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Conventa Crossover Hybrid Conference

And what questions you should ask...

As a rule of thumb, meeting planners should look for venues that understand the needs and requirements of specific types of events and have practical experience and references in relation to hosting them. Due to social distancing restrictions, digital and hybrid events are probably here to stay for the foreseeable future. The second option, hybrid events, are the most complex, therefore it’s extremely important to choose the right or, as we call it, the smart venue.

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Conventa Crossover Hybrid Conference

In our experience, there are two types of venues:

1. Venues anxiously waiting for the end of the crisis and wanting to remain specialised in live events, leaving the implementation of digital and hybrid events to external partners.

2. Venues that took advantage of the Corona crisis for a business turnaround and offer comprehensive support, including their own online event studios, top-notch technical support, and in-house innovations.

What suits you as a meeting planner or client depends on the complexity of the event. Choosing a venue where they are familiar with the new digital reality of events is certainly a big advantage.

When we asked European meeting planners in February about what they expect from venues, we received the following answers:

– 73.4% Contactless registration
– 59.5% Professional studio for digital events
– 58.2% Rapid antigen or PCR testing
– 35.4% AR services (real-time use of information in the form of text, graphics, audio, and other virtual enhancements)
– 26.6% VR services (computer-generated 3D environment)
– 8.9% Other

Among other things, they also mentioned expecting greater flexibility and adaptability to the new situation in terms of contracts and the financial terms of leases.

n=1176 meeting planners, Source: Kongres Magazine, February 2021

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Photo Credit: Marko Delbello Ocepek

In Europe, venues that tick all the boxes mentioned above are few and far between. Why? Well that’s a good question for venue management teams. Latecomers and slow followers will certainly have to adapt to the new situation as soon as possible.

Demand for ultra-technological venues that, in addition to everything mentioned above, also provide things like a 5G connection, a broadcast studio, 2D and 3D animation, is increasing. Hopefully, the supply of such venues will follow the same curve. In our opinion, finding a venue that covers most of the points is still better than carrying out a digital event in your home office.

Due to the uncertainty of the situation, we’ve put together some questions that you should ask venues in order to check first-hand if they’re a suitable location for your hybrid event.

The first deciding factor is definitely the size of the space. Can the venue even provide you with enough space in accordance with national health and safety recommendations? Never force your head through a wall if the location meets all other criteria but does not match the required capacity. That is not the location you should choose.

The rule is simple: for the estimated number of hybrid participants, you need at least 70% more space than before the Corona crisis.

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Photo Credit: Marko Delbello Ocepek

In addition, we recommend that you ask the following questions:

1. What is the bandwidth of your wireless connection?

Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transmitted (uploaded) or received (downloaded) per second measured in Megabits per second. The minimum standard we expect for hybrid events is at least 50 Mbps. However, we recommend that you download the program www.speedtest.net and check for yourself what the actual speed is at the venue. More is better!

2. What version of Zoom will you use for a hybrid event with 50 live participants and 500 online participants?

For a professional event, the venue should have a Zoom webinar licence. If they only have the free version for Zoom meetings, you will face quite a few problems with implementation. And not just with the number of participants allowed, but with many other things that the basic version of Zoom does not support. This also applies to other video conferencing platforms.

3. Do you have your own broadcasting studio for online and hybrid events?

A digital event studio is a big advantage. However, ask for references for hybrid events previously carried out. Check their portfolio and confirm who will take care of your event. A vetted technical team is the key to success. The team needs to bring together different profiles of multimedia professionals, especially professionals who have mastered programs such as vMix and different video conferencing platforms.

4. What kind of cameras can you provide?

Check to see if the venue can provide professional cameras with a resolution of at least 1080p. If they offer you ordinary PTZ cameras, that’s a red flag, as the transmission quality will probably be the same as video surveillance in your own house. In addition, you need at least two cameras for an engaging live stream.

5. Is your system open to different video conferencing platforms?

Serious venues provide open-source switching to various video conferencing platforms such as Facebook Live, LinkedIn Live, Vimeo, and others. If they offer only one option, this could potentially produce a lot of problems and additional costs at your end.

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Photo Credit: Marko Delbello Ocepek

6. Do you have an LED screen as a background?

An LED wall can greatly enhance the visual appearance of your event. This is especially true for hybrid events, where you conjure up a superb atmosphere for participants on both sides. For hybrid events, this is a great added value as it allows for animations and works really professionally.

7. Do you provide 2D and 3D animation for events?

Next-generation video animations allow you to show product operation, animation of living beings, and other realistic animations. These are among the key elements of modern hybrid events. Check to see if the venue provides the appropriate software.

8. What equipment do you provide for streaming video and image mixing?

Most studios provide professional video management software. vMix is the industry standard, but other solutions are of course available, including 3D animation software and various tools for interacting with the participants.

9. How much does post-production of videos cost and how fast can you do it?

A professional team will edit and cut your videos that you can later use to promote or sell content through your channels. They should be able to implement graphic and music elements, jingles, and everything we understand as professional content production.

10. Do you provide replacement of stage elements free of charge?

Being able to quickly change the scenography is extremely important. This is usually included in the rental fee, however, check it in advance. If you are charged for every small stage alteration you will end up with a massive headache. Venues that provide easy access for delivery of larger stage elements or even cars are at an immediate advantage.

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11. Is a rehearsal for testing out the idea possible? How much does it cost?

The best venues are aware of the importance of a rehearsal, which should be included in the rental fee. Check if the venue has included a rehearsal in the contract and negotiate a good deal. Without a rehearsal, it will be hard to take your hybrid event from average to unforgettable. Find a venue where the extras don’t cost extra.

12. Do they have a plotted layout of the halls in accordance with the new Covid-19 restrictions?

Hybrid events require a lot of space. In addition to 70% more space for the event itself, there is often a space dedicated to the production team, directors, and a lounge for VIP speakers. The venue should provide you with a floor plan with clearly presented capacities for the studio, participants, directing, catering, and back office.

13. What about data security and analytics?

Does the venue take care of the protection of personal data in accordance with GDPR legislation? Can they prepare an in-depth analysis of post-event results? Is the venue secured against hacker attacks and how? This is especially important at events where information and content labelled as a trade secret are exchanged.

14. Are there any hidden costs connected to cancellation?

This part is really important, especially in current times. When enquiring about costs, it is important that you are aware of the different payment options and deadlines. Request accurate information for Plan A, B, or C. The venue must give you a thorough explanation of the fine print in the contracts. Insist on it.

15. Do you provide contactless catering?

Ask the venue if they have experience with contactless catering. Request a proper presentation of the solutions and certificates proving that it really is contactless catering.

Additionally, ask if the venue has appropriate certification for organising safe and healthy events. In Slovenia, this certificate is issued by the Slovenian Convention Bureau.

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Photo Credit: Marko Delbello Ocepek

EXTRA TIP

If the venue’s team looks at you like you’ve just arrived from planet Mars when presented with the idea of organising a hybrid event, that’s an immediate red flag. One year has passed since the start of this pandemic and there should be no more excuses when it comes to organising digital events. That is why competent and professional people at the venue, who know the ins and outs of digital events, are a crucial piece of the puzzle. If you are good at reading people, the first impression will probably be the right one. Before you come to the first meeting or venue inspection, do your homework, so you’re prepared to ask the right questions. If you don’t receive the same level of enthusiasm or affection about your idea from the other end, calmly walk away, visit the next location, and start again.

Of course, all the classic advantages of choosing a venue also apply to hybrid events, especially easy accessibility, the possibility of free parking, and much more.

You can find more details about organising digital and hybrid events at:

1. https://kongres-magazine.eu/2020/10/how-we-organised-our-first-hybrid-event/

2. https://kongres-magazine.eu/2020/12/live-online-virtual-hybrid-events-high-tech-or-high-touch/

This article was brought to you by:
Natalija Bah Čad
Toleranca Marketing
Live & Digital Events and Marketing Agency
www.toleranca.eu

For more information, please contact Natalija at natalija@toleranca.eu.