The Future of Collaboration: Virtual & Hybrid Events

The Future of Collaboration: Virtual & Hybrid Events

Just as the workforce is going to become more and more reliant on a hybrid model – with a mix of in-person and remote attendance – event hosting will also need to evolve to include a mix of approaches. Virtual events are here to stay, but how can we make these virtual and hybrid events as engaging as in-person offerings? Is it even possible?

Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom are already well on their way to providing more immersive and engaging virtual event features. Though COVID cases are slowly trending downward, many people are going to be hesitant to jump right back into full-contact workplaces and events.

Collaboration Tools Are Changing

Microsoft Teams recently announced some new capabilities for their collaboration tool, including Dynamic View, PowerPoint Live, and updated chat and collaboration interfaces. These changes were made in an effort to help “make everyone more productive and workplaces more inclusive.”

Zoom has published an Ultimate Guide to hosting the best virtual  and hybrid events using their platform and its features.

And Cisco Webex has acquired Slido, an audience interaction company, and also partnered with Prezi to try and achieve the lofty goal of delivering “Webex experiences that are 10X better than in-person interactions” by “making these experiences inclusive and equal for all.”

Just As People Prefer Working Remotely, Some Will Also Prefer Attending Events Remotely

The preference for remote methods will also extend to event attendance. In the coming months, many people may still be hesitant to venture out into large crowds or cramped conference rooms, especially now that there are better options available to them.

Even as we transition back toward more of a balance between virtual and in-person events, it’s important to think about the ways in which you will continue to attract attendees to fully or mostly virtual events. Because let’s face it – virtual events almost never have quite the impact that an in-person event does.

The key here will be finding the balance in creating great hybrid events that are as engaging online as they are in a physical gathering space.

Events Will Have to be Tailored to Engage Virtual Audiences

Looking at the changes and improvements that the big three collaboration tools we mentioned above are rolling out, it’s hard not to wonder how we will need to alter our approach to ensure that our future events, even the virtual ones, are as engaging as past, in-person events.

It’s becoming more obvious that online events are going the way of social media – and that’s focusing on engagement, engagement, engagement in very diverse ways.

Classes, panels, and sessions will now need to be heavily interactive, with polling, breakout chat rooms, live Q&A capabilities and so much more. Instead of trade shows and exhibit areas, swag will either have to be virtual or shipped to participants individually.

While this may seem daunting, it’s something we will have to embrace as we move forward into hybrid lifestyles and workplaces. The good news is: we already know it’s coming. It won’t be as bad as a pandemic blindsiding the entire world. The things we’ve learned in the last year are still applicable, and the skills we developed to adapt to rapid change will serve us well in the future of work and of virtual and hybrid events.

We’ve Already Been Meeting in the Cloud, This Next Generation of Virtual Events Are Just More Dynamic, and You Can Be Too!

Unsure how to get started on your road to achieving hybrid success? Meet Me In The Cloud is equipped with solutions to help you foster technology adoption and plan, set up, and execute flawless meetings and hybrid events. For more information, check out our Event Assist and collaboration technology adoption services.

Have questions? Contact us today!

Virtual Graduation Planning

Virtual Graduation Planning

We’ve made great strides in remote learning, working, and social distancing in the last year. But no matter how great the technology or support, those big events like graduation ceremonies, are much harder to recreate virtually because of the weight and importance of the day. College, high school, even elementary school graduations are still being held virtually in many places this spring.

Recently, Edmentum published a Virtual Graduation Guide, complete with “different options to consider, sample events, tips for development, and suggestions for evaluating event success to help ensure that this major milestone in your students’ academic careers is properly recognized.”

Here are our favorite takeaways.

Format Options

Though your first thought may be to just set up a camera and use the same schedule and script from years past for your virtual graduation ceremony, there are a few choices you have to make.

The first option is to have a live webinar. This consists mostly of having one or two presenters in the actual physical recording space, and everyone else tunes in via computer from their own remote space. You can incorporate graduates by offering video and audio cues: have everyone turn on their webcams at the end to recognize everyone and to potentially hear the applause for the ceremony.

Another option is to pre-record. This offers more flexibility in some ways. There shouldn’t be any weird surprises, and this also allows for more personalization – each student can submit a quote or saying to be read as their name is announced, for example.

And the third option is a live stream of an on-site ceremony. This would mean all presenters, faculty, and staff can be in attendance physically (so long as social distancing guidelines can be accommodated), but the graduates and their families would be watching from home.

These options all come with their own pros, cons, and levels of formality. Take some time to think about what format would be best for the type of ceremony and feelings you are trying to evoke.

Incorporating Engagement

Graduations connect people from all over the country and the world. That connection and feeling of community should be present in your virtual graduation ceremony.

Edmentum offers a host of great solutions to add that audience engagement back into the big day. You can use an existing school social media presence and create rooms, groups, or events where students, family, and friends can share well wishes and congratulations or post “then and now” photos or other fun memories. You can also create a commencement webpage on your school website to accomplish the same thing.

Adding music elements also heightens the excitement. From the tried-and-true classical Pomp and Circumstance number to more modern songs that describe the year or occasion, you can create a mood with music during the ceremony and outside of it – create a playlist for everyone to follow along with or to get them amped up about the festivities to come.

Details That Take the Day from Meh to Meaningful

There is also a myriad of personal touches you can incorporate to make the day feel more “real.”

The first big tip is: Don’t skip the cap and gown. The whole existence of these items is to lend weight and purpose to the day through this special outfit. Every student should still get that moment to move their tassel from right to left. Allow students to take webcam photos and screenshots with their friends and family so they have evidence of the day.

Virtual speakers can include graduation decorations or backgrounds on your video screen. This makes the day feel more special than watching screens full of living rooms, bedrooms, and home offices.

And don’t forget the diploma – it’s the largest token of the day. Mail diplomas enough in advance that students will receive them before the big day. You can send them instructions not to open the actual diploma package until the day of, to recreate the “receiving a diploma” feeling.

And don’t forget to have fun and show some excitement!

Virtual Graduation Ceremony Production with MMITC

Trying to plan a virtual graduation ceremony or party for your 2021 grads? Meet Me In The Cloud can help you manage all aspects of events from as small as a weekly team meeting to as large as a graduation ceremony or corporate conference. For more information, check out our Event Assist services.

Have questions? Contact us today!

4 Reasons to Host a Hybrid Event

4 Reasons to Host a Hybrid Event

Vaccinations are rolling out and in-person events are returning – at some level. Most are smaller than pre-Covid days – with a lot of focus on sanitation, airflow, and social distancing.

With a jump in virtual events in 2020, many discovered the joys of being there – without having to be there. No flights, no hotels, no days away from the rest of your life – and the coffee choices from your at-home Keurig.

Many event planners have recognized that even when life is back to the way it was, there are benefits to keeping events hybrid at some level.

According to the Event Manager Blog, “While nothing will ever completely replace an in-person gathering, virtual events represent a lifeline for events in the midst of travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders, and they will be a key component of events during the transition back to live and beyond. Incorporating virtual elements at live events will be crucial to their viability.”

This leads us to the first reason to host a hybrid event:

Hybrid Events Allow You to Reach a Larger Potential Audience

Between social distancing, stay-at-home orders, mask regulations, travel restrictions, and general concerns about returning to pre-Covid “normal,” hybrid events allow those who are comfortable going to in-person events to connect with those who are not. Plus, hybrid events aren’t solely limited by capacity restrictions.

The Event Manager Blog says hybrid events allow “for much more inclusivity and diversity at the event, which in turn can offer the potential for more interesting exchanges, a larger overall audience, and a higher ROI.”

Hybrid Events Offer a Greater ROI

You line up the speakers, book the venue, determine food and beverage options – the to-do list seems endless, but with limited capacity in every venue, your ROI for the in-person event is limited.

Expanding to a hybrid event expands your ROI potential because you can target those who are comfortable with in-person events as well as those who are not. 

Not only does this help you have a larger, more successful event, but it also helps more attendees network and learn from other people. 

The Event Manager Blog says, “You may even want to find ways of connecting your live attendees with the online audience in order to maximize the networking potential and minimize silos based on the privilege of attending in person.”

Hybrid events create a win-win situation for everyone. 

Hybrid Events Have Data Tracking

In-person events allow for some data tracking before and after the event, but virtual and hybrid events allow for real-time data tracking. Attendees provide personal data when they register for the events, when joining a session, and when submitting surveys. 

This data is easier to collect and review since it’s digital, and it makes it easier to encourage in-person attendees to complete forms and surveys online, especially during post-pandemic events. 

Hybrid Events are Scalable

When you have a virtual event, the seats are practically endless. When you have a hybrid event, you have some limited in-person seating as well as a practically endless online audience.

But what about sponsors?

Hybrid events offer more sponsorship opportunities, which means you can scale your event to serve more people in more ways.

According to Aggregage, many sponsors are shifting their budgets to virtual events because of Covid-related restrictions as well as the requirement to have more data to back up their spending. 

Hybrid events also offer you, as the event host, the data you need to attract sponsors. When you have more sponsors, you can put on a bigger show, have more in-demand speakers, and curate experiences for your in-person and online audiences to connect in safe, meaningful ways. 

Partner With the Right Event Experts

If your organization is planning an event later this year and you’re considering expanding to a hybrid event, know that you don’t have to host a hybrid event on your own.

Hybrid events, while they have extensive benefits and opportunities, also combine the intricacies of in-person and virtual events with the added challenge of connecting both audiences in interactive and meaningful ways. 

Because of the unique challenges hybrid events present, our team at Meet Me In The Cloud considers hybrid events as a unique delivery skill. 

Jeff Gallagher, Head of Event Assist Productions at MMITC, says,

A mix of virtual and in-person is very likely to be the future of events. Organizations that want to approach a hybrid model need to consider how to deliver a stellar in-person experience and keep the virtual attendee engaged. Considerations need to be made for both audiences – which adds a level of complexity.

Don’t face this complexity on your own. Whether it’s a quick team meeting, family reunion, or annual corporate conference, Meet Me In The Cloud has helped many businesses like yours optimize their virtual events with Event Assist Services.

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