It’s been quite a year (or two) for the event industry, and there’s a LOT to discuss. For that reason, PCMA – the largest, most respected and most recognized network of business events strategists – brought together industry leaders for their annual education and networking event, EduCon 2021. Biggest item on the docket? Bringing people together to create meaningful and safe interactions through a fusion of both in-person and digital business events.
Held at the beautiful JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa in Phoenix and at their Official Network Partner location at the Palais des congrès de Montréal, the conference offered expert insights, lessons learned from case studies, Q&A, and brainstorming sessions with event innovators and industry peers. Participants left with the frameworks necessary to create and execute their own hybrid and omnichannel events.
A little more on PCMA – with over 8,400 professional and student members and a global audience of over 100,000 business event stakeholders across North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia – they are more than qualified to identify high-level innovators and industry leaders who set the standard in the ever-changing landscape of business events. Among those leaders was Go Team Events Founder and President, Jared Young, who sat on a panel and shared his learnings from this most remarkable year. Here are some tips he gave attendees for successful virtual and hybrid business events:
1. Check it -- For any event, but especially virtual or hybrid, maintain a checklist before each event and make sure that anyone you work with has it, too. “If you’re hiring a virtual vendor, you want to make sure they’ve had enough experience that they’ve developed best practices. Virtual events should be overstaffed by your vendor, in case someone has a tech problem. Your main MC should be hardwired to the Internet for maximum speeds. If you’re hosting a virtual conference, remember to always have your next speaker on deck in case your scheduled speaker starts talking and you realize there’s an unforeseen tech, lighting or sound issue. You can quickly flip the script with a smooth transition and your guests won’t suffer the interruption.”
2. Practice makes perfect -- Test, test and re-test. Make sure you do practice sessions and that everyone is aware of the back-up plan. “We make it a point to test any guest, whether it’s a celebrity comic, a musician or your CEO, to make sure they are going to look and sound their best when appearing for your guests. We test them the week before, and then require that they or their assistant logs on 30 minutes prior to the event to triple-check connections. One of the most important questions you can ask any presenter on a virtual event is, ‘Is this where you’ll present from?’ If you don’t ask, then maybe they are testing from their office, but then they decide to present from their home, which has a bad connection and poor lighting.”
3. Tech hiccups happen -- Have dedicated tech-help channels, so that people who have problems can get help while the rest of the program moves forward. “We always have a dedicated producer and an extra tech producer on meetings, that way one person’s tech problem doesn’t slow down everyone’s progress. But it’s not just for helping guests with technical problems. Maybe you have a schedule change and you need to alert the MC, but they are in the middle of doing a raffle or introducing a speaker. Having a dedicated slack channel just for your production team allows for quick conversation outside of the Zoom, where direct messages can often get lost. It’s not as easy as a live event where you can simply pass them a note or whisper something to them from the side of the stage. Everyone sees everything on virtual meetings, so it’s important to come up with a simple way for your staff to communicate and troubleshoot in the background.”
4. Get in the zone -- Check, double and triple-check your time-zones! Virtual meetings have allowed groups from all over the world to get together at the same time, but what’s important is to make sure that everyone does indeed have the same meeting time. We’ve all been there when the time on the contract says PST, but the time on the Zoom invite is GMT, so we set an alert one week prior to an event to triple-check the times on the contract, the Zoom invite for the guests and the calendar invite for all of our staff, just to make sure everyone’s on the same page. The reason that’s important is most of us are dealing with two, three or even four points of contact in different parts of the world. For a small meeting for your favorite client just up the street, still good to check, but not as important as triple-checking the 800-person global kick-off meeting.”
About the future of business events, Young had this to say. “I think it’s going to be an ever-changing landscape, as we see how safe it is for people to get together. My feeling is that, as soon as everyone can get everyone together, that’s what we’re going to do for a while, because we’re going to be so excited to hug each other and high five. But I do think that livestreaming is here to stay.”