2020 saw many events turn virtual due to the pandemic. This year, with the vaccination rollout now in full swing, hybrid events are slated to become the most popular event type.
Much like in-person events, the venue can make or break a hybrid event’s success. For face-to-face events, the right spot will depend on the event’s size, duration and audience. Other considerations include budget, catering, parking, accommodation and venue availability. These factors are also important when planning a hybrid event but each may be weighed differently. Then there are additional considerations like whether the venue’s prepared to host planned digital components, which require a strong and robust Internet connection, adequate power supply and the ability to integrate audiovisual (AV) equipment.
A high-quality Internet connection is necessary to ensure online session streaming is not interrupted during a hybrid event. For this reason, it’s important to check with the venue that their Internet service provider, or ISP, is capable of processing a high bandwidth and keeping the connection secure, especially in high-density environments.
Event organizers should also confirm they’re dealing with dedicated bandwidth, not shared bandwidth. This will guarantee that your team and attendees have a consistent connection to the Internet throughout the event. If the venue doesn’t have dedicated bandwidth, then they likely don’t have fibre optic cable installed.
Other considerations include:
- A minimum of 10 gigabytes (GB) of streaming speed with low latency;
- Dual-band Wi-Fi that provides both 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) frequency, as well as 5 GHz for certain users;
- The ability to restrict Wi-Fi users;
- 10 megabytes (MB) per 100 users for a high-usage crowd, and 2 MB per 100 users for a low-usage crowd or small event;
- A ping or latency speed of 30 milliseconds or less, and a rate of 2MB per 100 users; and
- An on-site networking engineering team to assist in case of outages.
Navigating what your hybrid event needs in terms of Internet connectivity can be tricky. Fortunately, many venues have updated their technology, in which case all you need to do is inform them of your needs. However, you may have to pick and pay for a larger streaming package, if this is a scalable option.
Some older venues may still be getting away with a dated or small power supply system. This puts your event technology at risk of short circuiting or completely failing during your event.
It’s imperative that your event power supply is robust enough to handle several attendees, workers and technological demands. The venue should have a commercial power supply available that can scale properly. Confirm that the venue can handle AV equipment, such as microphones and speakers for the in-person audience, connecting to a switchboard, encoder, a tower computer, and uploading video and audio live through your virtual platform. Just because a venue is big, it doesn’t mean it’s the best option. The larger the venue, the greater number of people you can host and the more likely you will need additional equipment, technology and power.
Equipment and Support
When hosting a hybrid event, the venue should be able to provide:
- Multiple cameras in a range of options, including high-definition, live-streaming and those that support a range of screen sizes, as well as accessories like tripods and camera stands;
- High-quality microphones that can connect to the video stream;
- Charging stations, Ethernet ports and hook-ups for presenters, and high-voltage power supplies;
- The ability to test equipment to ensure the virtual audience can hear and see correctly;
- Allowance to vet the online streaming capabilities through your online event platform so that you know what browsers and/or operating systems are compatible with the stream;
- An AV operator to control when the audio connection switches mics to avoid feedback and allow for the audience to be audible during Q&A sessions;
- A video operator to ensure video is being recorded at all times and that the feed is switching appropriately for the online live stream; and
- Technical support for AV equipment in case anything malfunctions.
If the venue does not offer in-house support, it would be wise to negotiate pricing given you will have to source this yourself and it will eat up a considerable portion of your budget.
Availability and Access
Leading up to the event, it’s advisable to arrange for some of your team to work in tandem with the venue’s in-house technical support. This way your members know how to connect to the AV equipment, on-site computers, Internet network, overhead projectors and so on.
It’s also important to be able to hook up your computers and/or software and test to make sure everything is working as it should beforehand. You may also want to confirm in advance that other technologies are set up and compatible with that of the venue’s. Depending on the site, there may be a fee attached to early access.
Jon Kazarian is CEO and founder of Accelevents, a leading virtual and hybrid events platform. As CEO, Jon is focused on leading the company’s vision and helping event organizers and marketing professionals transform their events through innovative technology solutions. Prior to launching Accelevents, Jon led business development at Windham Capital Management, an independent asset management firm focused on risk-based investment solutions.