Planning in a Pandemic

Hybrid meetings are on the rise and there is no doubt as to why. In planning for events in the near future, creating a hybrid of in-person and virtual attendees makes sense for a lot of events.  Of course, we would love to be able to host thousands of people together in Greater St. Cloud, and do so safely and efficiently. Right now, that just is not feasible given the event landscape – as much as we wish it could be. We will all get there again, but here are some tips and ideas on implementing a hybrid structure. 

What technology will you use?

From Zoom and WebEX to GotoMeetings and Skype, these platforms have gained massive popularity but are they the right system for your event? The answer is not simple – it depends on your needs! These platforms are great for single-track speaker event layouts but maybe not for events with more complexity. Hybrid events can easily be handled by streaming the in-person content using one of the above platforms to those attending virtually but that might not provide the customer experience you want.

Consider looking into technology that allows for virtual booths, multi-track speaker layouts, networking, and more back end management if you want to amp up your online experience. Some platforms to consider might be:

  • 6Connex
  • Accelevents
  • ConnexME
  • Eventtus
  • And hundreds more

Just like selecting an in-person event venue (still looking for a venue, we can help), there are things to consider while choosing a platform for your virtual attendees:

  • Engagement features such as live polling, Q &A or surveys
  • Built in event sponsorships to help cover the cost of the platform, much like you do for your in-person event portion,
  • Do you plan to use this platform for networking?
  • Budget

While working on finding a platform, it is important to include your in-person venue in the conversation, as they can also help guide you on what systems they have used in their spaces and what A/V & Tech assistance they can offer day of.

Offering a hybrid meeting allows for a unique opportunity to reach a broader audience, especially now. The platform you choose to host your event will greatly impact the success and experience the virtual attendees have. It is important to do your research to find the one that fits your needs.

Got a platform in mind? Great! Now that you have your venue in place and your online platform figured out, what’s next?

Let’s get registered. Set a pricing structure for in-person and virtual attendees, and what they can expect.

Be mindful that your A/V and technology budget for a hybrid meeting will likely be higher, so keeping the virtual attendees pricing close to that of an in-person attendee could benefit you. We want to note that if you do keep pricing the same, the attendee will expect the same amount of content as an in-person attendee but perhaps not all delivered in one day. At this point, most of us have sat in on a training or event that simply streamed in content for 8 hours a day and our attention span didn’t last. In-person, this model may work with small breaks between sessions but virtually there are too many more distractions that come into play.

Consider recording all your breakout sessions that happen in person and provide them to your virtual attendees after each day so they can access the content on their own time. Plus, there are additional opportunities for providing the follow up content to in-person attendees that missed a session or chose to attend a different breakout since you would have these recorded anyways. Think about how you can capitalize on this content for your bottom line!

Looking for unique break opportunities, try incorporating some the following into your virtual breaks

  • Take a mind and body break and conduct a stretching session with a local studio
  • Do a puzzle, check out these digital puzzles from Greater St. Cloud
  • Create an event playlist for background music: check out this playlist of artists from the St. Cloud area. 
  • Visit a destination virtually! Offer 360 tours like these in St. Cloud or Globally like these.
  • Offer virtual games or beverages for a virtual happy hour,  here are some ideas.  
    • Bonus: Let a sponsor be included for some extra opportunities

The event is here, what will make it stand out?


Make all your attendees feel included.

Here are some things to think about as you look to the event experience.

Connections and networking are a large part of an event and often what an attendee remembers or the reason they return the next year. Be mindful of offering ways that all attendees can safely interact with each other. We have some ideas to get you started.

Create a personal touch before your event even starts with a pre-mailed box of swag for your virtual attendees that attendees are getting in-person and let your sponsors be seen and pay for these mailings. Looking to keep it easier? Try a virtual swag bag for all of your participants full of event content, sponsor coupons/flyers, and local area information much like a digital program or VIP newsletter.

Get the buzz going by connecting online and in person attendees with event hashtags, forums, and networking groups to share experiences before during and after the event. This is a great place to continue to foster relationships and for you to see what your attendees are doing.

Let us help you.

Hybrid events and navigating events with the current guidelines can be a daunting task, and for much of the event world a new one. Reach out to the team at Visit Greater St. Cloud for support. Everyone is in this together and Visit Greater St. Cloud is here to help!