Planning5 Min Read

Hybrid Event Production Value: Key Takeaways from the EventHack Games

In this episode of the the EvenHack Hybrid Games, the hackers presented their best ideas for elevating hybrid event production value. Check out the presentations below, including the winning hack from Team Pakemany.

Team Pakemany: Turning Up The Heat on Hybrid Event Production Value

Team “Pakemany” detailed how advances in existing technology will enable event planning professionals to bring hybrid audiences together without minimizing distance.

Creativity gets best expressed through constraints, and 2020 amplified this philosophy for most event planners and professional chefs. As both industries strive to connect with audiences while navigating social distancing restrictions, event planning pros Dana Pake, Executive Producer of MCW Events, and J. Damany Daniel, Chief Imaginator of The Event Nerd, believe it’s time to lean into the distance.

The pitch made by Team “Pakemany” during the hybrid event production round of the Socio’s EventHack Hybrid Games created a new type of hybrid networking event for the National Restaurant Association Show. Focusing on the NRAS seemed a natural fit as, much like event planning, those working in the restaurant business must perpetually adapt with the current COVID times to survive.

“So much of who they are aligns with who we are as an industry,” Pake said. “Why? They’re survivable and adaptable, just like us.”

Advancing Hybrid Event Production Value Through Event Technology

The team described hybrid event networking that blurred the line between live and virtual sites. A keynote speaker, based in a central location such as Chicago, would use an XR stage with LED walls and floors. Satellite watch parties could happen simultaneously at venues around the country, conforming with each region’s social distancing standards. Virtual watchers would attend using event software.

Tapping into advanced holographic technology, regional chapter leaders would appear virtually on the main stage in Chicago, sharing concerns and asking questions about ingenuity, creativity, and adaptability within the industry. The team demonstrated how this could look using the League of Legends 2020 World Championship game as an example. A Zoom room for each chapter would display on the main stage’s LED screens.

The ultimate goal of the “Pakemany” team’s hybrid event? To change the relationship between speakers and their audiences, blurring the lines between live and virtual attendees, and enabling people to connect with keynote speakers in a new way, Pake and Daniel explained.

“We are not producing infomercials, we are producing experiences,” Pake said. “We are experienced designers who forge human connection.”

Producing Hybrid Event Breakout Sessions

The team also proposed ways to enhance breakout experiences for participants. These included a choose-your-own-adventure interactive video, where the audience decided what should happen after a character accidentally spilled coffee on someone else, as well as panels inspired by existing TV shows such as Hot Ones and Chopped.

Another option included giving virtual participants access to audio-only sessions, so they could stretch their legs on a walk while ingesting new content. To cultivate shared experiences, the pair suggested interactive chef demonstrations. The virtual audience would dictate the ingredients the chef used for an entrée fed to the live audience.

“We really wanted to lean in, and create an experience that brought the association together by showing their similarities and shared experiences,” Pake said.

Educating and Engaging Hybrid Audiences

Judges asked how Pake and Daniel proposed dealing with the challenges of educating audience members on advancing technology, and keeping them engaged instead of distracted.

Daniel explained messaging would play a crucial part of educating live and virtual participants about new technology. Using TV as a baseline, event planners would spend time before an event explaining add-ons within the event technology, and the opportunities they offered audiences to engage with content.

On keeping audiences engaged instead of distracted, Daniel said they’d focus on storytelling that kept participants engaged, a lesson observed by the most-effective teachers.

“It’s about entertaining people, and in the process of entertaining, we educate,” he said.

Team Pro/duction: Find the Right Recipe for Hybrid Event Production Values 

Team “Pro/duction” provided a crash course in how to create top production values for hybrid events.

Production quality can make or break hybrid event networking, especially when only a quarter of the audience attends at a live venue and the rest virtually. The lights, camera, and sound elements provide a great starting point when evaluating production, but event organizers must consider several other key components, advised Nanci Gandy, Owner of Silverado Productions, and Taylor Lucherk, IT Executive at Silverado Productions.

Gandy and Lucherk’s team, “Pro/duction,” competed as part of Week 6 of Socio’s EventHack Hybrid Games, which focused on hybrid event production value. During their virtual presentation, the duo delivered a detailed checklist event organizers can use when planning, executing, and collecting data from hybrid events to ensure both live and virtual attendees feel included.

Hybrid Event Production Value 101

Live and virtual attendees seek great content, so it’s important each speakers’ messaging comes across clearly and professionally. In addition to compelling and concise content, optimal computer equipment, camera, lighting, and audio placement remain key to production value. Gandy and Lucherk suggested sending virtual participants easy-to-follow instructions, so they can set up technology on their end.

Don’t skimp on speaker prep, they warned, most of whom will shorten their presentations to around 20 minutes to accommodate the live and virtual audiences. Make sure they’re comfortable with teleprompters and other required production technology, so they’re able to speak naturally during the event or a recording. To keep the online audience engaged, consider using engaging websites and an event app to supplement presentations, the pair from Team Pro/duction advised.

Hiring experts to assist with the presentation technology and production can be expensive, so Lucherk suggested event planners look for experts willing to volunteer their time and services.

“Hire the pros, get creative, be interactive, and end with a Call to Action,” Lucherk said.

Test Production Technology Before Hybrid Events

Plan to test your hybrid event technology ahead of time, Gandy and Lucherk emphasized as a crucial step in the production process.

Consider providing speakers with equipment kits they can set up themselves, with tools such as lavalier microphones that provide quality audio and clip easily on shirt collars. If you plan to use videos as part of a presentation, embed them as opposed to only including a link.

Above all, don’t forget to test the production equipment in advance. The four key elements of redundancy: Power source, hardware, network, and content, Lucherk stressed.

“Not only should they be resilient, they should be redundant,” Lucherk said of event technology.

Producing Effective Audience Engagement for Hybrid Events

To keep live and virtual audiences engaged, the team envisioned virtual booths, pre-packaged items, mini-commercial spots for sponsors, along with sponsored happy hours with drink kits sent to at-home attendees, polls for prizes, gamification, and swag boxes that can also be mailed beforehand.

Hybrid events would also feature breakout booths and chat rooms, where attendees posted pictures and talked with experts about products they’re interested in. Ideally, these would feature C-suite execs or other upper management-level experts, who can answer participants’ detailed product questions.

The “Pro/duction” team also suggested broadcasting the virtual audience at the live event, following the example of popular TV shows, such as The Voice and America’s Funniest Videos. The biggest challenge for event organizers? Finding the right balance of hardware and software to create an immersive and interactive experience. 

Don’t Forget the Call to Action!

A Call to Action ranks as one of the most important, yet often overlooked, components of hybrid events, according to Gandy, who emphasized the importance of asking participants if they visited the virtual booths and requesting attendees post feedback about the event on social media. 

Event organizers should then share that information with team members, and create a feedback channel that details all comments, lessons learned, speakers to invite to future events, and additional topics to cover.

Success starts with crafting solid objectives when planning a hybrid event, Gandy said. Otherwise, you can’t know the key takeaways you want your audience to receive.

Hacking the Future of Hybrid Events 

Socio launched the EventHack Hybrid Games competition in mid-September as a way to collectively craft innovative hybrid event strategies for bringing together in-person and virtual audiences. 

Every week, four new teams from top companies across the event planning, digital marketing, and technology industries present their best hybrid event hacks to a panel of expert judges and virtual viewers who tune in to gather new ideas. 

Register now to watch the next episode of the hybrid games and vote for your favorite ideas. The EventHack Hybrid Games air live at 1 p.m. on Thursdays, with a new session registration open each week. 

Don’t forget to tune in on November 19 to see who gets crowned champion of hybrid event hacks!

And to learn more about how Socio’s event platform powers hybrid events, don’t hesitate to request a demo.

Mike LaFollette
Mike LaFollette
Event Evangelist. Master Gardener. Dad to an enormous Alaskan Malamute! Connect with Mike on Twitter or LinkedIn.