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BV Review: Virtual & Hybrid Events

For some the transition to virtual events may have been a blessing, or a leap forward to a longer-term strategy however; others find the interim transition to virtual / hybrid daunting.

Hybrid and virtual events have been on everyone’s mind this year and will continue to be part of some people’s future event planning strategies.

We spoke with our preferred Virtual / Hybrid technology suppliers and discussed the tips for choosing the right event format and the do’s and don’ts to make your event a success.

To a novice to the industry – what a hybrid event is?

In simplistic terms, you will get the best of both worlds – a live event and delegates attending virtually.

What about Virtual Events – can the event format be the same?

A virtual event can still incorporate a live discussion between multiple people, Q&A with delegates, multiple presenters, plenary sessions, breakout rooms, networking, and virtual exhibition areas.

Hybrid or Virtual? Where to start? 

Firstly, you need to understand you event objectives and what you are trying to achieve. Safety, technology, creativity, and innovation are incredibly important but ultimately events are about connecting groups of people in a meaningful way and driving the right business outcomes.

Hybrid or Virtual? What are the key points when making this decision? 

A key factor is safety, and we need to appreciate that COVID has affected each person differently. Some cannot wait to go out and attend meetings in person again, while others will be more hesitant, especially if it involves traveling to a different part of the country.

This is what is making and will make Hybrid solutions so popular as we continue into the ‘new norm’. It does involve a live in-person component with a virtual one. They can be perceived as more engaging, more attractive if there is some form of physical interaction.

Virtual events are favourable if you are expecting international or many attendees. It guarantees that all the guests invited can attend in person and are not limited to any regional government restrictions. Additionally, you could potentially reach a higher number of delegates than a live event.

Advice: work with your key stakeholders to understand their desire for live or virtual or ask an event agency to review the feasibility based on your desired outcomes.

Does this mean the end of face to face events?

Absolutely no! Virtual and hybrid have been around for some time in the entertainment industry (think the FA Cup final, Question Time etc). The events industry needed to react and whilst for some virtual -will be their strategy moving forward others will return to face to face once delegate confidence returns. Hybrid events will be key in 2021 as it is the happy medium between face to face and virtual.

Back to Virtual – what would you say is often miscalculated when planning a virtual event?

Costs, research, and planning are three of the main areas but taking the these out of the equation; the one area people underestimate is the structure of the event and how fragile the timing of the event is.

This doesn’t just mean how long your event is, how many comfort breaks you include or and how long your ‘networking’ sessions are, but if as an organiser, facilitator or trainer, presenting a 4-hour virtual event, is completely different to a live environment.

A lot of people underestimate how tricky it is to just talk to people, especially if there is only a small amount of interaction. With live events you have the physical interaction between delegates, those who turn up late and the opportunity to network with delegates before the start. However, when presenting in your home office or  in a room on your own, you do not have all of this, it’s just you in a room with the laptop

Advice: Think about what you want to communicate and set the meeting time and the meeting length accordingly. Also is the timing of the event correct – holding a virtual fun/teambuilding event in the morning is likely not as productive as holding it in the afternoon.

Technology Issues – what tips do you have for the concern around hosting a virtual event?

Have a backup plan and ensure you communicate. If you are experiencing technical issues, have an automated message sent out to your guests or a pre-recorded session which you can play while fixing the issue. Should a delegates have technical issues, make sure you have someone on hand or a help desk to assist them. If you do not capture their attention and give them something to do, they might as well be doing the washing up from last night or on their emails! – remember there are far more distractions for delegates when attending a virtual conference.

What tips can you offer for taking you Virtual event to the next level?

A Zoom meeting or virtual conference can be like attending a meeting in any hotel meeting room across the country.

One option is to set up regional hubs where people can attend in a live environment watching the event while networking with other delegates.

For hybrid events, it is important to give all attendees, whether they attend virtually or in person, the same level of experience. This means that you must find a way to include the remote attendees and get them talking and networking with the live guests. This can be achieved by a collaborating, team engaging task during the event or by mandatory and monitored breakout discussions. The same applies to virtual events.

Another option is to send delegates a conference hamper or event wellness box prior to the event, this will help make the event memorable and make the delegate feel valued. They can also be used to encourage interaction in several ways, including social media challenges or forming part of a breakout or panel discussion.

What can presenters do to make sure delegates remain engaged?

Presenting at a virtual or hybrid event is very different from presenting at a live event.

The main difference is the interaction, ensure that there are polls, questions, and time for a Q&A. If the platform you are hosting the event on has a chat functionality, encourage delegates to use it. Make sure you do not come across as robotic or reading a script, consider having a co-presenter who you can bounce off.

Another tip is to make sure you know your content, know how long your content lasts, have some points that you can lose if you are noticing that you underestimated how fast time flows.

Remember, if a virtual event you will not have the live audience to interact with.

If you are presenting from home, stand up! When people are nervous, they tend to fidget around, swing from side to side on their chairs, etc. If you are standing up, you automatically have more confidence which changes the way you are perceived by the audience. 

Bien Venue: Technology, Virtual and Hybrid – How can Bien Venue support?

Bien Venue have undertaken an in-depth review into hybrid solutions to enhance conferences, meetings, and events. We now have several preferred partners to assist in successfully delivering these solutions to our clients. We have three potential ways we can support our clients with a hybrid event:

  • Hybrid audio visual equipment solutions
    • Small meetings: ideal for a live meeting with a requirement for a handful of delegates to attend via a platform such as Zoom
    • Full audio-visual production and staging – suitable for larger conferences
    • Virtual solutions / green screen: ideal for either recording a series of presentations. Or if you have a virtual event and require an area to present from
  • Hybrid event recommendations and logistics – from our research and growing knowledge of hybrid events we can propose and recommend the best solution to achieve your event objectives
  • Hybrid/Virtual event platforms – ideal if you are running a conference with both live and virtual guests as these platforms allow delegates to network with each other, the virtual guests to join in a Q&A and meet with any exhibitors.

In addition to supporting virtual events Bien Venue have enhanced our portfolio of services to now include both virtual team building and virtual activities as well as engagement gift box solutions.

How Bien Venue can enhance your virtual event…

If you are planning a virtual kick off meeting or strategy day in the new year, have you thought about adding one of the following to enhance the event

  • Remote Team building
  • Virtual fun activity such as bingo or a gameshow challenge
  • Virtual icebreaker
  • Host or facilitator
  • Virtual conference delegate hamper – a hamper sent to delegates homes for them to enjoy throughout the virtual conference
  • Employee engagement hampers

Our hampers are designed to engage, motivate, thank, reward and celebrate with your teams, these are a great add on to a virtual activity or as an employee wellbeing treat.

Alternatively, if you are looking to plan a face to face event Bien Venue would be delighted to source a venue for you with our free venue finding service.

Looking for support with your next Virtual, Hybrid or Live Event? Bien Venue would love to hear from you or use our free online venue finding tool on our website – www.bvevents.co.uk

Bien Venue have re-identified our strapline alongside ‘Our Team is Your Team’ to include ‘Event Management – Professional, Pro Active with a Personal touch’.

It’s not just workshops, training, conferences, or off site meetings we can arrange but also away days, hybrid events, Christmas parties including virtual, private dining, team building both live and virtual and incentives as well as managing and venue liaison for schedules of events and offering a full event management service. We also offer accommodation booking platforms for both corporate bookers and event specific allocation of bedrooms