How To Pandemic Proof Your Events: A Client’s Journey from Near Disaster To Success
These days I think everyone would agree that planning anything, yet alone events, is no easy task. When the show must go on, the crux of this usually revolves around how to host the event—do you take your chances with a fully in-person experience, hedge with hybrid, or play it safe by going completely virtual? When weighing the various outcomes, the financial and social impacts of these choices and how they will be perceived can be downright paralyzing for event planners/producers. However, it doesn’t have to be this way, and there are steps you can take to foolproof your event despite an ongoing pandemic.
Just last week, we received a frantic email from one of our tech clients (who asked to remain anonymous), about their upcoming in-person investor meeting. Due to newly released data about COVID-19 variants, their C-suite presenters were concerned about travel. While some of their attendees no longer felt comfortable attending, cancelling the meeting was not an option. This ultimately meant flipping what was to be an in-person event to a hybrid one. For most events, such a last-minute change would have been a logistical nightmare. Fortunately, key decisions in the planning process provided the foundation and flexibility to prepare for this challenging turn of events.
After 18 months of virtual events, this meeting was to be the client’s first foray back into the world of in-person meetings and they wanted to take things up a notch. Part of this vision was to incorporate virtual attendee engagement features into their live event These elements included registration, personalized agenda building, networking, polling, emojis, Q&A over chat, surveys and a photo booth—all delivered via a branded, custom web experience and mobile app. Thinking progressively (and what would turn out to be preemptively) they saw all of these elements as opportunities to further engage their in-person audience.
Interestingly, while the event planners were excited about enhancing the overall experience, it was ultimately their choice to use Virtual Event Site’s registration module that saved the day. Given how rapidly things changed, the planners were in a panic, but after the VES team explained how simple the transition would be, they were immediately relieved. The first step was to notify the attendees that the event would now be hybrid with limited capacity. To do this, attendees were messaged across multiple channels from the VES platform including email, chat, push notifications and text. With a stronger emphasis on social distancing, it was decided that some attendees would only be allowed to attend virtually while others would be given a choice of in-person or virtual attendance. Attendees were prompted to log into the platform and select how they would like to attend. Within a few hours, all attendees were successfully reassigned. Next, the VES team configured the livestreams for the event and the platform was ready to go. Due to the effortless transition, the client was even able to coordinate delivery of the promised post-show cocktails—regardless of how guests attended!
With the platform retooled for the hybrid experience, it was time to finalize the production. The CEO would present from Moonlight Studios (a hybrid venue/livestream studio) in Chicago; two of the presenters would present from home using Produce From Home kits (PFH); another would present from offices in Los Angeles; and the rest would take the stage as originally planned at the venue in New York City. Accommodating the changes was seamless since the VES platform is supported by our family of brands, including Sound Investment which provides virtual broadcast solutions, on location video production, PFH Kits, live-streaming, and audio/visual services for live events. At the end of the day, the event was a huge success and the clients were elated that even with the shift from in-person to hybrid, all of the attendees had an uncompromised experience.
The client’s main takeaway was that having a back up plan that is inherently built into the system is paramount when planning events in this day and age. Virtual Event Site can provide flexibility while ensuring that every attendee has the best possible experience, regardless of any changes as to whether the event is in-person, hybrid or virtual. The meeting planners also firmly believed that if it weren’t for our turnkey offerings, the event would have had to have been postponed, or, worse, cancelled outright. They also said that going forward, they would always look for venues like Moonlight Studios which are equipped with virtual control rooms that can function as either a hybrid venue or sound stage.
On a personal note, having been so excited to see our tech stack deployed in a strictly in-person environment, I was equally happy that we were able to accommodate the client’s needs and bridge their audiences in a meaningful way. Looking towards the future, this scenario provides an interesting glimpse into the evolution of events and the deeper role that tech can play by connecting more people, expanding access to content and heightening engagement.