As an event production company with almost 20 years of experience planning and producing virtual and hybrid events, we love sharing our knowledge with event planners nationwide. Below are some of the top questions we get, along with high-level answers and some of our favorite resources for you to learn more.

Contents: What’s Below

What do we mean when we say “production?”
Who is on your event production team?
What are the benefits of virtual and hybrid events?
What are the top challenges of a hybrid or virtual event?
How do you choose a hybrid or virtual platform?
What are the best ideas for virtual audience engagement?
What questions should you ask your event production company?
Examples We ♥ of of Virtual & Hybrid Events

What do we mean when we say “production?”

Event production refers to the planning and execution of the technical elements of an event — from sound, lighting, projection, stage design, and more.

It also refers to the creative and custom components of the event, such as graphics, furniture, onstage videos, and anything that impacts the overall look, feel, and experience.

Event production companies are responsible for consulting with planners to create a creative, professional look and feel of the event space that reflects the client’s brand and overall vision.

But what about virtual and hybrid events, when some or all of the audience is watching at home? In these cases, event production also encompasses the technical elements required to make virtual elements possible including cameras, management of the event platform, controlling what’s shown on screen, virtual attendee support, registration, speaker preparation, and more.

definition of event production

Who is on your event production team?

Every event production company will set up your team differently! Here’s how we structure it:

  • Project Manager: Your one-point-of-contact. This is your point person who will coordinate all the details of your event. This includes listening to all your needs, handling logistics, coordinating with speakers and sponsors, gathering assets for your platform, creating your run of show, and more. 
  • Webcast Producer(s): Handles the audio and video encoding, configures your platform, edits on-screen graphics, and handles tech-checks. 
  • Event /Attendee Support: Is on-call to help you or any attendees with unexpected issues that may arise. For example, they can help virtual attendees troubleshoot logging into the platform. 
  • Technical Director: Oversees all onsite technicians and ensures the in-person event goes as-planned, as well as the virtual experience. (Not needed at all events, only ones with a larger scope.) 
  • Onsite Technicians: Technicians who set-up and manage all equipment including cameras, audio gear, lighting, and stage and scenic. Some of these technicians will be specialized technicians including specialized technicians will be required for most shows including Audio Engineers (commonly known as A1 or A2), Video Engineers, Graphix Operator, Lighting Director, and more.
  • Stage Manager: Manages presenters, cues people on/off stage, runs rehearsals. You may also have a show caller, who cues up each transition for all the other onsite technicians.
  • Enoding Technician: This technician monitors the video stream the entire time, changing bitrate and making other adjustments as needed.

benefits of hybrid and virtual events

What are the benefits of virtual and hybrid events?

When COVID-19 struck, many planners had never executed a virtual or hybrid event. But over the course of the pandemic, many powerful benefits became clear. Based on a Statista survey of over 8,000 marketers, over a third of events in 2022 will be hybrid. A short summary of the benefits includes:

  • Increased Reach:While your venue has a limit set by the local fire department, there is no limit to the number of people who can participate in your virtual or hybrid event. With strategic programming and marketing, you can often generate more attendance.
    limit does not exist
  • Inclusivity: Virtual and hybrid events now open the door for many people to attend conferences that may have not been possible or practical if they were in-person only. This includes people with disabilities, people with family or caregiving commitments, and people who for many other reasons may have otherwise missed out on valuable professional development and networking opportunities.
  • Rich Data: What sessions grabbed the audience’s attention? Which speaker got the most questions? Were people engaging with your sponsors’ booths? These are all questions you can now answer easily with the data your virtual event platform collects in the backend. Use it to analyze what was successful and what could be improved, as well as what you can concretely offer your sponsors in terms of estimated leads and traffic.
  • Content: Hand over your best sessions to your marketing team to create valuable evergreen videos, blog posts, or other web content. These materials engage your audience year-round and promote next year’s event.
  • Access to More Speakers: Your dream speaker may not be able to fly to Columbus for 48 hours to give your keynote —- but the likelihood they’re able to speak to your audience remotely is much greater. Virtual and hybrid events open up a whole new world of engaging (even celebrity!) speakers.
  • Potential for Reduced C02 Emissions: Combined with other sustainability strategies, reducing attendee travel can often mean more sustainable events. It’s estimated that the global events industry is responsible for 10% of all global C02 emissions — and reducing the overall environmental impact of events should be an industry wide priority.

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What are the top challenges of a hybrid or virtual event?

Based on helping over 1,300 our clients with virtual and hybrid events since 2020, here are the top three challenges we see:

  1. Hybrid Events Require a Higher Budget
    The budget for a virtual event will (generally) be less or the same as an in-person version, while hybrid events will often be more.

    The three main components are: onsite experience, the virtual platform, and the people and equipment needed for connecting the two. A lot more equipment and specialized technicians are required to connect the in-person and virtual components than you may expect. There is also more set-up time required, as your team needs to test every element that makes a hybrid event possible. This adds up to increased budget over in-person or virtual only events.

    graphic depicting 3 parts of a hybrid event including equipment and audience

    However, the key to managing budget is to get a solid grip on your ROI in advance. Hybrid events can have the highest ROI if planned well. With more attendees, more engagement, and more sponsors, you can often gain a higher ROI even with an increased overall spend.

  2. More Team Members, Planning Resources, and Specialized Skillsets are Required for Hybrid
    Hybrid events have more moving parts. You will need staff to both plan and to be onsite, as well as managing the virtual experience in the platform. This can be especially challenging considering the events industry is one of the hardest hit by the labor shortage.

    One way to alleviate this staffing crunch is to hold the virtual and in-person event on different days. For example, host a day of virtual-only sessions the week before your in-person event, and then add recorded sessions for people to watch on-demand.

    This staffing crunch is why many planners opt to hire an event production company who can take the bulk of the planning and day-of coordination and production off their plate. They do this by prepping speakers, providing troubleshooting support, setting up the virtual platform, and other technical pieces so planners can focus on the overall goals.

  3. It’s Challenging to Engage Virtual Audiences
    Zoom fatigue is real, and it impacts virtual audiences. They have different attention spans, motivations, and needs than in-person audiences, and require some strategic thinking around how to keep their focus. This can sometimes be a challenge for planners, many of whom historically planned for in-person events.

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How do you choose a hybrid or virtual platform?

Our number one tip for choosing a platform is to understand the goals and priorities of your event. Here are a few priorities to consider. We recommend you rank them by order of importance to the success of your event.

  • Strong audience engagement options (like chat, polls, networking, etc.)
  • A unique specific feature that’s needed, like voting or randomized networking
  • Ticket revenue
  • Sponsorship revenue
  • Branding options on the platform itself (colors, logos, etc.)
  • Built in video production tools (switch between layouts, graphic overlays, etc.)
  • Registration experience
  • Onsite capabilities (eg. badge printing, check-in)
  • Breakout rooms
  • Gamification
  • Ability to access on-demand content post-event
  • Professional support services
  • Scalability (large audiences only)

Once you have your goals and priorities, you can evaluate potential platforms based on which ones fit your priorities best. For example, if sponsorship revenue is a top three priority, learn all the ins-and-outs of what’s possible for sponsorship placement.

From there, begin to evaluate platforms, honing in on your highest ranked features and priority. Attend demos, read briefs, ask your network, and read reviews (that are similar to your use case). Another helpful option is to attend a public event hosted on that platform (you can experience it as a true attendee!), as well as events hosted by the platform itself.

Sidenote: It can be confusing — there are a lot of platforms out there. Some production companies will ask you to choose a platform, and they’ll exclusively manage the stream. Other companies (like Meeting Tomorrow) will do the analysis for you, make recommendations, and then configure the platform for you.

 

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What are some of the best ideas for virtual audience engagement?

  1. Kickoff with a Game: Whether it’s trivia, a platform “scavenger” hunt, starting your event with a game ropes virtual audiences in from the first minute. Give the game as much TLC as your keynote, and consider rewarding the winner with a great prize.
  2. Add VIP Experiences: Create exclusivity with access to special content or networking opportunities.
  3. Create a Community: Give attendees a place to build relationships. Whether that’s a special Slack channel, Discord group, or networking lounge, creating a space for attendees to guide their own conversation helps them build their own engagement.
  4. Leverage Your Data: Gather your facts from previous events and to help you design. Using your past engagement data can help you judge the length and cadence of your event, and keep your audience’s attention.

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What questions should you ask your event production company?

  1. What events have you produced that are similar to this one?
    Ask to watch examples of similar work. Also ask for references.
  2. Do you have any advice for boosting our level of production?
    Get their recommendations. This is a good way to evaluate their experience and creativity, even if you end up going with a simple solution. Ask, “What new ideas do you have to increase attendance, engagement, production?”
  3. What trends are you seeing for this type of event?
    Is this company plugged in and engaged with what’s happening in the events industry?
  4. What are your contingency plans?
    If something goes wrong technically, what back-up plans are in place to make sure the attendee experience is as uninterrupted as possible both in-room and virtually? Especially ask about internet back-up plans.

two people sitting in front of a video wall with two screens showing remote presenters
 

Examples We ♥ of Virtual & Hybrid Events