A virtual and hybrid event attendee listens to a wine sommelier explain wine pairings at a small hybrid event. Additional attendees view remotely and are connected to the event on a big screen. Photo: Tom Cook Photo
Virtual and hybrid events have been on the upswing since the 2008 recession, but 2020 pushed them to the forefront. As EJP Events fielded many requests to move events online this year, we employed our existing knowledge and pulled in technical production teams, as well as software platforms like Whova, Eventsquid, and vFairs, in order to create compelling virtual and hybrid event offerings.
This table is set for a virtual at home wine experience, complete with charcuterie box, bottles of wine, notebook, and the computer with which to participate in the event.
The challenge, however, was how to relay our vision to new clients. As much as we love to dial in every detail and think critically about the attendee experience (have you ever thought how many physical items an attendee will need to gather in order to be on camera at a virtual wine dinner? We have!), it’s hard to convey that to someone who has never done this before. And it’s not like we could go into our existing clients’ living rooms and take photos of them attending our events during a pandemic, let alone the privacy issues!
Livestreaming and video-recording of events has become de rigeur due to the pandemic-created virtual and hybrid event requirements starting in 2020. Photo: Tom Cook
So we put on our creative agency hats, and put together a content shoot (or styled shoot as it’s known in the weddings world). Emee and Katherine spent many hours in the fall brainstorming over Zoom, which best practices would make a virtual event shine; as well as what needs to be done to make your small hybrid event not only fun and memorable, but over-the-top in safety. We even experienced the now-common pandemic phenomenon of having everything scheduled and ready to go for our shoot event, only to have Multnomah County go into a four-week freeze and have to re-schedule the entire event and all its vendors.
We’re happy to note that because of this team and their experience and professionalism, it reinforced our faith in the event process and things went off without a hitch. (Unless you count that Emee forgot her on-camera outfit and had to send someone back for that.) And we now have this wonderful content to share with you, that I hope tells the story of how EJP Events would envision a safe, engaging, delightful, and productive virtual or hybrid event where everything is dialed in, from the food and drink, to the individual sanitized microphones on each attendee. Check it out in the gallery below. Our main ideas are:
- Tell people what to do. Pre-COVID, people didn’t need a lot of instruction at a networking event or a happy hour. During COVID, however, structure and format is needed. Open networking leads to too-close gathering. Offer each attendee their own seat, table, or area and provide a program of activities.
- Speaking of program, make sure to explain the program to everyone through multiple channels: Pre-event communications, on-site signage and directionals, live staff offering directions and guidance, and audible instructions through the use of announcements.
- If people are attending remotely as well as in-person (a “hybrid event”), ensure that the home viewer is not left out of the action by creating an online, digital broadcast that is just as interesting as the in-person experience. Make sure audio is good, not just of the speaker but of the in-person attendees, to give home viewers the feeling of “being there”. Offer opportunities for the home viewer to be “seen” at the in-person event and interact with the in-person guests. It’s a two-way street!
There are so many more details I could share, so I hope you’ll follow up with us if you have questions. For those of you who believe we’ll be back to normal and there’s no reason to keep perfecting virtual and hybrid events, here are a few headlines and quotes from news around the world:
“Virtual Events, Other “COVID Trends” Likely to Continue to Mid-2021, Meetings and Events Director Says“
“Health expert predicts concerts, sporting events won’t return until ‘fall 2021 at the earliest“;
“Once my family and I are vaccinated, I would change behaviors, except I can’t imagine being in a crowd or attending any crowded events until at least 80 percent of the population is vaccinated.”— Julie Bettinger, associate professor, University of British Columbia“
“David Nash, M.D., who serves as dean emeritus at Jefferson College of Population Health, anticipates that large in-person events could return with enhanced safety measures “deep into 2021 — the last quarter.”
Location: Skyrise / Remote.ly
Catering: Charcuterie Me
Photography: Tom Cook Photo
Planning: EJP Events
Florist: Mix Mod
Dessert: Missionary Chocolates
Rentals: The Party Place
Wine: Domaine Roy + fils
Signage: The Fresh Hues
Stylist: What’s On Kate’s Plate