Captivated by our ‘SPOWL’ by Arne Olav Gurvin Fredriksen? What a Photoshop whizz! Seamlessly and meticulously blending one animal with another with eye catching results – check out his Insta account @gyyporama for more ‘woah’ moments!
Thanks to Emma Wellstead from Warwick Events and fellow MPI Chapter colleague for co-writing this blog with us.
In our latest blog, you too can learn to mix different parts of the digital and in-person world together without losing character, flair and personality.
And BIG THANKS to Arne, in Norway, for letting us use his artwork.
10-15 minute time slots for content
It’s easier to engage with participants at in-person events. But when you have a digital audience you need to think less like an event organizer and more like a TV producer. The more traditional format of the ‘single’ channel in-person event does not readily convert into a successful digital multi-channel event.
When you start planning, think about:
- content: this should be short, easily digestible chunks (maximum of 15 minutes)
- taking breaks between sessions, let the audience breathe
- communicating break times and durations so attendees know when breaks are coming
- arrange optional activities or gamification during breaks
- formatting: think talk shows, newscasts, on location interviews etc
Think beyond ‘LIVE’
In a traditional meeting, we didn’t have the opportunity to share presentations/content as much as we do now. Filming and recording presentations and panel discussions for a hybrid event can become a valuable post-event resource. So, when you are planning your hybrid event, think about sessions or segments of content that could benefit an audience after the event; make good social media posts or provide marketing collateral for your next event.
How to keep the momentum
Introduce new formats such as bullet point sessions: this is when each speaker presents 3 bullet points for 3 minutes, 3 slides, 1 minute per slide with only actionable advice. With 5 speakers, your audience gets so much practical advice in 15 minutes.
Give a voice to the audience
Try the ‘empty chair’ on the panel: there is an empty chair on stage which represents the voice of the audience. Whether live or virtual, a member of the audience is selected to come and join the panel and share their opinion.
Remove the predictability – let the audience decide
As a digital participant, it is easy to plan to leave your desk/the platform during presentations you deem not to be relevant or interesting. Psychologically we are more inclined to follow the crowd. So, use polls to allow the audience to decide. This can be on what topic the next speaker should present on or what question they should answer. Giving control to your audience will keep engagement levels high. If you planned to leave an event early in the in-person environment, could you walk by a packed seminar room without wanting to see who the speaker was and what they were talking about? Fear of missing out can be a strong pull…weave this into your format.
Relax – curate the right atmosphere for your event from the start
We would never begin any event without music. Silence can have a negative impact in an event setting. ‘Breaking the silence’ is a familiar phrase – and it is difficult to do. Entering a quiet space, we (as people) naturally tend to whisper. This sets the tone for your event. Unwittingly you could re-create the atmosphere of a library rather than the positive impact you are hoping to achieve. Music is powerful and can instantly create the right start for your event. As the in-person and on-line audiences gather, use music to connect the two audiences. You can use a live musician, a DJ or simply a playlist. You can create an oasis of calm with something more classical or a buzz of energy with an uplifting, energised beat. But don’t neglect the power music has on all of us.
Think about different learning styles
Make it visual. Have an artist illustrate sessions with sketch notes. Graphically recording what was discussed helps those who learn visually and is always a success on social media.
People love prizes. People love giving.
A virtual platform allows you to build quizzes and gamification into your event. There are now platforms that connect your remote and in-person audiences like not other. You can benefit from learning more about you participants and encourage networking. You can think about setting collaborative challenges. For eg. if 250 new one-to-one conversations are achieved, you could commit to donating resource or money to charity – you’ll be surprised to see how altruistic people are.
Getting the benefits of attending in-person or online to be the same
No one wants to feel like the poor cousin. At their worst, the on-line participant experience is like watching CCTV footage. Everyone is a digital participant before and after the event, so start building your community long before the event starts and plan the legacy you want to happen from your event.
At a recent hybrid event (where we only assisted on the day of the event), there was a pre-registered on-line audience of over 1,000. On the day the digital audience reached a maximum of 39. When you are investing your time and budget to make a successful hybrid event, you need to start engaging with your audience at least 6-8 weeks before the event. If the audience feel like they are actively involved with the event they are much more likely to participate.
Choosing the right platform
Ideally you want your virtual platform to also be an event app. This means both audiences have the same Q&A, the same polling and same access to content.
Virtual audience only
We can all see the benefits of being at an in-person event. In breaks, you might have the opportunity to ask your question or get clarification from a speaker. It is easier to target your networking and spot people you’d like to talk to. You can ‘read the room’ quickly gauging reactions and the enthusiasm for different topics. And you are more likely to have that internal boost from the energy in the room.
We highly recommend to make some content ‘Virtual Audience Only’ to increase the value for a virtual audience. This might take the form of ‘Meet the Speaker’; a virtual backstage pass; a post-event Q&A etc.
The climate is changing. So, is this the next big challenge planning for unpredictable weather?
When our client at Healy Group tasked us with bringing 50 of their top performers to Spain for a winter incentive, we were happy to dip out of the online world and start planning an onsite event again. It felt strange to be planning an onsite, in-person event again. We almost became a little consumed with health and safety and ensuring we were adhering to all Covid-19 safety practices both here at home in Ireland, the UK and Spain.
We developed Covid-19 packs (branded, of course) with antigen tests (one per day), enough disposable masks for the entire trip, hand sanitiser and emergency contact info should someone feel unwell.
One thing we didn’t anticipate, was the real world outside of Covid-19. Thankfully everyone stayed healthy, but we had some other interesting experiences.
Arrival day. A storm descends on the Costa del Sol and the weather in Ireland and the UK ends up being better than in Spain (this is in November!)
1: A tree was uprooted in the hotel and came tumbling down into a guest’s room (they were at lunch, thankfully)
2: Three rogue waves came surging from the Mediterranean and washed out our beachfront restaurant for night one! Thankfully we booked with a well-known group of local restaurants, so their mountainside restaurant was able to take the group. We had 90 mins to turn it around.
3: On the way to the restaurant there was a bad car crash on the motorway and our 15-minute transfer turned into 90 minutes.
4: Our Tapas Trail the next day was spent bobbing in and out of some wonderful tavernas in Marbella Pueblo and by that stage, we had embraced our fate and everyone enjoyed the experience. Albeit a little rain-soaked.
The moral of this blog is that Covid-19 is one cog in a very large wheel. There are many other real-world scenarios we must remember when planning onsite events. We cannot let Covid-19 cloud us in the planning phases.
1: Reserve your offsite dinners/activities / basically anything non-hotel related with a DMC (destination management company). They will know the area a lot better than you and will have the local relationships to find solutions if things go wrong.
2: Always get busses with toilets on them – you never know!
3: Have emergency snack packs if there is a delay in your transfers
4: Invest in umbrellas, even if it is a warm country!
Lessons learned and we are glad to have had this experience to remind us, events and the climate are unpredictable as they have always been, pandemic or not!