solve larger attendance numbers by creating breakout bubbles, designating alternative entrances for arriving and departing, providing spacious, outdoor or separate catering areas and keeping high levels of hygiene.

A multi-hub approach might also help facilitate smaller groups gathering locally, while live streaming and online content bring each location together simultaneously. For online elements, make sure you’re using software with robust security measures and have contingency plans in place in the event of everything from power outages to hacks.

The technical side of staging a hybrid event. Photo by Steve Harvey on Unsplash

Committing to the original value proposition

Although hybrid events and digital offerings can be exciting prospects, remember to keep in mind the original vision and values you have invested into your event. There is a balance to strike between merely replicating the previously ‘live’ elements online and adding too many new elements for delegates to get to grips with.

Multiple strands, panels and speakers need to be carefully managed in the digital world, making sure to create a user experience that is easy to navigate. Fancy flourishes won’t always best serve your event. Be aware of how much time you are asking attendees to spend online and add as much value to this experience as possible.

Establish a clear marketing plan

In a crowded field, it will be important to think about how you market your event. Again, go back to the goals of your in-person event and see how a hybrid/digital element supports that vision. For the latter, bringing in digital marketing strategies to help you use SEO, attendee analytics and cross-platform social media engagement will gain you an advantage.

Make sure each communication channel you use has a clear tone of voice that represents your brand. This means strategising the ways each communication channel should work: social media can generate engaged conversation but when and where during the event is this best deployed?

A view of a technical desk at an eventDetail is everything when it comes to hybrid events. Photo by John Mark Smith on Unsplash

Find the right content for the digital format

In digital terrain, less can be more. In a hybrid event, think about how you will integrate any live attendees with those online. Rethinking networking and using live chat and survey functions in the room can help bring together both worlds. Repackaging your content to suit the needs of the online attendee (using a mixture of asynchronous and live presentations) can help spread out information overload.

To keep funding and sponsorship front of mind for delegates, you might even create a virtual ‘sponsor room’ where delegates can access giveaways, discounts and other exclusive content. And as elevated digital experiences will also become the norm, start thinking now about how 3D visuals, immersive experiences and interarctive sessions can boost the participation of attendees.

The hybrid model is here to stay; to find out more about skilled partners that can help you organise a successful digital conference here in Ireland, contact Meet in Ireland today.

Part 3 of our series on staging a hybrid event is a Q&A with expert Graham Lowen, Commercial Director at Creative Technology Ireland.

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