It’s so uplifting to see the world of events coming back to life in every format – live, virtual and a hybrid of both! To help you connect with colleagues and clients, our previous articles have covered how you can plan a hybrid event and ways to keep both hybrid audiences happy. Now let’s talk about where you might put those audiences.
Where will your live audience be? All in one place – or multiple regional locations?
Now that people are travelling more selectively, we’re likely to see more regionalised events that let attendees cut back on journeys. By this, we mean running events in selected cities that people can get to easily – by train rather than plane, for example. Then you virtually link the live audiences at each location, et voilà, they become part of a larger overall event.
Venues have been quick to embrace this trend by teaming up with places in other countries, hence some conference centres forming strategic alliances with others in cities across the EU. Liverpool has become the first UK city to join the Hybrid City Alliance. This smart initiative allows 20 global cities (including Geneva, Sydney and Seoul) to hold events where delegates meet face-to-face in local hubs and connect online to create larger ‘multi-city hub’ events.
Not something we’d have expected 18 months ago! But linking technically in this way can lead to all kinds of great partnerships.
So your plans are coming together. Where will it happen?
It’s time to research prospective venues and negotiate your way towards the best deal. Since we’re all now used to living with a pandemic, it’s important to risk-assess the event too and consider comfort levels for every kind of attendee. Yet another reason why location and venue really matter.
So you’ve decided on a single space or multiple locations, set a budget and designed a barnstorming hybrid event for both audiences. Now you need a venue/venues! Whether it’s a large conference or an intimate meeting, choosing the right location makes a big difference to both live and virtual attendees.
Virtually link the live audiences at each location, et voilà, they become part of a larger overall event.
The Hybrid City Alliance initiative allows 20 global cities (including Geneva, Sydney and Seoul) to hold events where delegates meet face-to-face in local hubs.
What to consider when choosing a hybrid event location
First things first, think Covid
If you’re unsure where to hold the live part(s) of a hybrid event, start by answering these questions:
- Which government list is the location on? Check the up-to-date rules for any potential attendee’s country of origin. (See the latest guidelines across the UK and for travel in the EU.)
- Do delegates need to take precautions to travel there? If so, are they happy to do that? Some organisations are making it corporate policy to offer staff the choice of attending events in person or remotely (if practical). How might that affect your ratio of live to virtual attendees?
- How does your own company’s corporate policy affect your choices?
- How ‘open’ is the city or country? As winter arrives, localities are taking varying approaches in line with the progress of their individual vaccination programmes. As a result, some hotels and venues may be closed or gradually finding their way back to the market in phases.
- Will attendees need to quarantine? How does this change according to whether they’re singly, doubly or unvaccinated?
How can you encourage live attendance?
It’s stating the obvious, but that special buzz we get from being with others in the same place cannot be matched by even the slickest virtual event.
Go one better by choosing a destination that makes people feel good too, especially as we’ve all faced so many travel restrictions lately. Who doesn’t enjoy visiting culturally rewarding places offering a variety of interesting things to do, see and sample? A great location may well be the clincher for some to book.
Easy to reach
Ideally, your live venue should be well-connected and easy to reach by car, train or flight. Making the trip with a minimal carbon footprint is a priority for many so, if possible, give people options that let them travel their way.
Look at the progress of the vaccination programme in that destination. Could you be asking attendees to face a level of risk they may be uncomfortable with?
If the cost of attending in person is to be paid by the individual delegate (rather than an employer), try to choose a location that’s cost-effective in terms of travel and accommodation.
What to look for when choosing a hybrid event venue
As well as the usual list of practical considerations, such as location and size of meeting spaces, you need to think about issues specific to hybrid events.
First up, you need a professional and experienced production team.
If your venue has an in-house team, good news, as they’ll be fully familiar with the space and able to comply with venue protocol. Be sure to ask:
- Have they done hybrid or similar events before?
- Do they have their own hybrid platform or an existing relationship with one? If possible, choose a virtual platform the venue’s production team already knows. That way, their experience means you’ll be in capable hands.
- Ask if you can use your own preferred platform and service provider if you have one. (We can help with that!)
Do delegates need to take precautions to travel there? If so, are they happy to do that?
Making the trip with a minimal carbon footprint is a priority for many so, if possible, give people options that let them travel their way.
Choose a destination that makes people feel good too, especially as we’ve all faced so many travel restrictions lately.
What you need from your hybrid event venue
Ideally you want a venue with dedicated in-house support to help you and your guests with any issues that come up. Check that their planning and technical teams are used to working closely together and understand how to give both audience types an equally positive experience.
Find out exactly what the cost covers. Hybrid events can be much pricier than in-person-only events, due to the level of production expertise and equipment needed. This varies depending on the number of delegates and speakers, plus the functionality of the platform. Ask your production team for a fee breakdown detailing everything from the equipment to the scheduling of briefing calls with speakers.
Check the venue’s cancellation policy and negotiate a shared-risk position in case you need to change dates.
Does the venue offer a well-proportioned space that allows mutual audience visibility? The production team also need unobstructed sight lines so the camera operators can stream a clear view to virtual attendees.
Most speakers find it helpful to be able to see what’s being streamed on your virtual platform while they present. Check your venue can provide comfort monitors so speakers feel connected to both audiences.
Check the venue’s bandwidth and connection speed to ensure the remote audience doesn’t have any problems watching your live stream.
Does the venue have an adequate power supply to the studio where everything will be coordinated? They need effective back-up power too. You don’t want to face sudden downtime mid-event!
Expect a small number of in-person attendees to switch from live to virtual at the last minute. Be ready to send them the link to access the virtual platform.
Make sure you allow time to rehearse – and book the venue for this. Before a hybrid event, it’s wise to test, test and test again to make sure everything runs smoothly on the day.
Plan for sanitisation, room cleaning, contactless check in, local track-and-trace requirements, providing masks and how food will be served.
Looking for a showstopping venue? It all depends on the kind of event you’re planning, but there are plenty of interesting and unusual options out there. (Need a hand to find one?)
How near is the venue to the city/town centre, transport links and green/blue space? Be considerate of your attendees’ mental wellbeing, especially with events that run over a few days.
It makes scheduling much easier for live attendees if the venue is nice and close to a decent selection of accommodation.
Tech talk: how venues can handle hybrid
In the early days of the pandemic some venues developed their own platforms and technical solutions for hybrid events. Many now work with a preferred existing platform to offer clients the most flexible options.
Whichever venue you choose, it’s crucial to check they have all the technical equipment and know-how needed to deliver a successful virtual event. Look closely at what they’re offering. No venue can be an expert on streaming and broadcasting unless they already have production capabilities in-house, or regularly bring a crew onboard for events. If in doubt, we recommend taking your own tech (if you have it) along to the venue.
Do your research to land the perfect place.
The guidelines above will help you select the right location and track down a dependable venue with the relevant technical services. These are now more important than ever. Or if you need a savvy partner to help you pull it all together, we’re right here!
Ideally you want a venue with dedicated in-house support to help you and your guests with any issues that come up.
Whichever venue you choose, it’s crucial to check they have all the technical equipment and know-how needed to deliver a successful virtual event.