You’re hearing it everywhere: The future is hybrid. While this may be patently true, the event industry has a long way to go before it’s ready to fully embrace hybrid culture. During the pandemic, we were forced to improve virtual events so that attendees would keep coming. Transitioning platforms and keeping attendees engaged was easier for some than others. Better live streaming technology, AR and VR software, facial recognition, and event apps helped businesses continue to deliver authentic, on-brand experiences. One result of improved (and in some cases, more affordable) event tech: New standards have been set. In order to continue reaching broader, remote audiences and accommodating those who prefer to attend virtual conferences, the industry is starting to go hybrid.
While we’ve done lots of articles on hybrid events and affordable event technology, we’ve only touched hybrid venues. Now that returning to in-person events is in the near future for the first time, let’s talk about the role of venues in these events. According to a State of the Industry survey by Endless Events, 64% of event planners believe that hybrid events will be the most common events in 2021.
1. Double and Triple Check Your WiFi Connection
Needless to say, choosing the right venue can make or break a hybrid event. For example, if your venue doesn’t have an excellent WiFi signal, live streaming could be interrupted, effectively ruining the event for remote attendees. Be sure to also check the connection speed and bandwidth to ensure a smooth experience. According to Natalija Bah Cad of Toleranca Marketing, the ideal minimum standard for bandwidth should be around 50 Mbps. And yes, that’s the minimum!
If your venue offers that, you'll probably have a solid internet connection- but you’ll still want to have one or more tech rehearsals before the big day. (More on that later).
2. Make Sure Your Venue Provides Optimal Cameras
Camera resolution is vital to providing an excellent virtual experience. Remember, your goal is to engage remote attendees with the most immersive experience possible. Squinting through the screen to see small or distant objects is not only distracting, but it makes attendees feel like outsiders struggling to see in. Ultimately, you want your remote audience to feel like they’re part of the whole experience. Thus, cameras should have a resolution of at least 1080p. Also, you’ll need at least two cameras to pull off a high quality live stream.
Have your own cameras? You’re one step ahead of the game! Just make sure your venue is able to comfortably accommodate your setup.
3. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask About In-House Support
A common mistake a lot of event creators make is assuming they can do it all. Yes, event creators are unique in their ability to multitask, and tend to be “jacks of all trades”. That’s what makes them so great at what they do. But realistically, even you can’t be everywhere at once. And hybrid events present a relatively new challenge. Most people don’t realize how much technical work goes into hosting a hybrid event. And sometimes you’ll need to troubleshoot during the event without interrupting the flow of it, which takes teamwork.
A dedicated in-house support team can help you anticipate potential issues and address them before or as they happen. Also, practice makes perfect. We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to do one or more run-throughs before the actual event. Doing so can help you troubleshoot problems before they happen, reducing the amount of technical difficulties you’ll face during your event. Our advice: If the in-house support team is agreeable to lending their expertise, but is noncommittal about dedicating time and effort to perfecting the system, choose another venue. Even the best-laid plans can go wrong- it’s just a matter of being able to adapt in enough time to still deliver a seamless experience. So even if you have a background in tech, are bringing the cameras and lights, and have a dream support team, we recommend a venue that knows what it’s doing, too.
If possible, we recommend going with a venue that has its own broadcasting studio. For one thing, it tells you that online or hybrid experiences are par for the course; chances are, they’ve hosted successful virtual events, and are equipped to deliver more. But just to be sure their other events went smoothly, Bah Cad of Toleranca recommends always asking for references.
4. Power Up Your Event!
This may sound like a simple one, but it’s worth checking and double checking. If your venue is experienced with virtual experiences, they should know exactly how much power will be required for your event. But just in case they’re not (and you’re bringing your own tech team on board), make sure your venue is well-prepared. It’s not enough to have an adequate power supply; they should also have sufficient back-up if necessary. (And trust us, it may be necessary!)
5. Make Sure Your Venue is Zoom-Ready
Zoom and other popular video conferencing platforms have different programs; some are better for hosting conferences than others. For any professional event, Bah Cad says the venue should have a Zoom Webinar license. That’s because the basic version probably won’t support all the tech features needed for an immersive hybrid experience.
But being Zoom-ready isn’t enough. Your venue should be able to seamlessly switch between numerous video conferencing platforms. Facebook and LinkedIn live are two common examples.
What should you look for in your main hybrid event platform? Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to have automated ticketing, registration, and POS services in place. This enables you and your staff to focus on curating your event without the time-consuming hassle of dealing with physical tickets. The process still needs to be regulated, but without taking more time and effort than necessary.
Next, look for live-chat and networking services. Most events are also networking opportunities, so give your remote attendees a chance to take advantage of this, too. Sometimes networking services come in the form of virtual lobbies where attendees can gather and chat. A video chat feature allows them to interact more directly and make stronger connections. We’ll talk more about choosing the best hybrid platforms in an upcoming post, so stayed tuned for that.
But getting back to the basics for a minute, you also need to consider the amount of people attending. Whether you’re using Zoom or another video conferencing platform, you’ll need to choose an option that accommodates all of your attendees. Zoom’s most basic version (the free one) allows for a limited number of participants. Based on the amount of registrars, you’ll know ahead of time how many guests will be attending remotely and in person.
6. Put the Background at the Front of Your Checklist!
Yeah, this one gets an exclamation point. Sometimes people get so caught up in putting on the show that they underestimate the importance of the right background. Don’t make the same mistake! An LED wall isn’t absolutely necessary for a high-quality virtual experience; it depends on the setting, your technology, and other factors. But optimum lighting is vital, and an LED wall enhances the visual experience of a hybrid event. As we’ve discussed in previous article about LED walls, they are the only way to facilitate some animations. When done right, they can really bring an event to life for remote audiences.
Generally, the minimum viewing distance for an LED video wall is about one meter per millimeter of pixel pitch. According to Stewart Signs, here’s the best way to find the optimal viewing distance: Multiply the pixel pitch of the screen by eight, and then convert to feet. For example, the ideal viewing distance for a video wall with a 2mm pixel pitch is sixteen feet.
And speaking of animations, if you aren’t providing the software, make sure your venue is. 2D and 3D animations that simulate living things or allow attendees to interact with objects require special software. So do your research. Make sure your venue is fully equipped to host and operate the ideal software and equipment. Every experience is unique, so don’t be afraid to tell your venue exactly what you need to pull yours off.
7. Ask Your Venue About Post-Production Services
After every event, you’ll want to cut and edit your videos to use as promotional content. Maybe you already have people to manage this on your own. If you do, that’s great! But if not, make sure your venue can do a professional job. For example, Bah Cad emphasizes the power of applying music or jingles to your videos. Your editing team should be able to do this with no trouble.
This may seem like a lot of info to throw at you at once, but give yourself time to process it. We recommend creating a list and checking it twice. When choosing a venue, don’t be afraid to go over each point with the owners. Again, if they seem amenable but show hesitation or don’t seem fully engaged in process, you may want to look into other options. A dedicated support team may ask questions and offer potential solutions or better ways of doing things. As long as they respect your vision and work with you toward achieving it, this is a good sign. A willingness to discuss and share knowledge means they have experience pulling off the kind of event your hosting. References should affirm your experience, so at the risk of being redundant, feel free to ask for them. Happy hybriding!