The largest event trend on the horizon for 2021 has to be the pivot to Hybrid Events. For many meeting and event planners, this is a first in their careers as meeting planners, and while many of our meeting planner operational skills will still be exercised, there is an added complexity with hybrid in terms of both design and engagement of attendees, through to execution of a seamless event. All meetings and events should have an element of event design to pave the way for the operations and execution of an event. With hybrid events however, where you have both an in-person audience and a remote/virtual audience, some additional thought and consideration for creating engagement for all stakeholders is required.
I decided to bring in THE EXPERT, and I recently sat down with Anthony Vade, CED (Certified Event Designer) about some key questions around event design, and more pressing, how planners need to consider design when looking at a hybrid event.
To start, Anthony defined Event Design for us:
The new world of Event Design was ushered in by the emergence of experience design. For many years the tech world has used Experience Design (XD) to understand the intersection of the human mind and technology. You cannot have an event without having an experience connected to it.
Yes, Event Design does include the overall aesthetics including branding, logos, colours and decor, but it’s also broader than visual senses. It also needs to encompass other elements human experience to create emotive. memorable and immersive experiences. It is well understood that Event Planning includes the operational elements and their execution. Event design comes BEFORE event planning; it’s the understanding of WHO it is for, WHAT is it for, WHERE are the constraints and WHY are the behaviours the event hopes to change important. From this discovery and understanding you create purpose and intention behind the HOW you achieve the outcomes. Design provides a solid foundation from which we can confidently transition into planning and subsequently execute the event.
Savvy event planners are embracing design mindsets, digging deeper into understanding the basics of psychology and creating impactful experiences with more confidence.
For hybrid events, the HOW quickly rushes to the front and centre – From a strong design foundation planners can better articulate HOW they are going to deliver the information. Creating a experience journey that enables instructional design. Asking and answering questions like:
- HOW can information be transferred into retrievable knowledge
- HOW can we take that knowledge and turn it into repeatable capabilities (skills)
- HOW do our stakeholders attitudes to subject matter affect their adoption of behaviour change, how can we encourage positive attitudes and manage the negative ones that hold people back?
- HOW do you create engagement that is people-centric, connecting minds and communities together.
- HOW can we create a space, ecosystem and atmosphere where meaningful conversations about the knowledge presented can occur.
Some questions that you and your event design team should ask regarding creating an environment that will meet these goals include:
- How do we connect that in-room experience with the remote/virtual attendee?
- Are they similar experiences in both modes of delivery? If they are different experiences, how do we ensure both audiences still achieve the same change and meet the events business objectives?
- How can we help ensure a high level of engagement an adoption of technology and programming?
- How do we nurture the stakeholders through the journey – Journey’s that may require additional commitment and time, beyond the defined parameters of the traditional physical event itself?
- How do we create EVOLUTION (long term and accessible), not REVOLUTION (short term and scary)?
- What does the experience journey look like for the remote user vs an in-person user (understanding user-experience, UX)
When you’re choosing a virtual or hybrid event platform, there are 2 key questions to ask:
- What will the user-experience (UX) look like as a remote attendee moves through the platform
- How does the user-interface (UI, the platform features) support the UX. Does it make sense to the average user, can they navigate the interface and feel like it is familiar and logical?
As an example, imaging your virtual event platform is a hotel venue. Your attendees expect to arrive and pass through a foyer space or lobby. If you forced them to enter via the loading dock instead, they would question why you made that experience choice and probably think it was ugly and dirty.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to design. For now, let’s move on and get operational.
To ensure that your vision is executed flawlessly, here are some questions you should ask of your venue/AV firm about your hybrid event:
- What is the IT infrastructure at the venue?
- What is the bandwidth access and restrictions in the venue/space?
- Upload speeds – this is what you need to push the signal out of the venue to your remote attendees – you need at least 5 Mbps, at least!! More is always better.
- Download – this is what is coming into your in-person hotel space, downloaded from the internet – this is typically higher than upload, but ideally, they should be symmetrical and dedicated to only the web streaming. eg, don’t webstream from the same WIFI hotspot the attendees are using to download their emails and post to Twitter.
- If more speed is required, what will it cost? What are the timelines and processes for the implementation of more bandwidth?
- Are there firewalls in place? If so, ensure your IT administrator knows what information to allow in and go out without getting locked out by the firewall. While many venues are addressing both upload speeds and firewall issues, it’s still critical to ask these questions.
- What is the bandwidth access and restrictions in the venue/space?
- Who is controlling the bandwidth and firewall information? Is it hotel operations? Their in-house AV firm? An outside provider if you have permission to bring one in?
- Who is accountable if there are issues?
- What is the chain of command for issues? What are the communication channels? If you are bringing in an outside provider, ensure this chain of command is clear, and everyone knows their role and who to ask when.
- What is the expected response time if issues arise? If an issue arises, you will have a short window of time to fix it as your program’s agenda progresses throughout the day.
More questions to ask about upload and download speeds
- If your meeting is two-directional, bringing remote speakers into your in-person room, download is critical to ensure you can bring their presentation into your meeting
- If your meeting is one-directional, pushing information out of the venue to remote attendees, with nothing being downloaded into the venue space, then the upload speeds are critical
And finally, what will your chosen AV firms ask you, the planner, about your hybrid event:
- How many remote/virtual attendees will be attending? Each platform can manage certain loads; this question will help gauge what the load will be on the remote server / your virtual event platform.
- Each server has a capacity; an overload on the server can cause the platform to crash
- Don’t forget that each individual may use multiple devices to log into the event – laptop, phone, iPad, etc. Just because one name registered, doesn’t mean they won’t use multiple devices and use up more server load than you expected.
- Where is your remote server (the virtual/hybrid event platform you are using) located? Who is storing this data and where? Especially if there are security, legal or government privacy considerations. In many cases, your server may need to be in the same country as your event is being held to guarantee data storage security. Ask the question to your supplier and clients. Will sending data across borders present a privacy risk or contradict organisational bylaws.
Remember, Event Design starts with the experience for the stakeholders, and includes the need to ensure the infrastructure can support the experience. To connect with Anthony and learn more about his work, reach out to him via LinkedIn here, or connect with him on all things social at @AVConnecting