It is difficult to believe that it has been a little more than a year since COVID-19 changed the way we live and work. When it was clear the virus was an issue, many people thought we would just need to “lay low” for a few weeks and then it would be business as usual. Unfortunately, that was far from what actually happened.
Although the pandemic is not yet over, it does seem like we can all see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. With precautions still being taken and three different vaccines now being widely distributed, people are starting to breathe a sigh of relief.
However, until the virus is a distant memory, the community can rest assured that everyone at The Conference Center at GTCC is staying up to speed with current guidelines and taking all precautions to make sure everyone who attends events at our facilities stays safe.
A great event option to consider in today’s climate is a hybrid experience. A hybrid event offers attendees the opportunity to attend in person, virtually, or a combination of both. As the number of COVID-19 infections continue to show improvement in North Carolina, Governor Roy Cooper recently eased some of the COVID-19 restrictions. Meeting rooms, reception areas and conference spaces may be at 50% capacity indoors. Here are some tips to keep in mind and help you plan a successful hybrid meeting experience in today’s environment.
Define “hybrid” for your event
Determine what form of hybrid best fits your programming needs. Your hybrid event might consist of 50% of participants meeting in-person at the event site while the other 50% tune in via remote access. Another type of hybrid experience may feature some sessions held with a live audience while other sessions are live-streamed with the participants in different meeting rooms. Or, your hybrid event may be a combination of both of these examples.
Strong internet connection
A strong and reliable internet connection is paramount when offering virtual elements to your programming. Make sure you have the best connection possible and frequently test to make sure you do not have “dead” spots in the conference center. Make sure attendees know how to log in and connect with the Wi-Fi by sharing the information in pre-meeting materials, reminder correspondence and signage around meeting rooms and on social media.
It is important to make sure all recording devices and microphones are top quality and in good working order. It would be ideal if the event space had the most recent generation of the top equipment available. It is also important to enlist the services of professionals to handle all live streaming and session recording so you are confident the remote portions of your programs are recorded and streamed without a hitch.
Have on-site technical support
Even with great attention to planning and detail, sometimes things still go wrong. Considering technology usage is higher than ever these days, it is a good idea to have an on-site technical support team available to immediately address any issues with internet connection or anything else related to technology. The Conference Center at GTCC has an experienced team ready to assist you with all your technology needs.
Be mindful of both audiences
Since you will be offering two types of experiences for attendees, be mindful of how each audience receives programs throughout the event. Carefully think through each program and adjust as needed in order to ensure that the in-person and virtual attendees are getting the most of out each session. Clearly communicate how on-site participants and remote participants can best connect with each other, with session speakers and event coordinators.
Offer social media engagement and networking opportunities
Networking is a big part of any event, so make sure you create opportunities for participants to connect and network. Social media can be a helpful tool to facilitate engagement among all attendees, helping everyone feel and stay connected. Create hashtags for social media platforms or have dedicated chatrooms for participants to post or “talk” with each other. Have virtual meetings or breakout sessions via Zoom or other meeting platform. Offer a virtual happy hour that includes all participants.
Make sure attendees have all necessary materials in advance
Mail or deliver all event materials well in advance to virtual attendees. This includes pre-event reading materials, schedules, contact information for registrants and coordinators, goody bags or other contributions from sponsors. Make sure your virtual guests are just as prepared for a successful experience as your in-person guests.
Record programming for later viewing
If possible, record all sessions, whether they are delivered to an in-person or remote audience, and make them available to all participants on-demand, even if for a limited period of time. This will not only be a nice perk for attendees, but a great way to reinforce the messages presented.
At The Conference Center at GTCC, we are constantly adapting our approaches for event planning and hosting in the ever-changing, and now slowly improving, landscape of COVID-19. The hybrid event experience is a great option to consider, especially in today’s climate. We are committed to doing all we can to make every event experience the absolute best. We welcome the opportunity to help you plan an event that includes a successful hybrid experience.