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It goes without saying that the events world did not escape the sweeping tides of 2020. While large-scale live events have experienced unprecedented challenges, AV industry problem-solvers have adapted to the situation.
The biggest of these adaptations? Hybrid events.
While hybrid events aren’t new, per se, their importance now is unparalleled.
These types of large-scale gatherings combine elements of traditional in-person events and virtual live-streaming. And, while the intuition of an experienced virtual event production company will surely help with planning a hybrid event, the ins and outs can be tricky—especially when it comes to the venue.
Before you step into the rocky waters of hybrid event planning, read on for our list of top venue questions to nail down prior to booking, including any question about:
- Contracts, pricing, and personnel
- Network, internet, and bandwidth
- Equipment and power
- Venue layout and availability
Contracts, Pricing, and Personnel
Creating a successful hybrid event is all about managing the give-and-take between the venue and your video production team. During the planning and booking process, you’ll want to determine which personnel you will be bringing in yourself, and which experts you can expect from the venue.
From there, you can factor these decisions into your budget and event plan to craft an optimal, streamlined experience for both your staff and attendees.
Be sure to ask these AV questions to scope out the technicians and personnel you’ll have at your disposal:
- Is having a technician onsite before, during, and after each day of the meeting—who also knows how to troubleshoot and fix network issues—included in the contract?
- If not, what is the cost to have a technician available?
- Are they dedicated to our event, or shared between multiple events?
- Will we have direct communication with this person via mobile phone or similar means, or will we have to go through another person or department to access them?
- What sort of response time can we expect from this process?
- What type of lighting and filming technicians are available to record onsite presenters for an optimal visual experience for our virtual audience?
- Are they included in the contract?
- If not, what is the cost to have them available?
- Are there security and administrative personnel available to enforce social distancing, guide attendees around the venue, and troubleshoot logistical issues throughout the event?
Network, Internet, and Bandwidth
More than ever, connectivity is crucial for the success of a hybrid event.
While hybrid events present the opportunity of virtually unlimited scalability, this opportunity also comes with far greater demands for:
- Faster internet speeds
- Better internet connection
- Adequate bandwidth
- A robust cellular network
With the ability to support far more attendees, you’ll also need to compensate for their increasing technological demands. While you may be spending less money on a smaller venue, consider funneling some of your budget into these elements to keep every attendee happy.
Before you choose your venue, make sure you cover the following topics.
Internet Connectivity, Speed, and Pricing
Internet is everything.
For your in-person attendees, they’ll want full access to the internet to send emails, stream content, and connect to any purely virtual aspects of your event. For your remote participants and presenters, the event essentially vanishes if the internet connection is anything but stellar. At which point, even being down for just a couple seconds can spell disaster for online attendance numbers, as they might think the connection issue is on their end.
Don’t get blindsided by sudden outages, poor connection, or low speeds. Ask these questions before committing to a venue:
- Who controls the internet at the property? Is it an AV company, the venue internally, or another third party?
- Can we get a copy of the internet rates, both for hard lines and WiFi, cost per technician, costs to configure the network, and any other costs that will be charged on the master account?
- What are the various speeds available, both upload and download in Mbps, in the spaces where we are hosting our meeting(s) and social events, both from a wired and wireless perspective?
- If your property can not provide the class of service or speeds we require, what are the options we have to bring in an outside internet provider?
Network and Bandwidth
Hybrid events require extensive network capabilities to enable a seamless experience for all of its attendees, no matter how far away they are from the venue.
In-person attendees will want to save important presentations and connect to fellow conference-goers on the event’s app, while remote attendees may want to engage in the interactive elements of a certain seminar. You’re suddenly supporting far more people logging into your event all at once. Don’t let their experience fall to the wayside due to inadequate bandwidth and speed.
When it comes to hybrid experiences like these, your venue’s network capabilities don’t just have to be expansive—they have to be fast.
Before booking your venue, confirm the following details about their network capacity:
- What is the uptime of your network?
- When have outages occurred in the past and what were the major culprits of these outages?
- What guarantees or monetary repercussions are there if the network should go down during the event?
- Is the bandwidth we request dedicated to our event, and if so, is the circuit we receive separated by VLAN (virtual local area network)?
- Furthermore, is the bandwidth in any other way kept entirely separate from other groups or users on the venue’s network such that we are given guaranteed Quality of Service (QoS)?
- Who is the backbone provider for the network, and what is their uptime in your area? These could be ATT, Verizon, CenturyLink, etc.
Check out Vario’s bandwidth calculator for your audience to ensure a successful event.
Equipment and Power
While the virtual nature of your hybrid event might seem intangible, its demands are innately physical. Without adequate power and energy supporting your connectivity, bandwidth, and audiovisual features, your busy event could turn sour.
Avoid disappointing power outages, price surges, and equipment malfunction by asking these questions first:
- What utility interruptions or outages have occurred in the past, and what were the major culprits?
- What technicians and resources will you have on standby to troubleshoot these issues, should they arise?
- What are the costs associated with accessing this personnel?
- Are back-up generators available at the venue for immediate use?
- What does the power distribution look like across the venue’s floor plan?
- Will it support the energy demands of more audiovisual-intensive presentations?
- If not, which areas are better prepared to support these aspects of our event?
- What audiovisual and presentation equipment is available at the venue?
- Is it included in the contract? If not, what are the costs associated with accessing this equipment?
- If no equipment is available, what installation, personnel, and costs are associated with using our own equipment for the event?
Venue Layout and Availability
The tricky part of hybrid events is that you still have to deal with all of the onsite elements of a fully in-person event. That means taking the spacing, layout, and availability of your host venue into consideration before booking.
Unlike in previous years, you can’t just assume that your hybrid event will take up less space or the same type of space as an onsite gathering. Before jumping at the first conference center or hotel ballroom you find, ask your potential host these crucial questions:
- Are the rooms in the venue large enough to accommodate an in-person audience given social distancing requirements?
- In other words: can you fit all your attendees in each location if they’re sitting or standing at least six feet apart?
- What outdoor spaces are available to host meetings, events, or presentations?
- What seating accommodations can you provide for those spaces?
- Are their outlets available for connecting presentation materials and audio equipment?
- What are the internet speeds in these areas, if any?
- Are these locations accounted for in our contract, or would we have to pay extra to access them? What limitations apply?
- How can entranceways and lobbies be modified to accommodate socially-distanced registration?
- Will the space be shared with any other event during the days and times specified?
- If so, what spatial protocols do you have available to ensure optimal QoS for our event?
- What visual cues are available to ensure attendees are not lost or confused within the venue?
- What is the parking and loading situation outside the space?
- Is a parking lot or garage available for in-person attendees?
- What options do we have to guarantee parking for attendees should the venue be shared with another event on that date?
- What spaces are there to load and install heavy equipment and catering without disrupting the flow of the event?
How Vario Handles Hybrid
At Vario, we understand the myriad challenges that arise when putting on a hybrid event. Not only are we familiar with the demands of this sudden pivot toward digital, but we embrace the uniqueness of each experience and lean into your vision—however elaborate.
Hybrid events are not about tempering your creativity or delivering an experience that’s “good enough.” This new age of event planning is about stepping up to the plate and taking advantage of the unique versatility of the medium.
Because at Vario, we don’t settle for good enough.