Felicia Asiedu, European Marketing Manager, Cvent
1. In the organisation of hybrid events, event planners often try to translate components of a live event into an online format. Is that the right approach or should one plan a digital/hybrid event fundamentally differently?
What’s really important for planners to remember is that whether events are virtual, hybrid, or in-person the value propositions do not change. Events will still need to deliver on three key elements: content, connection, and experience; and the metric used to measure success across these elements is attendee engagement because it flows through every stage of the event life cycle – pre, during, and post event.
That said, there’s a whole lot more to planning and managing a hybrid event than placing a camera in the back of your general session room and broadcasting the content – and in fact, not all in-person sessions will resonate with an online audience. Shorter, snappier content performs best in a virtual environment and other technical considerations must be met from robust broadband connectivity to quality production and editing. Content is king, but arguably more so for a virtual event as it’s what keeps virtual attendees, who are surrounded by distractions, fixed to their screens. Organisers can use technology to leverage the wealth of data insights to create the right content for the right event and provide attendees with a more memorable, personalised, impactful experience.
2. What are the most important tools/technologies that I should know as a meeting planner for the organisation of hybrid events?
New tools and technologies pop up every day, which is why education and training are the best tools. It’s important to understand the building blocks of virtual and hybrid events – what works and what doesn’t work, or how event diagramming tools can assist with mapping out the venue space to determine optimal layout options that satisfy safer meeting and capacity guidelines. By first understanding virtual and hybrid event practices, and matching those to your event goals, you can then determine which tools and technology you’ll need to maximise the impact of your own events. Remember you are not alone, reach out to tech partners and suppliers, venues also, to see how they can support the event you want to produce.
3. How must hybrid events be designed so that the participants - no matter if online or onsite – can interact together?
Onsite attendees have the benefit of experiencing a sense of community first-hand. It’s much easier for them to network, have organic conversations, and establish connections. But there are ways to bring this sense of community to the digital attendee with the right technology. Planners can provide networking opportunities which take place in real-time in online breakout rooms – based on attendee role, title, or topic, or setup live Q&A and in-session polling to drive further engagement. In addition, mobile event apps can be used to connect attendees based on common interests (or random matchups) and gamification can support interactions between delegates and sponsors.
4. What elements could surprise my participants in a virtual environment?
5. Do you think virtual events are here to stay or will there be a return to the age of analogue?
Virtual events are here to stay! Ultimately a smart mix of virtual, hybrid, and in-person events is our future. Virtual events becoming mainstream have laid the foundation for what Reggie Aggarwal, our CEO and Founder, has called the Golden Age of Events - a time where events are held more frequently, have more impact, and reach a far broader audience than ever before. The future is brighter than ever because event organisers now have more tools and more ways to engage their customers, prospects, and employees.
6. What was the best virtual event you have ever attended?
This might sound biased, but truthfully, Cvent CONNECT Europe was just an incredible virtual experience for me. To bring more than 8,000 event and hospitality professionals across Europe together for a 2-day virtual conference – in the midst of a pandemic no less – really highlighted the deep desire for meetings and event professionals to hear from global leaders about the future, connect and engage with their peers, and experience a virtual event first-hand hosted by a leading event technology provider. While it certainly did not replace the in-person experience, it was a very special two days that helped us connect with a larger audience than we ever thought possible – and showed us the power virtual events bring as part of a more well-rounded total event programme.