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Hybrid events have more risk than in-person or virtual events. And this is mainly because a hybrid event combines two very different audience experiences. As in-person events slowly start to return, organizers now are faced with the prospect of running two kinds of events that carry their own set of risks. They need to look at the new issues of social distancing and the criteria for letting people into events. But they also need to consider the risks that are brought from the virtual element of the hybrid event.
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There is a lot to consider but the more work put into your risk planning, the more reassurance you will provide to attendees and stakeholders. And the more reassurance you have from them, the more likely your hybrid events will be a success. Being risk savvy will also help you stand out from your competitors.
With all this in mind, have a look at some top tips to help you reduce risk when planning and managing hybrid events.
1) Visualize Your Virtual Audience
Event planners that are experienced in delivering in-person events will be familiar with the requirements of running an event safely. They understand the need to carry out a risk assessment, the need for a Health & Safety plan and the need to have an evacuation plan.
In your hybrid event, all those requirements remain because you have an in-person set of attendees. But you will now need to look at where your responsibilities lie when it comes to your virtual attendees too. So you should absolutely undertake a risk assessment, but it is not down to just walking through an individuals’ evacuation plan.
2) Be Clear on Your Admissions Policy
Managing attendee, speaker and other stakeholders’ expectations is a key focus for your event success. Your admissions policy for your virtual attendees is likely to be relatively simple. They access your email link and attend the event.
But when it comes to admittance for your in-person attendees there is more complexity to consider. The complexity comes from needing to manage expectations for admission. For example, will you be requiring anyone at the event to show a certificate to evidence that they are Covid free? Will one vaccination be enough? Or will you be administering checks and testing at the venue? And what is your plan for someone that tests positive? What will you do?
Remember also that it’s not just attendees that you need to consider but also exhibitors, sponsors, sub-contractors and more. Be clear on your admissions policy and manage expectations to help reduce your risk.
3) Secure Your Data
On a regular basis we hear of another security incident where people’s personal information has been compromised in some way. With GDPR and other worldwide data security regulations in place, the issue of protecting attendee data and reducing the risk of a breach happening at an event is even more of a priority for organizations. People’s attitudes are changing too – they seem to be a lot more wary about what personal information they share online.
As your hybrid event involves more moving parts and more tech than either an in-person or a virtual event it is imperative that you reduce the risk of data theft by thinking through where there is potential for exploitation. And then you need to find a way of preventing it. For example, rather than use a tech stack (registration, apps, engagement tools, virtual event platforms etc.) you may wish to have an all-in-one event management system like Eventsforce that will take care of all your data securely in one place.
But whatever you decide you need to ensure you know what is happening to the data, who has access to it, where is it being stored etc. Data is now considered a more valuable commodity than oil and must not fall into the wrong hands!
4) Adhere to Social Distancing
Social distancing is worth mentioning because it is new. It is not currently in the DNA of event planners because it is something that never needed to be factored in. But everything has changed and Covid will continue to impact on the way in which events are delivered for the foreseeable future.
For your in-person attendees, social distancing will be important regardless of whether people have been tested on location or have a certificate to prove they have been jabbed. Adhering to social distancing is important because of the way in which the virus is spread.
It is not just your in-person attendees you need to consider though. If you have a speaker going to a studio to be beamed into your event you also need to help them understand what will happen when they arrive at the studio. You have a responsibility to look after their welfare as well.
5) Determine Your Disability Plan
The beauty of hybrid events is that they bring together in-person and virtual attendees. This means that there are different considerations when it comes to disability requirements to make sure all attendees are looked after.
Event planners have continued to evolve access for in-person attendees. And that work is set to continue and improve further. In fact, legal requirements from countries across the globe continue to drive the progress.
When it comes to your virtual attendees there may be some more work that is needed to be done. For example, how can you help attendees that are sight impaired or suffer with their hearing? Do you need to have subtitles available? What can you do to make sure you comply with the legalities and at the same time provide a great experience for your attendee? It may be time to research the virtual disability side of things in more depth.
6) Agree Activities
It is important that you and your team understand the activities that will take place to enable alternatives if needed. That sounds obvious enough. After all, as an event planner you will be reviewing content and how it is delivered as part of your work. But, with hybrid events it is also about understanding how the content will work for both audiences.
For example, the speaker at the physical venue is on stage and requests that attendees get up and stretch their arms around and generally enjoy some simple stretching exercises. Will your virtual attendees be asked to do the same activity? If so, what extra guidance will you give to make sure that they do it in a safe manner? If you feel that the activity is not going to work, it would be best to encourage things that involve both audiences.
7) Dissect Your Programs
One of the most effective ways of reducing your hybrid event risk is to work through the programs that you have. You will have a program for the in-person attendees and a program for the virtual attendees.
Go through them section by section, line by line and establish exactly what will be happening. What is the presenter doing? What’s involved? And then you can work out what to do with the risks you have. Prioritize them and plan on how to treat them. For example, you may need to redesign part of the program or you may need to buy in extra bandwidth from the venue to successfully stream your content.
The key is that by being clear on what will happen and how it will impact both audiences you will then be in control of risk reduction measures to take. The last thing you want is to miss something obvious because you didn’t know what was in your programmes.
8) Have a Back-Up Plan
For any event you should have a back-up plan which covers key issues. In-person events have been around for years and planners are experienced in developing such plans.
What may not be so familiar is when it comes to making back up plans for the virtual programme. If you have speakers that are coming in via a web link rather than being on stage, make sure that you have a plan B. For example, what will you do if their connection breaks down? If you have a video of their presentation that they provided to you in advance, you could simply play it in. Prevention is always better than cure. Always have a back-up for your entire event.
9) Keep your crisis communications plan up to date
Event planners understand that the world is full of unforeseen challenges that can rock an event and the reputation of the organisation producing it. Knowing how to communicate with people at your event in a time of crisis is really important. Knowing who you should talk to, as well as how and when you do that can have a big impact on how effectively you handle the situation.
Given the added complexity that hybrid events bring it is imperative that your crisis communication is developed in such a way that you can address everyone or just the audience that is most affected. For example, think of a gas leak at your on-site venue. Or a major disruption to the transport system which causes a delay to your in-person programme. This is not an issue for the virtual attendees – but it can impact their experience. So it’s always recommended to have a plan to deal with the in-person attendees and a separate one for your virtual attendees. Keep your plan up to date. People move on, methods of communicating change and old data will not help you.
Insurance is NOT Risk Management
A small but nevertheless important note here about insurance. Having insurance doesn’t reduce your risk which is why we didn’t include it in our list. However, insurance is very important, and it would be unwise not to have coverage to meet legal requirements (which vary from country to country) and to meet your key risks.
And it’s particularly important that you understand what insurance is available. Check out the exclusions and be clear on what impact that has on you. What are you buying? Not sure then get advice from an insurance advisor or broker.
When it comes to streaming your hybrid event, there are some insurance providers that will offer failure of transmission cover. But, as mentioned, you need to understand what that means. Does it mean that if your transmission stops for two minutes, they are going to give you any money back? Highly unlikely. But if the whole event is unplugged and it is proven that it was beyond your control, then maybe there is some cover.
The key thing here is don’t just rely on insurance – make sure you manage your risks too.
Risk surrounds us. It is everywhere although most of the time we are not aware of all the issues that could go wrong. In fact, it would be rather daunting to realise that in the events sector we have more risks than so many other industries.
The good news is that there are measures that can be used to reduce your risk level to ensure you don’t stay awake at night with worry. And in this blog post we have highlighted some key actions you can take.
Hybrid events can take a variety of different formats and you will need to have plans in place for each of your productions. If you are running a multi-site hybrid event, all venues will need to be checked. You can follow our tips and apply them to all of the physical locations being used. And always remember both audiences to effectively minimise risk.
Considering hybrid events? Eventsforce offers a fully integrated technology platform that makes it easy for you to create engaging experiences for both on-site and virtual attendees – from registration and agenda management to audience engagement tools, live streaming, networking, contactless check-in and event apps. Learn more.