October 28, 2020December 2, 2020Planning5 Min ReadHybrid Event Design & Flow: Highlights from Episode 4 of the EventHack GamesMike LaFolletteTeam “Sorry…Not Sorry” won Week 4 of the EventHack Hybrid Games with their innovative and tangible solution for hybrid event design and flow.Continuous education and connecting the community. Those sum up the main goals Team “Sorry…Not Sorry” set for their member-based association event hack, which they presented as contestants in the EventHack Hybrid Games. The easily-replicated ideas for hosting a hybrid-crossover event won for Week 4 of Socio’s 10-week EventHack competition, which focused on hybrid event design and flow.Masterminds of the “Sorry…Not Sorry” Team, Nicole Peck, Founder of NP Collective, and Shawn Cheng, Project Manager of MCI Group, listed out daily activities attendees participate in throughout the year — instead of disruptive, extended conferences once or twice a year. “We have come up with an idea to help you re-imagine your hybrid event, that you can put into practice immediately,” Peck said. “We’ve decided to flip the script entirely on event design for an association conference. No more and no longer should an association meet once a year over a three- to five-day period.” Grand Finale Live Event Lets Virtual Attendees Meet Connections in Person The team envisioned both in-person and virtual participants utilizing a two-month “season” to partake in daily scheduled activities, eventually making them part of their normal routines and using them 365 days a year to connect and engage with the virtual brand community. At the end of the two-month season, all participants would attend an in-person “grand finale” event featuring curated exhibits, regulatory business meetings, keynote speakers, and activities — all with a celebratory vibe.“It will be conducted with adherence to all safety protocols, and provide the much-needed, face-to-face interaction our members crave,” Peck said, noting participants would be encouraged to attend the in-person event to meet other attendees they’ve established relationships with over the past couple of months, either through face-to-face interactions or connecting on a digital screen. “Once we have an empowered and engaged community, the conversation with sponsors will be that much easier,” Peck said.Hack the Schedule: Activities Become Part of Daily Routine A structured weekday activity schedule gave all participants a starting point for creating connections and becoming part of the online community. Participants could choose to virtually attend the daily activities, or meet in person within their own communities via small groups, depending on local pandemic restrictions. Mondays“Meetings Monday” designate a set 90-minute timeblock each week to discuss important business topics. Matchmaking technology and self-selection techniques would determine two distinct groups: one focused on networking to get to know others in their area or meet attendees with shared expertise, and the other centered around solution-based selling to connect members with those in the group who can help them meet sales challenges. Tuesdays“Topical Tuesdays” address pressing issues the association faces, with a combination of panel discussions, workshops, and webinars offered online. Targeted audiences could consume the content live or on demand, with the live-streamed session hosted at various times each Tuesday. WednesdaysOn “Wellness Wednesdays,” members gain access to new audio recordings about wellness they can listen to while working out, or whenever best fits into their schedules. These podcasts would seek to inspire motivation and facilitate meditation, with a focus on individual well-being. Thursdays“Talent Thursday” is focused on career-building activities, like connecting mentors and mentees, as well as providing a platform for young investigator presentations. Collaborations would discuss business recruitment and retention strategies, and ways to improve both processes. Fridays“Family Fridays” give participants an avenue to connect after work, from home and alongside family, pods, or friends. Possible Friday evening social events include experiential activities like game nights, chocolate tastings, and cooking classes. “We’re sorry that your annual meeting will not be the same next year,” Peck said. “But, we are also not sorry, because it has the potential to be so much better,” Cheng concluded. Structure, Predictability Create Parameters for Winning Hybrid Event HacksImmediately following the presentation, the EventHack judges got an opportunity to ask the team questions and provide feedback before ranking the team’s hybrid event plan and opening the voting to audience members, which accounted for 50 percent of the final team score.“I see that trend of stretching out the meeting — it’s one that has already started — and you just kind of hyper-charged it, really made it structured and put some parameters around it,” said Judge JT Long, Content Chief at Smart Meetings. “And, I love that you embrace mental health.”Judge Nicola Kastner, Global Head of Event Marketing Strategy at SAP, appreciated how easily associations could replicate the team’s hybrid event hacks to fit a variety of platforms, and loved the daily predictability and flexibility the scheduled framework offered.When asked by the judges whether the association event hacks would provide more of a carrot or a stick to get attendees to engage with the brand community, Cheng explained that in his experience with association members, they seek both.“They need very high-quality content, but they also need that connection element,” Cheng responded.Team SocialSVVY: A Case Study for Safe Hybrid EventsTeam “SocialSVVY” presented a hybrid-crossover event design and flow case study during Week 4 of the EventHack Hybrid Games featuring a unique event center to provide creative, safe solutions for both live and virtual attendees. Capable of seating 100,000 people, a massive coliseum served as a key component for Team “SocialSVVY,” who designed a safe, experiential three-day conference with hybrid-crossover capabilities they virtually presented during Socio’s EventHack Hybrid Games. Team “SocialSVVY” featured Alisa Walsh, President of EventWorks, and Kate Brack of Kate Brack Designs. The duo created a technology conference event with 500 in-person attendees and 500 virtual attendees. “Safety, safety, safety,” Walsh said. “In this hybrid world, of course, that is our No. 1 priority. We want to ensure everybody stays at least 6 feet apart. Here in the stadium, we will be able to do that with ample seating, built-in technology, lighting, and broadcast capabilities.” Smart Technology Keeps Hybrid Attendees ConnectedPrior to the event, both live and virtual attendees received smartwatches pre-loaded with the event app. The smartwatch provided in-person attendees with the venue’s floor plan, as well as contact-tracing capabilities, touchless code entry, and geo-locating for food and beverage deliveries. Curated meal kits were mailed directly to virtual attendee’s homes before the event kicked off, and included conversation starters, such as recipes focused on their specific regions, for networking purposes. Food was prepared in single-use packaging that could be recycled, and the event utilized composting for an eco-friendly and sustainable approach. To keep live participants safe, everyone filled out pre-event health screenings and underwent infrared temperature scans upon arrival, with a secondary testing location for those with an elevated body temperature. Attendees received free swag, including branded face masks.Two identical campuses were set up on opposite sides of the venue, allowing 250 people to sit on each side, with tiered socially distanced seating and direct flow signs to keep participants from congregating. An immersive main stage area featured three separate stages, multiple LED screens, and two catwalks to cater to both sides of the stadium. “Hybrid attendees will be able to be seen on the surrounding screens within the domed structure,” Brack explained, adding that hybrid attendees also had virtual access to a live broadcast studio on-site in the venue that featured real-time interviews, as well as offered pre-recorded content to prevent Zoom fatigue. Additionally, hybrid attendees were shipped virtual reality goggles before the event to enhance their at-home experience. The goggles allowed virtual attendees to create their own avatars, adding a gaming aspect by beaming them directly into the experience.Timed Experiences Limit In-Person ContactIn-person attendees experienced high-tech dome technology, similar to that of a planetarium, with timed and ticketed entrances. The immersive, limited-contact experience allowed groups of 25 or fewer to lie down on trampoline-like fabric, lifted from their spots with hydraulics to get a 360-degree view of the content provided. Solitary product pavilions were available for in-person attendees to create custom content they could post to social media and promote the brand experience. “Wow, that was very impressive,” said Judge JT Long, Content Chief at Smart Meetings. “It feels like you thought of everything. My heart got really happy when I heard about the intersection between sustainable and safe.”Hacking the Future of Hybrid Events Socio launched the EventHack Hybrid Games competition in mid-September as a way to collectively craft innovative hybrid event strategies for bringing together in-person and virtual audiences. Every week, four new teams from top companies across the event planning, digital marketing, and technology industries presented their best hybrid event hacks to a panel of expert judges and virtual viewers who tuned in to gather new ideas. Even though the series is now over, you can still check out every episode on demand!And to learn more about how Socio’s event platform powers hybrid events, don’t hesitate to request a demo.Mike LaFolletteWriter @ Red Pen Content. Master Gardener. Dad to an enormous Alaskan Malamute!