Planner Tips: Event Strategy and Design for Hybrid Meetings

January 5, 2021
davidsolsbery@hargroveinc.com

Whether you’ve never planned a hybrid event or feel pretty confident in your abilities to deliver a seamless experience, there are strategy and design techniques for hybrid meetings that you can use now to elevate your next event.

Just as you measure your in-person events’ success by stakeholder experience and event metrics, the same can be said for hybrid. The delivery may look different, but the opportunities to reach a larger audience and provide new engagement levels are greater with hybrid.

Let’s uncover the opportunities found with each challenge and go over strategy and design tips that appeal to your audience and other stakeholders.

Designing For Two Modes Of Delivery

One of the challenges and opportunities in designing hybrid experiences is activating in two different modes of delivery. Event planners are well versed in creating live event experiences, and most are very excited to get back to familiar territory. Many have experimented in the digital world over the past few months and are gaining confidence in crafting virtual experiences.

As we transition to designing more hybrid events, planners will draw on their successes in both delivery modes, creating hybridized experiences. Developing and executing high impact content, networking, and community building strategies form their newfound understanding and the benefits inherent in both methods.

Let’s Do The (Virtual) Time Warp Again

Many planners are already making their content accessible post-event, but the value it brings to your attendees bears repeating. Allowing event attendees to access content after the ballroom doors have shut has enormous benefits!

Benefits include revisiting topics to reinforce their learning or access sessions they could not attend during the live experience because of time conflicts. By extending the life of your content, planners can provide additional value to their attendees, speakers, sponsors, and other important stakeholders.

Virtual Data Will Cross Over Into Live, In-Person Events

We have all learned the benefits of tracking how attendees navigate our virtual platforms. Data and analytics help planners refine their delivery and articulate measurable value to event owners, exhibitors, and sponsors.

As we move back into in-person experiences, savvy planners will use strategy to explore how to activate data collection for their in-person attendees. For instance, activating technologies that enable devices to act as second screens for real-time feedback and deploying attendee tracking technology to understand how their attendees navigate the trade show floor and meeting spaces.

New data, combined with their virtual data, will apply agile development strategies to improve the outcomes from their live and virtual experiences.

Rethinking How We Manage Content And Time

We have all recognized, and most have experienced ‘Zoom fatigue.’ One positive from the forced digital transformation we have gone through is understanding and managing attendee psychological capacity and engagement.

Many planners and event designers are re-thinking their content programming and scheduling. We now understand that most attendees cannot effectively absorb 10 hours of content, day after day, without leaving a large amount of information on the meeting room floor.

Savvy live event planners will start to schedule “white space” time, allowing attendees to reflect on the content and relax, providing space and time for them to slow down and leave “mental room” for the next round of knowledge. By allocating this time, they will allow the remote attendees to manage their fatigue and open up networking opportunities between remote and in-person attendees.

Get Ready For The Rise Of Hybrid Networking Pods

Hybrid networking pods are technology solutions that bridge the gap between the in-person and remote attendees, allowing them to network face-to-face. As a strategy and design tool for hybrid meetings, hybrid networking pods combine onsite TV stations with cameras and apps within virtual platforms. By enabling in-person attendees to chat in real-time face-to-face with remote attendees, you break time and space barriers, making more unified community-building experiences.

Presentation Stages™ And The Television Aesthetic

Our Presentation Stages™ kicked off the merging of broadcast TV and events. As we move more into hybrid, this will continue to grow and evolve, requiring us to set the stage for both the in-room and virtual audiences. Savvy planners will take inspiration from broadcast television and award show aesthetics, with stage sets and lighting plots tailored for multiple camera angles with even reliable lighting. Immersing the in-room audience in vivid color and movement ensures the camera looks good for the remote viewers and video on demand post-event.

Branding Across Modes Of Delivery

For a long time, we have known that your event branding and color scheme are essential for setting tone and mood at the event. As we transition to hybrid, creative teams will invest time and energy to align the visuals and color schemes across both live and virtual settings. This consistency helps all attendees feel the same connection and mood, however they choose to participate.

Sending Out The Swag

Many have experimented with mailing event collateral and swag to virtual attendees. Some have used home delivery to provide educational tools like workbooks and additional reading material. Simultaneously, other planners and event organizers have allowed exhibitors and sponsors to send samples and swag to help them connect with people in their homes.

Starting the event experience with some sort of mail-out will likely continue. Still, we predict event designers, planners, and exhibitors will refine their strategy, focusing more on the message behind the mail-outs. The key is seeking and providing meaningful connections and opportunities to educate and inspire, rather than sending yet another traveling coffee cup that fails to deliver a compelling reason to connect with a brand.

Attendee-Curated Experiences In A Live Setting

Attendees have been spoiled in the virtual world. We have allowed them to pick and choose what they participate in and when. This causes stress for planners who are used to controlling the behavior of their onsite attendees. As we move to hybrid, the challenge will be in finding a compromise. Allowing attendees to choose their own journey while managing the attendee flow ensures that critical content and messages are received and adopted by as many as possible.

Neuroscience As A Strategy And Design Tool For Hybrid Meeting ROI

2020 gave many event designers and planners a chance to re-educate themselves about experience design, psychology, and neuroscience. Learning how others process information empowers them to create more meaningful experiences that ensure content is not only delivered but absorbed and turned into repeatable retrievable capabilities.

By deploying storytelling techniques, planners will build on their understanding of the power of peer-group learning. This will create more confidence in managing community structures, creating mental alignment, and making positive collaborative cultures. Neuroscience as a tool translates into the ability to articulate better the long-term benefits of event owners and what organizations can expect from their event investments.

What’s Next

With news that an effective COVID-19 vaccine is around the corner, the number of hybrid events will continue to rise as the industry responds in its level of comfort to meet in venues. I hope these strategy and design techniques for hybrid meetings help you feel empowered to take them on!

Are you looking for more information on planning a hybrid event? Read last week’s post or fill out the contact form below.