With the end of Covid restrictions in sight, and many venues gearing up for a busy autumn/winter season 2021, people are returning to a vastly different events landscape. For the past 18 months, businesses have had no choice but to take their events online, exploring all the myriad ways in which an audience can be reached virtually. Some of these virtual elements have allowed businesses to connect in new ways, and they are now keen to carry these over back into the live world. What we are seeing is the birth of the ‘hybrid event’ - a spectrum of different ways of reaching audiences that spans between face-to-face and virtual.
PYTCH have opened four hybrid events venues since March 2020, and have delivered over 200 live and virtual events in that time, from our own venues and a few locations around the UK. Here are some key things that we have learned.
This is absolutely critical. In order to have any element of hybrid at all, the producers of the event will require a stable internet connection. This needs to be separate from the guest wifi, as we don’t want it to be impacted by all of the guests trying to post selfies on Instagram! It also needs to be a hard-wired connection, as WiFi can be unstable even at high speeds. You are probably used to talking about download speed when it comes to internet connections, however for hybrid events, the upload speed is just as important. Generally, a hybrid production company will require upload speeds of at least 10mb/s, and download speeds to match. At PYTCH venues, we have installed two dedicated fibre-optic lines that are not used by anyone else so that we can be sure we won’t be affected by internet traffic. Make friends with your IT team and consider upgrading your internet if it is unsuitable!
The virtual elements of a hybrid event make the setup and testing much more complicated than a live event. Planners should be preparing to allow additional time to build the production and rehearse a hybrid event. As such, don’t expect that a hybrid event can necessarily be in and out in one day, especially if it is a large event. Make sure that your client has considered the additional time required and planned accordingly.
Hybrid events will usually require some cameras to be set up in the room. These need to be factored into the floorplan, and raised to such a height that audiences don’t present an obstruction.
Don’t be surprised if a hybrid event requires a few more production crew than you are used to. Generally there are extra roles to be considered such as a stream engineer, camera operators, and directors.
By now we are all used to Covid restrictions. The good thing about hybrid events is that they will generally lead to smaller in-the-room audiences. This is great for social distancing, but be aware that audiences may be up to 20% of what the original in-person event might’ve commanded, which may lead to rooms feeling empty and under-used. Consider whether the event can be moved to a smaller room to make it feel more well-attended.
It is unlikely that the client or the talent will be hybrid event experts, perhaps having only done a handful so far, or possibly none at all. You should bear in mind that there may be additional levels of stress and nervousness surrounding the event, and the people involved may require more support than usual. Ramp the hospitality levels up to 11, and make sure that everything has been planned well in advance! You should be prepared to facilitate additional site visits and meetings to ensure everybody is at ease prior to the event day.
It would be remiss to not mention the Coronavirus at all when talking about a return to events. As well as all of the measures you will be well used to by now, don’t forget the additional considerations of bringing larger audiences and production teams into your venue. Wiping down of microphones (or even better, not sharing them at all), and keeping guests well distanced from the production teams and equipment to prevent contamination are both critical elements to consider. Also robustness of planning - do you have an event manager who can step in if the original person has to self isolate?
All of the above are just a few of the things that you should be considering when planning for Hybrid Events. If you would like to know more, we’d be happy to have a chat or invite you to one of our venues for a coffee. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0333 022 0171.