A view into the future of in-person events… it isn’t all bad news!

Happy New Year! I hope everyone was able to relax and find some peace over the holidays.

I know it is still a stressful time on many fronts, but as we look into 2021, I can’t help but feel a glimmer of hope.

From the chatter I’m hearing, a lot of people are feeling the same way and some are even starting to talk about planning in-person events. It may sound shocking now with everything going on, but with the lead time on in-person events, this really isn’t all that early.

Add in the fact that some venues and vendors are no longer in business due to the pandemic and you can imagine the added difficulty people will experience when planning and hosting events.

While it’s wonderful that there are positive feelings around planning future events, it’s smart to approach any planning with a full understanding of how in-person events may need to change over the next year or two… maybe even a little longer.

It’s even smarter to consider lower risk ways to bring people together. So, join me below for some ideas to help you plan online and hybrid events.

Tips for Planning Unique Online & Hybrid Events

Even as vaccines roll out, it is difficult to see traditional in-person events returning in the foreseeable future in the same way they did before COVID.

Instead of letting the impatience you might feel around not being able to get together take over, consider new ways to “get together.”

The recent Presidential Inauguration demonstrated a beautiful way to host a fully virtual event. Let’s take a look at how you can create your own virtual or hybrid event special.

Start with your event strategy. What is your key goal and concept? What kind of experience do you hope to deliver? Will it be live or pre-recorded or a mix of both? You start here because decisions here dictate other parts of your event.

Pick the right streaming platform. Depending on your event program, your presentations, networking, and performances – Zoom may not be the best option. Other streaming platforms available are On24, WebEx, Hopin, Socio, ConnexMe, Brella, and MeetMe.

Choose the timing of sessions, workshops and performances carefully. Make sure you take time zones into consideration. Try your best to pick a time that works for as many of your customers and followers as possible. If that doesn’t seem possible, make sure content is accessible after the live presentations for those who couldn’t make it. It is a great idea to plan networking sessions and virtual events to repeat in different time zones so people don’t feel like they are missing out.

Promote, promote, promote! In addition to promoting your event via your newsletters and website, take advantage of the many social media tools available and by all means include video! Take time to brand and create strategies for each channel. For example with Instagram stories, create a hashtag and create filters to use on Instagram and Snapchat. Hashtags can be used across most social media channels making it possible for followers to track the event across all platforms. Live tweet pre-event info to increase engagement and interview attendees live on Instagram or other platforms.

Create a Sponsorship package that rivals your efforts for guests and attendees. Develop valuable sponsorship opportunities that go beyond a logo on your screen. For example, sponsors might want to support a virtual game, scavenger hunt, performance, swag, or breakout rooms. Sponsors also might choose to underwrite a discount code or coupon for Uber Eats, Grubhub, or other delivery platforms so participants can order a meal. Or, sponsors can create a VR experience on the attendees’ smartphones (no Oculus needed).

Drive engagement with easy-to-use online tools. Many of the games and networking activities will naturally drive participation in the event. You can also drive engagement with giveaways based on participation in an activity. Requesting input from attendees is another popular way to drive engagement. For example, ask viewers to submit questions in comments or through a chat tool and get them to participate in polls or quizzes. Encourage live tweeting and always like social media posts and retweet or share as many as you can. And at the end of the event, ask for feedback.

Photo courtesy of Supper Stars                                                                              Curated custom box for virtual events

Special Touches for a Fully Virtual Event

Virtual events can be planned to meet almost any budget. Like in-person events you can host speakers, workshops, and performers.

To give virtual events a special touch and to give attendees a sense of connection, consider coordinating meal or snack delivery. You can also create an experience with a chef or sommelier for groups to enjoy together.

A curated custom box is another way to help build connection between your guests and drive engagement during the event. Time the packages to arrive before the event when possible.

Hybrid Events offer the Best of Both Worlds

Some event hosts are getting creative when they have the ability to host a small group in a safe in-person setting, but still want to reach a wider audience.

Hybrid events have an in-person and virtual component and allow larger numbers to participate in a safe way. Like full virtual events, you can coordinate meal or snack delivery and swag deliveries as well.

You may be bringing fewer people together, but there’s still a lot that goes into planning and coordinating a successful event – especially if it is a paid event.

If you need ideas or help in planning your next virtual or hybrid event, I’m happy to consult with you to make sure your event runs well and leaves everyone with a great impression.