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May 30, 2021
Event Tips

6 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Hybrid Event Venue

6 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Hybrid Event Venue

After an uncertain year for event organizers (and, let’s be real, everyone else), we’re finally at a point where we can dip our toes back into in-person events. Enter hybrid events, the perfect combo of on-site experiences and virtual access -- a smart format to boost engagement and attendance.

When shifting your event strategy from virtual experiences to hybrid formats that allow guests to gather in-person again, it can be tempting to rush into max-capacity in-real-life events. We all want to get back to the hustle and bustle of the events we used to put on! But with hybrid events as the new norm, there comes a new set of considerations when looking for venues. From tech support to COVID safety, you need to be sure that your venues can handle the unique demands of hybrid events.

In this post, we’ll go over six important questions to ask about both on-site and virtual event components when choosing a venue for a hybrid event.

1. Can the venue support your tech needs?

With the advent of hybrid events, a venue’s basic camera and high-speed internet won’t cut it anymore. To stream professional-grade video and audio from your on-site event to your online audience, you’ll need to find a venue that goes beyond the basic recording setup.  

Start by identifying your tech needs. What are your in-person event components, and what are your virtual components? If you host a trade show that’s live-streaming in real time to virtual attendees, you’ll need a venue with a more robust tech infrastructure. If you’re putting on an in-person conference and making video content available online after the fact, you might be able to get away with a simpler setup.

The Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) lays out the most important tech needs for hybrid events; consider the following when you’re looking through a prospective venue’s tech specs:

  • Internet speed. How much bandwidth is available? Is the venue able to offer you a designated, hard-wired connection? The PCMA recommends a T1 line for virtual audiences of around 1,000 people.
  • Camera requirements. Will your event need a speciality live-streaming camera for each session room? Do you plan to run your presentations like a technical broadcast for your at-home viewers, requiring a switcher?
  • Audio requirements. How will you be micing your presenters? To make sure that your attendees both on-site and online get crystal-clear audio, having lavalier mics for speakers and a handheld mic for audience questions ensure clarity.
  • Encoder. Broadcast high-quality A/V for your audience at home by making sure your professional live streaming system can connect to your event management platform.
Keep in mind that if you're using PheedLoop, you and your AV team can take immediate advantage of our industry leading native RTMP solutions so that you have a perfectly seamless broadcast from on-site to at-home!

2. What COVID protocols does the venue have in place?

As much as we wish we could flip a switch and not have to worry about hand sanitizer stations or 6-feet-apart signs ever again, COVID safety protocols should be top of mind when choosing a venue for your hybrid event. Keep your on-site guests safe as we transition out of the worst of the pandemic by opting to host your in-person components at a venue that’s working to prevent the spread.

Key COVID-19 safety protocols to consider include:

  • Mask policies. Is your venue still requiring guests to wear face masks while indoors?
  • On-site health checks. How does your venue screen guests? Temperature checks upon arrival, rapid COVID-19 tests, UV door barriers?
  • Sanitizer stations. Are there hand sanitizer dispensers strategically placed near bathrooms, session room entrances and other high-touch areas?
  • COVID signage. Does your venue have enough signage to cover the space, reminding guests about social distancing, washing their hands and wearing masks? What about placards that staff can change out to signal whether or not surfaces have been cleaned between guests?

Again, if you're using PheedLoop, a key tech component you'll want to use is the Touchless Check-In system, as it's at check-in where a significant amount of contact takes place. We've upgraded and refreshed our check-in kiosks and software that you can run on your own devices to make this as touch-free an experience as possible!

3. What’s included (or not included) in the venue’s contract?

You might see some new terms in your venue contracts in a post-COVID world. With the seemingly impossible turning the world upside down, venues are going to want to make sure that they don’t get caught in financially compromising contracts. Pre-COVID contracts won’t be enough to protect you from uncertainty, so aim for a comprehensive agreement that covers all your bases.

After the events of the past year or so, venues might start including the following clauses pertaining to COVID safety and event management in their contracts:

  • Cancellation and postponement policies. Make sure you’re clear on who is responsible for what costs in the event you have to cancel or reschedule your event.
  • COVID liability. What happens if there are cases of coronavirus traced to your event, or an asymptomatic guest is allowed inside? Who bears the risk of COVID-related illness or injury in the event that something goes wrong -- you, or the venue?
  • Force majeure. Force majeure clauses relieve both parties of contractual obligations when circumstances out of their control arise, such as, say, a global pandemic. As we start to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, legal experts at Venable LLP recommend expanding the force majeure clause in your contract to include circumstances that make events “commercially impractical,” in addition to the usual “illegal or impossible.”

Venues likely have insurance to protect themselves, but it still may be worth looking into purchasing event insurance for the on-site components of your hybrid event. We hear it time and time again these days: you can never be too careful.

4. How much does venue rental cost?

You know what gear you’ll need to pull off a stellar hybrid event, you have your COVID safety plan in place and your contract is looking good -- so how much is your hybrid event going to run you? With the added elements of engaging and broadcasting to online attendees while simultaneously running your on-site experience, hybrid events are likely going to cost more than an all-virtual event or your standard, pre-pandemic in-person event.

That doesn’t mean you should ditch your hybrid event strategy, as event professionals see hybrid formats leading the way forward. Here are some cost-related hurdles you might run into when planning the in-person side of your next hybrid event:

  • Minimum spending. Venues might still have minimum spends in their rental contracts post-pandemic, even though you’ll probably have fewer attendees due to adjusted capacities.
  • Higher service charges. Ask for an itemized breakdown of any service charges you might see tacked onto final figures. Venues may raise service charges to cover additional COVID safety personnel or PPE.

5. What is the venue’s capacity?

A major benefit of hybrid events is that you can host a one-of-a-kind, experiential event for your on-site attendees while still seeing big audience turnout from your virtual sessions. With COVID in the picture, you’ll probably run into reduced capacity venues, but don’t let the fear of low attendance or smaller capacity deter you from incorporating in-person elements anyway.

Find a venue that strikes the balance between safety and guest count. Venues might be tempted to open at max capacity before it’s safe to do so, but prioritize a space that’s at least large enough for attendees to spread out. Ask for floorplans and capacities that adjust for socially-distanced setups, especially in common areas and session rooms. Make sure to account for your team and event staff in total counts!

Keep an eye out for our new seat planner and exhibit floor plan features, by the way! We're working on a social-distancing assessment tool which will automatically determine based on your inputs how suitable your plans really are!

6. How is the venue encouraging sustainability?

As we rethink the way events are run, making events more sustainable should be top of mind for event organizers. Eric Wallinger, director of sustainability at MeetGreen, gives the alarming figure that “larger convention center-based events are reporting waste volumes well above 500,000 pounds over a 5-6 day period on a regular basis.”

Returning to the way events used to be run, with little regard for waste production or energy usage, will have a hugely detrimental effect on our world.

Why shouldn’t event professionals seek to minimize their events’ environmental impact? Virtual events have the upper hand when it comes to sustainability, but you can feel comfortable with your hybrid event’s effect on the environment by choosing a venue with a few key sustainability considerations:

  • Environmental certifications. Is your venue certified as an IACC Green Star, LEED, Green Key or Green Globe building?
  • Conservation policies. What programs does your venue have in place for recycling, energy conservation and/or water conservation?
  • Paperless event options. Can your venue support tech infrastructure that allows you to run your in-person components without paper or plastic? For example, self check-in kiosks, e-ticketing, using digital badges or business cards.

Conclusion

Go into your next hybrid event with peace of mind by asking prospective venues the big questions. How are they handling COVID? Can they support the advanced tech needs that come with a hybrid event? Make sure your event works for you, not against you, by choosing a venue that prioritizes smart tech, safety and sustainability for a hybrid experience that goes off without a hitch.

Choose a hybrid event management platform that works seamlessly between your on-site experience and your virtual event. Check out PheedLoop!

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PheedLoop is an all-in-one event management platform for live, virtual and hybrid events. Our platform powers events for associations, corporations, agencies, educational institutions and governments worldwide including Shopify, Government of Canada, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, IBM and more. We commit ourselves to being a highly product focused company, and are dedicated to releasing new features and product updates every week since our founding in 2015. We post regular updates like this one to our blog.

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