Visit Indy has rolled out a new Hybrid Concierge program to help bring your meetings to life. Their new on-staff Digital Event Strategist, Marissa Renaldi, DES, is ready to serve as an extension of your team while you plan. Here are her top 10 recommended practices to help with your hybrid meetings in Indy.
1. Every great event starts with a great plan.
When thinking about your next hybrid event, you may find yourself wondering where to start. Like any well-planned event, before jumping into planning it’s important to take a step back and evaluate your goals and objectives. From there you can plan strategically by creating your timeline, selecting a virtual event platform, building your team, producing your content, rehearsing, and finally executing your hybrid event.
2. Every great event also has a great team.
When building your hybrid event team, not only do you have to consider your live event staff, but your digital staff, as well. Consider including the following roles on your digital event team:
- Virtual Event Producer: It’s best practice to have two producers; one charged with the in-person experience and another with the virtual one.
- Digital Director: Manages the event content and strategy.
- Technical Director: Oversees all technical components.
- Video Director: Works with the producer to oversee the on-camera content.
- Live Translator: If you have participants that speak another language or are hearing impaired, a live interpreter is necessary.
- Webcast Technician: Collects and builds the slide deck and other presentation content so your speaker doesn’t have to.
- Script Writer: Produces the presentation materials and writes the verbiage for the event.
- Moderator: Encourages engagement and keeps the session moving.
- Speaker Concierge: Manages the speakers from a logistical standpoint.
Ultimately, it’s important for everyone on your team to understand their role, including you.
3. What to charge.
Don’t assume you should decrease registration fees for your virtual attendees. If your content shows value, your audience will pay.
Consider being creative with your pricing. Perhaps a live attendee pays a different amount than a virtual one. Or, think of ways to leverage on-demand content for your virtual participants. Perhaps the virtual registration is free, but there is a fee to access the on-demand content. The possibilities are truly endless and should adhere to your business’ goals and needs.
It’s also important to keep in mind that your virtual attendees are saving money on travel expenses so, in theory, they should be able to afford the registration fee.
4. Choose your virtual event platform.
Choosing the best virtual event platform can be a daunting task, so it’s important to not get overwhelmed. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Ask your Visit Indy Hybrid Concierge about local companies that provide this service or programs past customers have used.
- Search Google for “best virtual event platforms” and create a list of potential vendors.
- After narrowing your search, set up demonstrations with the companies.
- During the demonstration, be sure to ask how much of what you’re seeing was custom built and how yours can look the same way.
- After the demonstrations and evaluating the platform websites, create a list of features you “need to have,” ones that are “nice to have,” and ones you “want to have.” This will ultimately help narrow your search to ensure you’re getting the best platform that fits your event needs.
- Much like understanding your role on the event team, it’s important that you and the platform company are on the same page. Set expectations for who will be responsible for what tasks from the very beginning to avoid complications later.
Be sure to ask about the integrations the platform has because you want to be sure it integrates with everything you’re using for your event. Integration is done through a very technical system called Application Programming Interface (API). Think of APIs as a tunnel that allows two different systems to communicate and pass information to each other.
It’s recommended that you choose a platform with native integrations. This means the platform was built to integrate with every other program you’re using (i.e. Zoom, Facebook, LinkedIn, Outlook Calendar, etc). Often, the available integrations will be listed on the company’s website.
If a native integration is not available, plan to budget for a software developer to build the integrations for you. However, this is not always the most reliable or cost-effective option. Additionally, while Zapier is another useful API tool, it is not officially endorsed or reliable.
5. Engage your virtual audience.
Most virtual audiences decide whether they will watch a live session during the first minute. Then after a few more minutes, they may decide to leave or multitask. For on-demand content, viewers decide whether to watch within the first 15 seconds. It’s important to keep your content engaging from the beginning. Sometimes this means putting your keynote speaker before the formal introduction or housekeeping remarks.
For live sessions, consider having the speaker acknowledge the virtual audience at the beginning. Another beneficial engagement tool is polling which can be used by both live and virtual audiences. Finally, the live Q&A is a great segment to engage the virtual attendees. Be sure to have the moderator restate the questions from the floor so the virtual audience knows what was asked.
6. Create compelling content.
It’s imperative to build your content around your business intelligence by understanding what your audience is interested in, what information they’re seeking, and how they find that information. Once you know this, not only can you garner interest, but keep your attendees engaged throughout the program.
Drawing from the engagement piece, a variety of visual elements should be used in the slide deck (i.e. pictures, videos, graphs, polls, etc). Each slide should equal one idea or topic.
7. Create off-screen opportunities.
In the same vein of audience engagement, think about what off-screen opportunities you can create for your virtual attendees. If there is a break in the live program, it’s important to keep your virtual audience engaged. This could be done through built-in coffee breaks with coffee pre-mailed by a sponsor, chair yoga, short workouts, and more. Before creating this content on your own, ask your Visit Indy Services Manager about the customizable videos that are available. These assets are an easy way to create a sense of place for your virtual audience.
8. Prepare your speakers.
This is possibly one of the most important factors of your hybrid event.
One of the great benefits of hybrid events, is that your presenters don’t all need to be on-site in Indy to participate. This provides not only a lot of flexibility, but also allows you to feature speakers from around the world.
There are many best practices to keep in mind when broadcasting off-site speakers:
- If their segment can be pre-recorded, do it (more on this later).
- As mentioned earlier, there should be a member of your team assigned to managing the speakers.
- Be clear about your expectations from the beginning.
- If their presentation will be offered on-demand following the event, be sure they don’t reference other sessions the on-demand audience won’t be privy to.
- Make sure you create and communicate the backup plan well in advance in case of technology issues.
- Plan multiple rehearsals.
- Encourage them to use an ethernet cable, rather than WiFi.
- If they aren’t using a hardline, encourage them check their available bandwidth by going to www.fast.com. For the best stream experience, bandwidth above 25 megabites per second (Mbps) is preferred.
- Encourage them to ask that their family members refrain from doing high-bandwidth activities during their presentation.
- This is the most critical element during a live event. If the audio cuts out, you’ve lost your engagement.
- Ask your speakers to use a USB headset or microphone, rather than the speakers that are built into their devices.
- If you have a panel of speakers, they should all be the same distance away from the camera.
- Ensure the webcam is raised to eye-level.
- The lighting should be coming from in front of them, not behind or from the side.
- Real backgrounds are preferred over virtual ones. Think of the background the same way you would think of a stage at a live event.
9. Take advantage of pre-recording.
Pre-recording is the best approach if you are using virtual components. This has many benefits from reducing stress for speakers to avoiding potential technology pitfalls. This allows you to enhance the production value of the presentation. Even if the presentation is pre-recorded, you can have the speaker conduct a live Q&A afterwards. Additionally, pre-recording allows you to optimize for on-demand viewing more quickly.
10. Finally, evaluate your KPIs and ROI.
Like all events, once you wrap up your hybrid meeting it’s important to evaluate your key performance indicators (KPIs). Your event’s KPIs should feed into the organization’s KPIs. These are often growth in revenue, net profit margin, and operational cashflow.
When tracking your event’s return on investment (ROI), ask yourself these questions, “Why is my company investing in this event rather than another program?” “Is doing this event important to do now, rather than later?” These questions will help you determine what matters to your organization so you can measure it. Finally, ask, “What if we never had this event again?” as this could help uncover additional ROI to measure.
Thank you for taking the time to learn best practices for your hybrid meetings. I look forward to helping bring your event in Indy to life!
|Marissa Renaldi, DES
Convention Marketing Coordinator