Just when we thought we were back to “normal” we are hit with a new mutation that spreads faster than a California wildfire. Event managers previously had to learn how to create virtual events in little time, then learn how to design hybrid events, then plan the traditional 100% in-person event for the fall only to have the delta and omicron variants rain on their parade. But, this time, we’re prepared, well most of us. 💪 If you're not, there's still hope! 🤞
How Event Managers can save their in-person & hybrid event
When COVID-19 took the world by storm, Event Managers across the globe became un-potted mandrakes screaming for their life. A lucky few quickly pivoted to virtual events, a large portion immediately postponed or canceled events that shouldn’t have been canceled only to later pivot to online events.
Then there were a select few that didn’t bother to embrace Event Technology in all its glory. Some found themselves in a situation where they were laid off or, if they were lucky, placed on partial unemployment. Those who pivoted were able to achieve two feats in addition to maintaining their events: 1) Render themselves irreplaceable thus keeping their job and 2) Solidify the importance of events within their company.
Revert to Plan B
Having a backup plan should come as no surprise. In regards to the COVID Apocalypse, the problem was that no one was prepared for a global health pandemic. Fortunately, now we have learned from our mistakes. We now know not to blow the whistle too early. We know how to negotiate more lenient cancellation policies with our providers. We know how to manage crisis communication for both internal and external attendees. We know how to transform our in-person events into hybrid or virtual events whenever possible.
Your Plan B is essential to your event’s success. If we're hit with a new wave don't sweat it! You’ve got this! Discuss with your teams your plans to pivot your event to either a hybrid format - if your venue (or company guidelines) has a limited capacity because of sanitary restrictions nonetheless allowing you to offer some attendees the possibility to participate in-person - or to a 100% virtual event if having guests physically present is no longer an option. Now all you have to do is notify your participants about your new event format.
Leverage your Event Management Software (EMS)
Now that Plan B has been activated, it's back to the drawing board. Or is it? If you're using a state-of-the-art event management platform that is able to handle virtual, hybrid, and in-person events, the next steps are as easy as pie. If you haven’t yet invested in an EMS, don’t worry there’s still time.
The advantage of an EMS like Eventdrive is that you can quickly and easily pivot to a virtual or hybrid format, so don’t fret.
Update your event information
Switch your event format may have an impact on your event sessions and activities. That group photo you planned on taking at 4:30pm is no longer possible. For the most part, your plenary and breakout sessions can become virtual. You might have to change some activities, but your plans to engage your participants with live polls, word clouds, quizzes… are still possible.
As mentioned above, attributing a live stream for any session is simple with your EMS. After you have chosen which sessions to keep and which will have to wait, you simple need to activate the live stream option. If your event was already designed in a hybrid format, this probably has already been done for a large part of your sessions. You’ll only need to activate those sessions that were only available for your in-person attendees. For strictly in-person events, you’ll need to activate a live stream for your sessions. It may seem stressful, but with an EMS, or at least if you’re using Eventdrive, it’s literally done in a click.
Update your attendee registrations
We need to know who's still coming and how they will participate. If you opted for a hybrid event with a reduced on-site audience size, you'll need to know which attendees will now participate online and which ones will be physically present.
You could always choose who makes the cut and who doesn’t or you can let your attendees choose for themselves. Either option requires you to leverage your EMS to manage your participant registration. If your participants don't have a choice, you'll simply need to group them into two groups: Virtual and Physical. If you're letting them choose, you'll have to streamline your event registration once again. No worries, you can just duplicate your original registration forms and add a new field with the available options.
Let your attendees know
If you opted to pivot to a 100% virtual format, you simply need to let your attendees know that the event will now be held virtually and they can update their registration. They always have the option to cancel their participation, so you'll definitely want to bust out your best event email marketing skills.
Then, create a new email letting them know about the format that is available to them. If you have your guests separated into groups, you’ll need a separate email and registration form per group. Be aware that some guests who previously confirmed their physical participation now may want to attend online. Definitely let them know that this is an option as it’s better for your attrition rates and allow you to achieve your event’s objectives and relay important information.
Adapt your participant experience
The participant experience is always at the heart of the event design. The most obvious part of the participant experience is branding. Your event represents your company and most of all you and your event team. Events are a part of corporate communications and when we think about corporate we think about corporate colors, fonts, logos... It’s all about branding. You’ll want to avoid using a videoconferencing solution for the online version of your event. These solutions are ill-fitted for corporate events and don’t offer the means to brand your online event. You’re on THEIR interface and not yours. With Eventdrive Live, you’re able to brand your entire event, from your event website to your virtual event space.
Your event agenda is an integral part of your participant experience. Content is key but keeping your audience’s attention is of the utmost importance if you want to ensure that content is being retained. Think about your event duration. Long sessions need to be cut down. The shorter, the better. You’ll want to cut out all the fat and have your speakers get straight to the point to ensure your audience is engaged at your virtual or hybrid event.
Event apps have become ubiquitous in the corporate event world. Participants rely on them to consult their personal agendas, interact with other guests, speakers, sponsors, and exhibitors. They’re used to using event apps for interacting via live polls, Q&A, quizzes, and word clouds. The benefits of using a virtual and hybrid event platform is that these interactive services are also available in your virtual event space to engage your participants whether they’re online or on site. You can program your engagement services in the same platform for both audiences, saving you time and money because you don’t have to invest in multiple tools. If you’re not already using a solution to manage your virtual, hybrid, and in-person events, that last argument is the perfect way to convince your boss that your team needs an EMS.
Online events are, for the most part, beneficial for all companies. Although, there are a few downsides to virtual events. Ensuring your guests will attend your online event is no simple feat. There is also the problem of distractions. It’s much easier when attending an event remotely to take an incoming call, browse the web, tune out, or worse, fall asleep especially if your speaker doesn’t know how to engage your attendees right from the start. Opting for a virtual and hybrid event management platform means you can create your customized online event space where your participants are not only immersed in your brand but in your event. Platforms with an integrated “Next Session” button, à la Netflix, help to keep your participants captivated, your event running smoothly and on time, and, most importantly, reduce no-show rates for your breakout sessions.
Inform your providers
When your event format changes your audience size changes. In the case of a change because of a global pandemic, chances are you’re going to have less delegates on site. You could also end up with more registrations than before for the online version of your event. Changing your event design impacts your event logistics. You’ll need to inform your providers and other partners about these changes as early as possible to avoid an impact on your budget and most importantly on the environment. It would be a pity for all that food to go to waste.
Here are some elements that could potentially be affected when you switch your hybride or in-person event format. You’ll want to be sure to contact those who are concerned.
Your swag bags
If you designed two different participant experiences for your in-person and online attendees, you probably have two different types of swag. In any case, you’ll need to adjust the quantities of your giveaways.
This one’s obvious, but sometimes the most obvious things are forgotten. Downsizing your on-site attendees or cancelling your in-person event means you have to notify your venue. This is especially important if your venue also includes food and beverage and their business mode is cost per head. They’ll need to know if you still need all those conference rooms for your breakout sessions and perhaps the medium sized auditorium could be used in lieu of the large.
As we mentioned above, it would be a pity to waste food and have to throw away those fancy hors d’oeuvres. Luckily, you updated your participant’s registration like a pro thanks to your EMS allowing for an easy headcount for your attendees attending physically and of course you know of their dietary restrictions thanks to your perfect registration form. Let your caterer know about the updated number of participants and of course if there needs to be a menu change. With Eventdrive, you’re not only able to centralize all this information to help streamline your event logistics, but you’re also able to respect GDPR requirements because sensitive data, such as dietary restrictions, is processed differently and erased 24-hours after your event.
Your IT team
If you’re switching to virtual or hybrid, you’ll want to make sure the technical aspects of your event are cleared with IT. If multiple attendees are participating from the same office, this could eventually saturate your company’s internet. You’ll also need to make sure your on site equipment is robust enough to live stream your event. It would be a pity if the internet drops in the middle of your CEOs session on strategic development. Test your internet connection on www.speedtest.net and why not encourage your remote speakers and moderators to test their equipment beforehand as well.
Don’t let these variants ruin your in-person and hybrid events. Activate your Plan B, leverage your EMS, adapt your participant experience, inform your providers, and continue to create memorable moments for your attendees.