November 30, 2020

UVMEXPO pivoting to hybrid

Part 2 - We will be reviewing the venue & the content and how we had to adapt our thinking.

The venue

In terms of the venue, we were fortunate in this regard, but the first consideration above all else when thinking about our venue was safety. The Chamber Space, as a MIA member, used the guidelines and obtain the accreditation, as well as the ‘We’re Good to Go’ accreditation from Visit Britain. The venue also has a thermal imaging camera for temperature monitoring in reception; health declaration and track & trace QR code links; social distancing signage; one-way systems; hand-sanitizer stations through-out; and a trained team. All of which reassured us that our event would be safe.

After safety, the next most important aspect needed from the venue was bandwidth, in order to successfully stream our live content onto the platform, a reliable and strong broadband service was essential. Beyond this we also needed strong and reliable wifi access for everyone (organisers, speakers, attendees and exhibitors), in order to access the platform through a mobile device (laptop, tablet or phone).

Another key benefit, more specific to Chamber Space, was the large number of meeting spaces available within the building. This enabled us to allocate an individual & dedicated meeting room/space for each of our live exhibitors, which in turn allowed them the opportunity to meet our live attendees (via pre-arranged meetings organised through the platform) and remain compliant in terms of the number of attendees. The venue was also able to offer additional areas for a socially-distanced speakers lounge, catering & refreshment areas, production/crew office and storage.

Chamber Space provided refreshments through-out the day from its self-serve coffee stations, which had socially distance queueing and sanitiser stations. The lunch was provided by Gusto Italian, who created individual bento-style lunch boxes for the live attendees, exhibitors, speakers, organisers & crew.

The lessons:

1. We were rather reliant on the venue to manage the health & safety (including Covid-safety) aspect of our event, and they were amazing. However, as the event planner don’t forget health & safety should also be your priority as well.

2. Finding the right venue and an accredited venue is as important as it was before. Ensure it has good broadband, understands how to look after your customers and the specific needs & requirements for your event - make them part of your team. To find venues like this visit www.uniquevenuesofgreatbritain.co.uk

The content

As we had pivoted to a hybrid conference and exhibition, we had to consider what might be included, as they say, ‘Content is King’.

Having delivered a number of virtual networking sessions and watched numerous industry webinars during lockdown, to a certain extent the key topics to cover were some-what obvious – the future of our industry; the impact of technology and importance of safety. However, we didn’t just want to repeat what had already been discussed, but rather use the topics to create conversation and spark creativity. The key to this was finding great industry speakers and providing a balanced view with speakers from different sectors of our industry, including agencies, customers, venues and suppliers. So, each member of the team pulled out their little black books, and we started to compile our incredible list of speakers & panellists.

Keeping an element of tradition for a conference & exhibition, we allocated set time for our attendees to connect with our exhibitors and to have refreshments. Whilst we knew this would keep our live and some virtual attendees engaged, we also considered how we would keep our other virtual attendees engaged during these periods.

Reports and webinars have highlighted the lower attention span of virtual attendees, the increase in zoom fatigue, and the importance of interactive tools and other elements of engagement. Therefore, we decided to create additional sessions, with slightly alternative content, delivered from a separate break-out room/space during these refreshment breaks. This gave us the added benefit of an opportunity to clear, clean and prepare the main presentation room in-between sessions.

We had our agenda, we had our speakers and a variety of ways to engage all our attendees.

The lessons:

1. Your event content is going to vary considerably depending on your business and your events objectives. But, to quote Juliet Tripp ‘If Content is King, Delivery is Queen’, so think about who and how each session is going to be delivered. Try to provide variation by considering a combination of live presentations, panel sessions, engagements and pre-recorded content. Also, think about how your content is going to engage each and every member of your audience.

2. Don’t just thing about the content for the day of your event. Consider creating pre-recorded content or engagement activity for your attendees before the event actually starts. And by its very nature, a hybrid event means you have live steamed content, so make sure you record it. This creates longevity (think of it as a ‘Catch-up TV’ opportunity) and a potential further audience you could target who missed the live event, as well as post-event digital/social media follow-up content.  

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