Joanne Brooks is president of a global full-service production company, Creative Impact Group. She brings more than 30 years of experience working with companies to stage, script and provide the talent supporting team-building exercises, theme parties, special events, trade-show booth activities, and corporate meetings and conventions. She is also a supplier of premium and incentive items. Visit creativeimpactgroup.com.
Although COVID-19 vaccines are already being deployed throughout the U.S., it will likely be months before we are able to safely hold events that approach pre-pandemic attendance levels. Therefore, business event planners are continuing to dip their toes into part virtual, part in-person “hybrid” conferences.
Hybrid events give attendees the option to do what works best for them. Offering both recorded and live portions of your online conference allows employees who cannot afford the time away from household responsibilities or in-office work the flexibility to participate. It also allows those attending in-person the freedom to “be in two places at once” by enjoying one session live and another at their convenience.
Planning for smaller in-person events aligns with public health safety recommendations while simultaneously reducing costs for businesses, nonprofits, and associations already struggling to rebuild as the pandemic wanes.
However, to be successful and engaging for participants, event planners must create value both for in-person attendees as well as the virtual attendees. Whether the participants are attending live, digitally, or both, interaction is still just as important.
Select A Good Theme for Your Hybrid Event
A consistent theme across online and in person elements of a hybrid event achieves three things:
- It brings focus and clarity to your event.
- It grounds the event with objectives.
- It makes your messaging memorable.
A good theme needs to create continuity between the online and in-person event elements and sets the stage for the entire event. Consistent implementation of your event theme across online and in person elements helps attendees feel as if they are attending the same shindig, whether they walk into a seminar or login. Your theme should be included in all pre- and post-conference communications. Marketing materials, websites, emails, speakers, entertainment, décor and giveaways should all be tied to the theme.
For example, suppose your hybrid event theme is “The Future Is So Bright You Have to Wear Shades.” With this theme, you could have a meeting logo created that highlights the theme and works with your company’s branding. This could be used for all pre-meeting marketing and post-meeting marketing.
Giveaways could be sunglasses or flashlights to coincide with the “Future So Bright” theme. These premiums would be handed to those who attend the meeting live and shipped to those attendees participating virtually. To bring the theme forward, consider adding a professional futurist, influencer or even a psychic to speak.
Sunglasses could be used in promotional materials to “hide” a surprise celebrity entertainer. The entertainer could perform live, and the show could be streamed for virtual attendees. Breakout experiences can be implemented both live and virtually. For this example, they could include such topics as vacationing in 2022, how to stay safe when traveling, finance tips and tricks for 2022, etc.
Still searching for the perfect theme? Here are some inspirational ideas to build a memorable 2021 meeting/conference theme:
Switch it On
Stronger. Better. Faster.
Brave New World
Don’t Stop Believing
Now or Never
Stand By Me
Together We Can
Run the World
Power of the Player
Ain’t No Stopping Us Now
My Time to Shine
Facing the Future – Together
Shoot for the Stars
Using Entertainment and Food to Support the Hybrid Event Theme
Entertainment should amplify the theme of the event. A good entertainer should seamlessly tie in his or her act to the theme of the meeting. For example, if you have a country theme such as a “Grand Ol’ Time,” consider hiring a well-known country band along with hoedown dancers. The celebrity performer could do a meet-and-greet and answer questions after his or her performance for both the live and virtual audiences. Barbecue food could be served to in-person attendees and could possibly be delivered to virtual guests.
A theme such as “Achieving New Heights,” for example, could be used when a group is going to a mountainous area. Consider selecting a speaker who is an adventure seeker/mountain climber or similar to speak about motivation, overcoming obstacles, challenging times, etc. A themed premium item such as a backpack could be offered for both on-site and virtual attendees.
A Virtual or Hybrid Event Theme Could Promote an Upcoming In-Person Event
Companies may elect to host virtual or smaller in-person or hybrid events earlier this year as a prelude to a larger, fully in-person event at the end of 2021 or in 2022. Your theme can be used to promote an upcoming in-person large gala location. If you plan to have a fully virtual or even hybrid event soon and are planning the larger in person event at a later date, you could tease the upcoming larger event with theme elements in the smaller meeting. For example, suppose your large, in-person event is slated to take place in Las Vegas. In the smaller, hybrid event, a magician entertainer could do card tricks for online and in-person attendees. You could provide a breakout experience video all about Las Vegas or even host a virtual casino party. This gets participants excited about the larger, in-person event.
Putting It All Together
Although hybrid events take a bit more planning than those that are purely virtual or live, they offer attendees unmatched cost-savings, flexibility and convenience. A well-executed, consistent theme throughout the live and virtual elements should make all attendees feel as if they had the same engaging experience. | I&FMM |