Rules and restrictions for events have been constantly changing since 2020, considerably impacting the Event Industry. To overcome this period of great uncertainty, Event Managers had to learn how to adapt. We have mastered the art of negotiating cancellation policies with suppliers, managing crisis communications, and most importantly the art of creating virtual and hybrid events. However, we too often forget to add a bit of flexibility, right from the start, into our event organization and creative processes. But that’s easy; you just need to have a Plan B! Here are some tips on easily pivoting your physical events to a hybrid or virtual format!
What’s the Plan B for on-site events?
Whether it's a company party, an annual conference or a day of team building, a Plan B is essential, especially at a time when the health restrictions can suddenly change such as with Delta and Omicron variants. Avoid waiting until the last minute and decide beforehand on which format will be used as a backup. For this, there are two format options available: virtual or hybrid. If your venue unexpectedly reduces the maximum capacity of guests, that still leaves room for you to host some participants on site. The hybrid format will suit you best. However, if hosting attendees on site is no longer an option, you’ll have to switch your event to an online format.
Switching your in-person event to a hybrid format
First, let's talk about event statistics. 50% of companies favor face-to-face events, but hybrid events are still the way to go for 30% of them, 10 percentage points more than virtual events. The hybrid format brings together the best of both worlds. It fills the needs of those who prefer to meet physically and breaks the barriers of in-person events.
By opting for this solution, you allow your participants to choose the format that best suits them and you’re able to dodge some of the disadvantages related to travel time and costs. Moreover, by choosing this type of event, you will no longer have to restrict the borders of your event. You can invite people from all over the world, if you take into account time zones, or even invite renowned speakers from afar who can now intervene remotely. For all these reasons alone, a hybrid event format offers the best value for your money. Instead of organizing multiple events in different cities or countries, you can now merge them all into a single event.
So, how do you switch a face-to-face event to a hybrid format? Once a decision has been made to turn your in-person event hybrid, you can start updating your event information. Have another look at your event agenda and remove some sessions or activities that require all guests to be on site (e.g. a group photo). You can replace them with other animations such as polls and quizzes in both your plenary and breakout sessions... In the case of a hybrid event, it is essential that remote participants have a similar experience as those who are on site. Remember to always ensure that the participant experience is at the heart of your event design! Leave nothing to chance; even your swag needs to be hybrid event friendly and should be sent beforehand so that your virtual participants have it for the day of your event.
Once you have adapted your event program to fit your new format, leave no room for doubt in your participants’ minds. Be sure you let them know about all the new changes related to your event. Social networks will help get your word out at a larger scale, while an email campaign will allow you to closely target participants.
To figure out who is participating in-person and who is participating remotely, you have two options. You can select the format for each guest or you can offer them the choice. If you opt for the second option, your participants can easily update their registration and choose how they’d like to attend. Rest assured, if you are using event management software, you can duplicate your registration forms in one click so that your participants can update their registration information. Remember to add a limit to the number of people who can participate physically. You don’t want to go over capacity. You can always activate a waiting list in case someone modifies their registration.
Going from face-to-face to virtual
Who said an online event couldn't be memorable? As an alternative to a hybrid format, virtual brings together ALL your participants in one place. The event program design process is almost identical to that of your in-person event: a sequence of plenary and/or breakout sessions with a few breaks in between. You’ll just have to tweak a few things, which we explain below.
In addition, a virtual event format shares the geographical advantages of a hybrid event, which considerably reduces attrition rates! You’re also able to reduce costs, especially for your venue, equipment, and catering, for example. However, this format requires a completely different set of logistics. When organizing virtual events, Event Managers need to make sure they have the right Event Management Software (EMS). Some EMSs are limited in terms of the number of video streams that can be broadcasted, thus limiting the number of attendees. This means you might have to revisit your guest list.
Now you have a good understanding of the benefits of opting for a virtual format. However, one question still remains: How do you pivot a physical event to an online one? As with the hybrid format, you will have to start by adapting your event program.
- Get rid of sessions that can only be held in-person.
- Cut out the fat. You'll need content that is more direct and concise than usual so you don't lose your attendees' attention. As a rule of thumb, a 45-minute session shouldn’t last more than 20-30 minutes at an online event.
- Add breaks. Your participants will probably need to grab a coffee or stretch their legs.
Once your event logistics are in place, focus on your Event Marketing strategy. Send an email to all your guests to let them know about the format change. They can revisit your event website to see the new program. In your event communication, don't skip out on email reminders and always include your event date and start time. Doing so ensures that your event stays top of mind. To achieve a high participation rate at your event, we recommend you program automatic email reminders to be sent 1 day, 1 hour, and a few minutes before.
The tool needed to successfully execute your Plan B
The advantage of an all-in-one Event Management Software (EMS) that can support face-to-face, hybrid, and virtual events, like Eventdrive, is that you can easily switch your in-person event to a virtual or hybrid format. Unlike video conferencing software, an EMS is specifically made for events, offering you the possibility to easily create event websites, personalized agendas, engage guests with interactive tools such as polls, quizzes, Q&A... In addition, you’re not limited to one video-conference link and can create concurrent sessions.
These types of EMS have integrated live streaming solutions allowing you to provide the best experience possible at your 100% virtual or hybrid events. You can even customize your virtual event space and bring your brand to life. 😉
Don't lose sight of engagement. With an EMS, it's easy to set up a dedicated chat so your participants can interact with each other and with you in real time. Of course, there are other possibilities to engage your audience as mentioned above. Polls or word clouds will give them the freedom to express themselves and help to capture their attention.
What about the integrity of your data? An EMS helps to secure your online events and protect confidential data. You can protect your event with a personalized link and/or a password for your participants. For added security and to reduce the risk of highly confidential information that is presented at your virtual event from being leaked, Eventdrive provides you with a one-of-a-kind feature: Watermarking. Your participant’s name and the date of your event are displayed over your live stream as a watermark. So if there's a leak, you'll know who it was.
Finally, you can provide an on-demand version of your event as soon as it’s over! There are always a few participants that are unable to attend your event at the last minute or even some that would like to rewatch key moments of your event later. In addition to increasing your event’s visibility, an on-demand version is a great way to keep the momentum of your event going. You can download your event recordings in your EMS and create a short video that highlights hero moments and post it on social media.
Interested in learning more about how an EMS can help you with your Plan B?
You now have everything you need to save your in-person events. With a Plan B, fearing the unexpected is no longer an issue. 💪