Find out the top venue selection criteria you should consider when planning a hybrid event.
While event planners agree that the future of events is hybrid – combining in-person and virtual components – most still haven´t hosted a live event since the pandemic restrictions started.
Indeed, according to EventMB´s State of the Event Industry Report, 71.5% of planners’ haven´t been able to host any live events since the first restrictions were introduced. However, 70.3% of event professionals actively plan in-person events, and 67.5% agree that events will be hybrid, including a digital strategy to maintain the virtual audience.
Behind these numbers lies a clear story: the intention behind hybrid and the awareness of its benefits are there, but making it happen is not easy. Hosting a hybrid event is not a piece of cake.
When organizing a hybrid event, event planners have to keep tabs on a wide array of tasks. They are essentially hosting two events into one, with each component presenting its unique set of challenges.
Among the critical elements of hybrid events is choosing the right venue. While the deciding factors for traditional live events used to be locations or catering, hybrid events require a markedly different approach.
Subsequently, we highlight the top venue selection criteria you need to consider for hybrid events.
Top Venue Selection Criteria
Health and Safety
The first crucial consideration when deciding on potential venues is health and safety. Given the emergence of the COVID-19 Delta Variant, which is significantly more contagious than previous variants, event planners must stay especially vigilant to avert potential outbreaks at the event venue.
Therefore, you have to ensure that the venue you chose follows local health and safety guidelines. That is not only in theory, but the venue should have written safety protocols and policies to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection.
In that line, enquire about the specific accreditations that each potential venue has. For instance, organizations like Navitas or GBAC provide accreditations certifying that an independent inspector has assessed and approved the venue. This guarantees a standard level of cleaning, disinfection, and prevention from infectious diseases.
Besides, consider venues offering outdoor spaces where the risk of infection is significantly reduced. If your venue of choice is indoors, ask about their ventilation system and whether they have professional air purifiers that eradicate the presence of the Covid-19 virus.
In tandem with health and safety comes the size and space of the venue. Even when it has everything else you need, if the venue doesn´t have enough space to accommodate your capacity while respecting social distancing, it´s not the right venue for you.
For instance, a venue that could have accommodated up to 100 attendees before the pandemic, may only work for up to 50 attendees now.
So, take a critical look at the different spaces in your event venue: entrances, meeting rooms, seating areas, exhibition/sponsor areas, networking space, stage, etc. The more space you have, the safer and more confident you will be when it comes to abiding by health regulations.
Additionally, you will gain more freedom to change the layout, making the venue look & feel appealing, modifying the seating arrangements, optimizing booths´ placement for exhibitors, etc.
Alternatively, you may decide on a smaller venue to make the setting feel more intimate and encourage deeper connections. In that case, keep attendance strictly limited so you ensure social distancing guidelines are followed, and everyone feels comfortable.
A/V Equipment and Technology
While health & safety and space are undoubtedly a top of mind venue selection criteria, you also need to consider the virtual attendees when procuring a venue.
In that sense, look for a venue that has adapted to the hybrid demands with technology, a/v equipment and a layout to optimize the experience for virtual attendees.
So, consider whether the venue has a stage, including high-quality cameras for recording and professional lighting to create an excellent experience for the virtual audience. If you want to create a hybrid event that truly engages virtual attendees, a cheap camera at the back of the room will not suffice.
To further enhance the experience, look for venues that have LED Walls and backdrops which will help you create a unique and interactive environment for both audiences.
Overall, approach the search for a hybrid event venue with the mindset of a TV broadcast production. Look for a space that can accommodate multiple cameras and deliver high-quality content to your remote audience.
Then, a strong Wi-Fi connection is no longer just a nice bonus but actually a must-have for hybrid events.
Indeed, your entire virtual audience relies on it. Venues with a slow or spotty internet connection will frustrate virtual attendees, leaving a poor impression and affecting the overall success of your event.
To avoid this, make sure to check the internet bandwidth and connection speed at the potential venues and perform multiple tests if necessary. And, ask the venues if and where they may have wireless access points that can extend the signal range and strength of the Wi-Fi network.
Furthermore, identify venues with dedicated IT staff in-house who can support you on-site if any issues arise.
Finally, among the top venue selection criteria is accessibility. As virtual events have opened access to a broader audience, organizers should approach hybrid with a similar mindset. What venue is the more accessible, allowing people to attend in-person without difficulties?
If you are opening doors to people by offering a virtual component to your event, don’t close them because of a lack of in-person accessibility.
For starters, make sure your venue is accessible by wheelchair, and there is accessible parking. Equally, identify whether all areas of the building are wheelchair-accessible, including the meeting rooms, stage, toilets, elevators, catering, and networking areas.
Think about providing wheelchair-accessible routes to your venue, so you facilitate transportation to your event.
Additionally, make sure there are wide walkways and circulation by wheelchair is not obstructed. And, determine whether there is accessible seating, with enough space and designated seating for people with disabilities.
In brief, the search for a hybrid event venue differs significantly from that of traditional live events. While only part of the audience will attend in person, you also need to consider the needs of the virtual audience to deliver a memorable event experience.
Among the top venue selection criteria, we can highlight health and safety, spacing, a/v equipment and technology, Wi-Fi, and accessibility.
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