The New Normal: How to be an Expert at Hybrid Events
MeetingPlay CEO Joe Schwinger and BizBash Founder and Chairman Dave Adler sat down virtually with thousands of event professionals to discuss how to be an expert at virtual and live events. The conversation revolved around our changing events industry, the secret sauce for going back to live in future months, and all of the emerging “safe” technology to help us succeed.
If you weren’t able to catch the webinar, never fear. Below is a run down of the shining moments and thoughts shared during the webinar.
"The New "Normal": How to be an Expert at Virtual and Live Events" - A Summary
When you think of going back to live events, how do you feel? Is there a secret sauce to turn things right side up again?
To be able to go back to live events successfully, one of the biggest challenges we need to solve as an industry is how to make our attendees feel safe. Plain and simple. With COVID-19 changing how we think, interact with other people, heck, even how we wash our hands, going back to the old “normal” is not an option
Instead, what we need to do is join hands and focus on how to build a “new normal” for our attendees. How can we use technology to assist us in our journey back to the face-to-face environment by providing a safe and sanitary environment for participants?
The answer is a hybrid solution. One that encompasses live events and virtual events all in one. If we can begin to build for that future, one that offers an option for every kind of attendee, we will be providing a much better event experience.
How can we utilize virtual in this moment?
It’s clear that we are not out of the COVID-19 woods just yet, which means that virtual events are just as popular as ever.
In fact, many event professionals aren’t planning on going back to live events until Q2 of 2021 at the earliest. Take the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®, for example. For more than 50 years, CES has been the global stage for innovation and hosts a major event every year to launch products, engage with global brands and define the future of the tech industry. They have made the decision to host their 2021 event in an all-digital format for the first time in history. The news came as a shock to the event industry and found that it set the tone for the rest of the year for live events.
Point being, even some of the largest in person user conferences like Amazon’s annual AWS re:Invent conference are moving to virtual platforms. As event planners, how can we continue to adapt to this new world and continue to provide events that are valuable to our audiences?
Make a decision and stick with it
As an event planner, one of your biggest decisions during this planning process is going to be choosing the right virtual platform. With demand for impressive virtual platforms at an all time high, you will need to get started on selecting your virtual provider sooner than later - and stick with it. Choose a provider that you trust and who will help you in every aspect of the planning process.
Keep your creativity and drive as an event professional
Your creativity is what makes you successful in a virtual environment. One of the biggest misconceptions of virtual events is that you cannot plan the creative aspects within them like you would for a live event. A virtual environment should never bog you down your creative process, and instead, give you more opportunity to use your creativity in new ways.
Your virtual environment should be a tool set to bring
your ideas to market
You can still shine in a virtual environment through your creativity and planning. A good virtual provider should include features and functions that promote engagement, gamification, networking, and more. Once you have made your virtual provider match, use that technology to your advantage by building creativity into every nook and cranny of your virtual experience.
Joe’s 6 Tips for the Best Virtual Experience
1. Keep The Element of Surprise
Just because the event is virtual doesn’t mean you lose your element of surprise! One of our client’s used a virtual concert to add an element of fun to their closing ceremony after their general sessions. They live streamed the Spazmatics performing in their studio in LA and crowd-sourced the playlist from their attendees in real time. This created a buzz on their social wall during the event with the expressed excitement from all of the attendees who loved the opportunity to participate.
2. Content is Still King
Never underestimate the value of good content. In fact, it’s the main reason why your attendees are attending your event in the first place. When you are planning a large scale event, your partners are your best friends to make the content fluid and stick - like your production agency.
3. Boost Engagement
Know who your audience is and play to it. Implement virtual engagement opportunities and offer a “Choose Your Own Adventure” style of strategy throughout your platform. Offer options for your attendees to choose from such as games, live music, and content.
4. Avoid Virtual Fatigue
Give attendees a common goal to work around and they will be able to engage with your content throughout the day. Using gamification to generate digital currency for attendees to buy things at your swag store.
5. Problem Solve for Your Attendees
Don’t leave your virtual attendees in the dark and never forget the importance of human interaction. On property, your attendees can go to the help desk to ask questions. But how can you replicate that interaction in a virtual environment? MeetingPlay provides our MeetingPlay Concierge to help virtual attendees answer questions. We see a major drop off when attendees get their questions answered and to feel safe at your event.
6. You Can Make your Exhibitors Happy
There is a secret sauce - it goes back to getting creative and making them feel safe. When face-to-face opportunities are lacking for your virtual exhibitors, you are stripping them of the most important part of their participation. Using your virtual platform, find new ways to connect your exhibitors with attendees that will replace and enhance that experience virtually. The more you can give them to showcase their products like demos, videos, and whitepapers, the better.
Our Look Into the Future Onsite Experience
Getting back to onsite meetings is not as easy as just “going back to normal”. Unfortunately, the normal that we once knew for live meetings is no longer. What does that mean for us? How does that look for event planners getting prepared for the switch?
There are a couple of things to think about when going back to onsite meetings: What to do before attendees arrive, when they arrive, and how to unite everyone with a common goal.
Before they arrive
Planning out your event safely before the big day is something you will have to heavily consider in this new normal. Keep in mind the following during your planning process:
What technology can you implement throughout your live event that will provide a safer environment for your attendees?
Don’t forget the 6 foot rule and mask combo! Learn how to plan your event out to promote social distancing, no matter where attendees are in the space.
Plan engaging sessions:
Remember, content is king. With all of these new rules and technology in the mix, you will need to compensate with the best content and sessions.
When they arrive
This is something you may not have thought about - the check in process. Learn how to crowd control like a pro and implement safe distancing all at the same time with innovative technology.
Mobile Check-in Technology:
Take your event attendees and spread their arrivals out over a period of time. Using their smartphone, attendees will be assigned an arrival time to show up at your event, similar to a boarding group. When they arrive, attendees will get a notification on their phone to tell them what table their badge will be at with a no-touch system.
Kiosks outfitted with Bluetooth that will introduce themselves and welcome attendees to the event. To interact with the kiosks, hand gestures will be recognized instead of touch screen methods, eliminating the spread of germs. Our kiosks will be retrofitted with temperature detectors, that when a temperature is too high, it will notify the event team onsite.
Badge Pick Up:
Location services detect when attendees enter the registration area and automatically sends attendees a mobile notification to check in. When sign in is initiated, attendees will get a message letting them know their request is being processed and the badge materials are being sanitized and prepared for pickup. Once the badge has been properly processed, attendees will receive a mobile alert with their pickup number and assigned table to pick up their badge in a germ free bag.
Unite them with a common goal
Our biggest recommendation is to never allow your virtual guests to feel like second class citizens. The most important thing is to find a way to connect your virtual and onsite attendees to make one, cohesive attendee experience.
When you allow the masses to participate, the authenticity of the event is the game changer for the overall experience. Connect your onsite and virtual attendees by using “The Buddy System”, our AI matching algorithm to match an onsite attendee and a virtual attendee together based on their vertical, goals, likes, and dislikes. Their job is to stream their experience of their vertical or track for virtual attendees using video and chat connection.
The “New Normal” Key Takeaways:
To summarize all of the tips and tricks that will help you become an expert in virtual and live event planning, it’s all about 3 key takeaways:
Make sure your attendees on property feel safe
Attendees are already going to feel nervous being out in crowds again, so why not make the experience as safe and comfortable as possible for them? Using innovative technology and some creativity, you are sure to give every attendee an amazing onsite experience.
Keep the connection between your virtual and onsite
We’ve said it once and we will say it again: Don’t let your virtual attendees feel like second class citizens. Plus, you have new technology on your side, like on-property ambassadors.
Keep it Creative
Use the new tools that are available to thrill your attendees, no matter how they are attending your event. Engagement, excitement, and creativity is something your virtual attendees will expect in this new normal. Use the skills you have built in your live event planning world and implement them in your virtual planning.
It’s clear that virtual events are here to stay for the remainder of 2020. As we plan our events for 2021, keeping these new practices for our new normal will be paramount in providing safe and effective events of all sizes. As we move forward in this new path, new technology will continue to emerge that will further the safety of our events. In addition, hybrid events will be a staple in making this “new normal” our new reality.
Watch the full webinar here: