Planning hybrid events is a combination of keeping track of small details and taking some big decisions. The venue? It’s one of the most important decisions you’ll make as an organizer, because the smallest oversight when picking the venue can blow up, causing huge issues on the day of the event. And if you’ve never hosted a hybrid event before, it may feel a little overwhelming trying to figure out which is the right venue for your event.
There’s a lot to think about and a lot riding on your choice, but don’t stress. If you carefully evaluate the following factors, you’ll end up with a wishlist that you can use to start your search
- Internet connectivity
- Space and equipment
- Power supply
- In-house support
- Dry runs
- Safety measures
Now, let’s break each of these down.
1. Internet connectivity
This one’s a no-brainer.
79% of event professionals feel that wifi performance and availability are a big issue in the event industry according to a study by EventMB. 44% of the participants also said that having poor wifi was one of the main frustrations they faced when dealing with venues.
Internet connectivity will be central to hosting an integrated event experience for both your in-person and virtual attendees. You’ll need excellent connectivity and bandwidth so that live-streamed sessions and pre-recorded videos play without interruption for your virtual attendees. And your in-person attendees will need to be able to access your event app to access virtual content, post to social media, and connect and network with virtual attendees.
To this end, the venue should have an Internet Service Provider (ISP) that is capable of processing high bandwidth and can keep the connection secure, even in a high-density environment. It’s best if you confirm with the venue that you have dedicated bandwidth and not shared bandwidth, as this will guarantee that you have consistent internet connectivity throughout the event. A venue that doesn't offer dedicated bandwidth will most likely not have fiber optic cable either.
Here are some other considerations related to internet connectivity that you should look for:
- A streaming speed of at least 10 Gigabytes (GB) with low latency
- Dual-band WiFi that offers a frequency of 2.4 GigaHertz (GHz) and 5 GHz for certain users
- A latency speed or ping of 30 milliseconds or less along with a rate of 2 MP per 100 users
- A networking engineering team that is available on-site to assist you during outages
Be sure to screen your venues with these requirements in mind, and vet their online streaming capabilities through the online event platform you are using so there are no issues later. When you’ve chosen a venue, work with them to finesse your requirements. Even if you have to pay more for a larger streaming package, it will be worth it to avoid any stress and hassle on the day of the event.
2. Space & Equipment
When you’re organizing a hybrid event, the venue space is just as important as the right equipment. Not only does your venue need to accommodate the number of attendees you’re expecting, but it also needs to have the space for any setup you’re considering - like a stage for instance, with lighting and cameras.
Think about these questions when evaluating the space of a venue:
- How are people going to walk around the venue during your event?
- If you’re planning to showcase any products via booths or a special setup, is there adequate space to do this?
- If a stage isn’t available, can one be set up? And is there space to accommodate your AV requirement?
- Does the venue have high-definition cameras for your live-streaming needs, including ones that can support a wide range of screen sizes? Do they provide high-quality microphones?
- Where will attendees register or check in?
- Is there space for your main stage as well as areas for smaller group discussions and for networking?
- Where should audio and video equipment be stationed?
From AV capabilities to dedicated studio space, the right venue can help you take advantage of the expertise and infrastructure they offer to ensure that your audience is able to have a good experience.
3. Power supply
No one wants a power cut to bring everything to a halt, so check that your venue has the capability to support your power needs, including entertainment, lighting, decorations, video and audio equipment, photo booths, band, catering, etc. And don’t underestimate the value of a good power backup system.
4. In-house support
Hosting a hybrid event that caters to a live as well as remote audience at the same time can be challenging because not all companies have a team that is large enough to take care of both your virtual attendees and your in-house attendees.
Having an in-house support team will make the job easier for you.
Having a capable and friendly venue team to work with means that they can help address issues attendees face at the physical venue, allowing you to focus on other pressing issues of your hybrid event like attendees engagement, integrating sponsorships into your event. If you’re working with a studio partner to produce your hybrid event, keep in mind that you’ll be able to leverage the talent on their team as well.
Either way, ensure that you have the following professionals support the event, regardless of whether they are on your team, or work for the studio partner or the venue:
- A video operator who can ensure that the video is recorded at all times and who can work with your team to live-stream the sessions.
- An AV operator who can set up and operate equipment used to enhance hybrid events, such as microphones, video recorders, projectors, lighting and sound mixing equipment
- Technical support to help in case internet connectivity goes awry
If the venue does not have in-house support, you can negotiate your venue package pricing since you will be sourcing support yourself, and which - though necessary - can take up a significant amount of your budget.
5. Dry runs
For ultimate peace of mind, choose a venue that lets you hold practice runs before the main day. There are 100 different things that can go wrong on the day of your event, so having the opportunity to hold a dry run, check all the essentials like the internet speed, audiovisual equipment etc, and fix any issues is invaluable.
Protip: Keep in mind that many of your speakers may not be 100% comfortable with interacting with a live and virtual audience and other speakers simultaneously, so allowing them to practice at the venue will help them feel more comfortable and confident on the day of the event as well.
Most venues should give you the time you need to set up and practice the day before your event. However, if you are getting access only on the day of your event, you’ll need to consider whether your team will be able to combat major problems on the spot or not.
6. Safety measures
With variants of the pandemic emerging every other day, you’ll now have to deal with twice the safety issues as before. For in-person attendees, the venue will have to conform to the safety regulations of their respective local and national governments.
Pro-tip: Look for a venue that has well-documented and clear safety policies and protocols. When your attendees see that the venue is committed to keeping them safe, your on-site attendance will improve.
Keep these factors in mind when evaluating potential venues, and you should end up with one that’s the perfect partner for your hybrid event. And if ever in doubt, just think about the venue from an attendee’s perspective. How would you feel if you were attending a hybrid event in the space? Does it have everything that would make an attendee feel delighted to attend the event, as well as looked after during it? Is there anything that would cause discomfort or stress?
Keep customer-centricity in mind when picking the venue, and you won’t go wrong.