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Putting together the perfect events team is a challenge at the best of times. Add the complexities of hybrid, and you can easily find things slipping through the cracks.
In fact, a recent industry research study from Eventsforce shows that nearly 50% of organizers say staffing is one of the biggest issues they have to deal with when planning hybrid events – which is quite concerning.
Some of the typical questions that come to mind – will a hybrid event need two separate teams? Are there opportunities for shared roles to cut costs? Should you be contracting specialists? And what skills and roles do you need to build the right team?
Let’s take a look.
1) Hybrid Event Director
For a successful and seamless hybrid event there is one key role that must be filled. That is the role of a Hybrid Event Director. You need someone with overall responsibility and the power to get things done. This person needs a complete overview of everything that is to take place and can step in and problem solve as needed.
Experienced hybrid event directors will play an important part in the design of your event. They will be familiar with what works for virtual attendees and how to maximise the in-person experience. Ideally, you should bring in a director before you get underway with your programme planning. But if you are already made progress with your content, make sure that the director reviews it from the perspective of the different attendees. Use the insights that hybrid event directors possess to ensure that all your stakeholders will be happy at the end.
A rookie mistake is to think that your Virtual Event Producer can become your Hybrid Event Director. Unfortunately, this will not work, because the virtual producer has a focus on the virtual production and nothing more.
Your Hybrid Event Director must be experienced with in-person events and virtual productions so that they can bring these elements together. And of course, they need to be able to synthesise the efforts of all team members and contractors to produce the event.
When the programme is finalised, it’s time to sort the logistics. Getting the logistics right is an important part of your hybrid event success. And whilst the emphasis may appear to be on the in-person side of things, it’s crucial that no logistics are missed when it comes to the virtual component.
For example, the logistics team need to ensure that any technical kit for regional clusters or hubs to participate is delivered on time for set up. This also applies to sending any ‘green screen’ set up for speakers.
The best approach is to understand everything that will happen at the hybrid event and work from there. Make sure all stakeholders’ requirements are met.
Production is more in-depth for hybrid events. But it is not difficult once you have established your basic requirements. Let’s take an in-person event. You will source a company that provides sound and vision. They are likely to set up the staging, your sponsor and exhibitor booths and more. For your hybrid event, you are going to require those same elements. In addition, you now need a tech team to stream your content.
Plus, you are likely to need a specialist company in audience interaction. Enabling all attendees to take part in polls, ask questions and make comments, is something no hybrid event can do without.
From this, you can see that it is best that you don’t think of production as meaning the virtual component only. You can use ‘production’ as the all-encompassing term that includes sound, vision, streaming and audience interaction to make sure you have everything covered.
Runners are critical at hybrid events. Whilst you might associate runners as being more relevant to film and TV productions, the term has a place with events. Pre-pandemic, it was usual to have microphone runners.
But because of the complexities of a hybrid model, the Hybrid Event Director will need runners that they can depend on. Typically, runners will undertake a variety of tasks. For example, ensuring that speakers are in the right place for studio or side interviews, checking that the venue staff have everything under control, or being sent out by the technical team to find some kit. Runners are invaluable. Make sure they are part of your team.
5) Registration & User Journeys
Your hybrid event has a mix of virtual and in-person attendees, but with the event tech available there should be no need to use separate registration systems. For planners this is very good news. After all, there is nothing more labour intensive and time consuming than working with different systems to effectively do the same task.
In fact, with the need to adhere to data security regulations, the less systems you are using, the better. But you should ensure that the tech is able to be customised appropriately. For example, to issue a Covid-19 safety requirement to virtual attendees would show a lack of attention on your part. After all, the virtual attendee will not physically be at the event. Many event management systems like Eventsforce are now geared to personalise registration journeys and packages for virtual and on-site attendees – they also make it a lot easier to manage all your attendee data in one place.
It’s imperative therefore that you have someone in your team (not the tech provider) to walk through all ‘user journeys’ ensuring that they make sense. For this task you need someone with an eye for detail that is prepared to follow the web-links and test everything. And it’s an even bigger bonus if you find someone that enjoys this work. You will then be sure that they will not take short cuts to finish the task.
6) Sponsorship & Exhibitors
It is best to have one team assigned for your sponsorship and exhibitors’ work. No need for separate virtual and on-site teams, just one. It would make little sense to spend time getting sponsors on board for either the virtual or the in-person offer. Hybrid events, being combination events, open more doors.
Make sure that your team is fully on-board with all offers available. That will give them greater flexibility in making deals happen. It is worth remembering that a number of sponsors and exhibitors are new to the virtual environment and to hybrid events. Do a bit of handholding and introduce them to how good their ROI could be through your event.
7) Marketing & Social Media
With hybrid, you don’t need to separate teams to do all your marketing work. Social media campaigns should cover the whole event and not just focus on meeting in-person. A hybrid event attracts virtual attendees, and they need to be included and not excluded.
You will require personalised messages for your virtual and in-person attendees depending on which group you are speaking to. But that is no different to having different messages for different marketing personas. Event planners are well used to this and as such hybrid events present no new challenge. The challenge is to ensure that everyone is included and that you don’t inadvertently alienate either set of audiences.
8) Data Analysis & Insights
Research shows that more event data is being captured today than ever before. Every time someone registers, signs up for a session, or takes part in a poll, valuable data is being collected. Data is a rich currency that many organisations want. They want to use it and learn from it. They want to be able to read between the lines and discover insights.
If you have sponsors and exhibitors at your hybrid event, they will be very interested in understanding both virtual and on-site metrics to help their decision making as to whether to get involved in your next event. If you don’t take data seriously you will lose ground to your competitors that do.
The data that comes from a hybrid event needs analysis. You need to have someone on your team that loves data. If they love looking through it and doing the detective work to make recommendations, you will maximise the benefits of capturing it in the first place.
Conclusion – One Seamless Team
When building your hybrid event team, there is good news. Many of the functions mentioned you will already have covered. But for some, you will want to call in external expertise. In fact, some roles are critical and are only available through specialists. Take, for example, the production expertise. There is always demand for streaming engineers so don’t leave it too late to book them in.
Throughout this post, there has been one ‘red thread’ message throughout. Quite simply, the message is to treat your hybrid event as one. Do not see it as two distinct programmes that are attached to each other. If you were to do that, you would miss opportunities for sponsors and exhibitors. And you are likely to annoy your attendees.
Put someone in overall charge, we suggest, the Hybrid Event Director. Encourage everyone involved to see how they play their part. View the hybrid as a whole, where everyone pulls together to make it work. Adopting this one seamless team approach will mean everyone will benefit.