Managing Event Formats

Event professionals probably didn’t expect to add juggling to their resumes, but it’s likely popping up in many organizers’ skills sections these days.

After all, before the pandemic hit, event managers typically managed one type of event: in person. But with virtual and hybrid events becoming increasingly popular, organizers are now often required to flawlessly execute across two or three event formats. Each format — in person, virtual, and hybrid — demands a slightly different set of skills.

Now, everyone makes mistakes while learning new skills, especially when we have to learn on the fly. To get ahead of those mistakes, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most frequent missteps event professionals make when navigating different event formats.

Keep reading to learn how to avoid common pitfalls and juggle all three event formats like a pro.

Mistakes to avoid with physical events

Many have mastered the production of in-person events, but a lot has changed since 2020. The experience industry has evolved –– and that evolution has ushered in new decisions to make and pandemic-driven protocols to consider for physical events.

Read on to understand –– and avoid –– a few key stumbling blocks event professionals have encountered when managing in-person events today.

Mistake #1: Getting lost in logistics

Now more than ever, event managers need to be hypervigilant and organized about logistics for on-site events, specifically when it comes to implementing any safety measures they’ve decided to include.

For example, additional questions might now arise around how attendees will:

  • Check in
  • Get badges
  • Eat and drink
  • Move from one space to another

Beyond those logistical details, event organizers should consider the logistics surrounding their speakers:

  • When will they arrive?
  • When should they be backstage?
  • What tech setups do their presentations require?
  • Will they have a team to coordinate with?

Don’t let yourself get lost in all these logistics. Putting together a thorough logistical plan will help everyone feel confident the event will run smoothly and provide a more rewarding experience for attendees.

Mistake #2: Losing focus on the audience

With in-person events, there’s a lot happening in real time –– right in front of you. It’s easy to spend too much energy focused on keynote speakers or ensuring registrations are actually showing up and inadvertently forgetting the most important thing: your audience.

More than ever, if people are attending an on-site event, they want it to deliver value. They’re looking to interact and be engaged in ways that are unique to in-person experiences. So, don’t lose focus on the audience and what they want.

At their core, in-person events are all about connecting with people. From choosing the perfect icebreaker to designing engaging activations, keeping the audience front and center is key. Consider how you’ll give attendees opportunities to engage:

  • Will there be breakout sessions?
  • Is there dedicated networking time?
  • Is the content itself going to keep attendees’ attention and provide value?
  • Will a Q&A happen, and how will it be structured?

Questions like these are crucial because they’re often related to the reasons people are showing up in the first place. Also, consider whether an event theme might help enhance audience connections and bring everyone together around a central idea.

Mistake #3: Forgetting to prioritize tangible tasks

Some of the most forgotten aspects of in-person event planning include tangible tasks. Creating an event checklist can help keep these tasks top of mind for your team. Start with things like:

  • Testing and setting up lighting and microphones
  • Parking a car nearby for last-minute purchases and errands
  • Planning locations for and placing charging stations for your event community

Details matter — a lot –– and planning for the unknown can make or break your event. If you have a large team, consider assigning the tangible priorities to one person, so the laundry list of tangible tasks doesn’t fall between the cracks.

Mistakes to avoid with virtual events

Virtual events tend to come with fewer health and safety considerations. They’re also scalable, cost-efficient, and inclusive.

But without the in-person fanfare and commitment level associated with on-site events, it can be easier to cut corners and miss critical elements that could lead your event to be truly impactful for your audience. Review these common mistakes so you can sidestep them.

Mistake #4: Skimping on engagement tactics

When attendees look back at your virtual event, you want them to feel like they were part of something bigger than themselves –– that they were immersed in an experience. Yet, because attendees aren’t physically together for an online event, it’s easy to just assume they can’t engage as deeply as they can in person.

This couldn’t be further from the truth; it’s just about putting in the effort to build an experience that facilitates engagement. Besides delivering content that will naturally engage people both actively and passively, consider adding elements that will support interaction, collaboration, and participation, such as:

The same goes for social activities, whether they feature performers or not.

Moreover, work to dodge the surface-level assumption that engagement is only activities and chat threads. Providing quality content can naturally foster powerful engagement.

“When people say we need more engagement, it’s a mistake to think that can only mean we need more participatory elements," says Scott Gould, author and engagement consultant. "When it comes to holistic engagement, a quality presentation that really engages people’s minds is just as an important as a participation exercise that gets people interacting. In fact, the latter is less effective without the former.“

Aim to find subject matter experts who are also charismatic speakers. While captivating the audience with their delivery, they can provide valuable content that leaves your attendees taking screenshot after screenshot so they can reflect on the nuggets of knowledge later.

Mistake #5: Jumping in without enough practice

Doing anything well takes time and requires practice. And when it comes to virtual events, one of the biggest mistakes organizers make is thinking everything will be easy and not practicing before the big day. Those with virtual event management experience know these events often require remote or virtual troubleshooting.

For speakers, it’s critical to test things like internet connections, audio, and visuals. Imagine the frustration if a speaker appears onscreen for the first time during your live event, only to discover they have a poor connection or that the audience can’t hear them. A practice session also gives your speakers the opportunity to hone their delivery in a virtual environment.

For organizers, pre-event prep is still critical in the virtual space. For example, instead of a day-of toolkit containing a screwdriver and extra batteries for an in-person event, you might discover it’s helpful to put together a virtual event manager’s toolkit including a Slack feed and pre-composed responses to frequently asked technical questions.

Empower designated members of your team to jump on Slack or another messaging platform to help speakers or attendees in the moment –– because while practice makes perfect, there’s still sure to be some helping hands needed as the event unfolds.

Mistakes to avoid with hybrid events

Today’s hybrid events aren’t just a mashup of in-person and virtual formats. Just streaming the stage doesn’t usually make for a successful hybrid event now.

This common misconception is the basis for many mistakes made while organizing hybrid events. With that in mind, consider the following hybrid event mistakes so you can skirt them:

Mistake #6: Trying to manage the experience solo

Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor was it constructed by one person. It takes a village to create something spectacular –– the same concept applies to events.

When working with a hybrid format, it’s ideal to have two separate teams in place –– one to manage the on-site experience and another covering the virtual experience. You might also find it valuable to secure two hosts or emcees, two event managers, two technical directors, and so on.

Keys to Black Wealth CEO Brandy Avery calls the online host a “virtual advocate” and tasks them with keeping the virtual attendee experience top of mind. This ensures online attendees at your hybrid event are being fully considered –– even though they’re not physically in a room together.

Here are a few things both teams will need to execute on:

  • Community Q&As
  • Registration
  • Event marketing campaigns
  • Invitations
  • Tracking attendee registration status and resending invites as needed
  • Partnering with sponsors and exhibitors to plan activations and set up their physical and virtual booths
  • Creating a cohesive event theme and developing event branding for the virtual and physical venues

Consider these tasks for your virtual team:

  • Rehearsing with virtual speakers
  • Moderating and reviewing the live chat
  • Ensuring other virtual elements like gamification are working
  • Troubleshooting any technical issues for attendees and speakers
  • Creating the virtual venue: stages, sessions, and additional online areas
  • Connecting the streaming capabilities at the venue with the virtual platform and ensuring content can be captured

And let your in-person team handle these tasks:

  • Designing the physical venue, including stage design and signage
  • Troubleshooting for in-person attendees and speakers on event day
  • Ensuring the in-person technology, including lighting, microphones, and streaming capabilities, run smoothly
  • Planning how venue staff and attendees will navigate health and safety guidelines and ensuring people adhere to guidelines on event day

Encourage your virtual and in-person event managers to collaborate when it comes to staying on brand, creating connections between in-person and online attendees, and producing a cohesive hybrid event. That way all attendees, whether virtual or in person, feel like valued members of the event community.

Mistake #7: Sticking with synchronous experiences –– every time

You might feel like the in-person and virtual events need to happen on the same day at the same time for every hybrid event you organize, but hybrid doesn’t always mean simultaneous. Just because you can, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. “I'm not the biggest fan of simultaneous in-person and online,” says Karen Hartline, GitHub’s director of corporate events. “I really do think it is two separate events.”

Give some thought to how your audience wants to receive your hybrid content — especially virtual attendees. Here are three delivery options to consider:

  • Livestream in-person components
  • Offer virtual and on-site elements at different times –– and sometimes featuring different-but-related content across the two experiences
  • Record live event highlights and share them with the virtual audience at a later date via innovative and interactive platforms

The key thing to remember is that a hybrid event lends itself to flexibility and experimentation. Allow yourself to get creative with new ways to configure the experience that will benefit your audience and your team.

For all formats: Find a proactive partner

Mistake #8: Choosing event technology that doesn’t support the experience you’re creating

There are plenty of event technology platforms available today, but a precious few likely check all the boxes you need them to for your event to be successful. Sometimes, event professionals make the mistake of assuming that just because a platform can stream content and boasts a few bells and whistles, it’s enough to satisfy the event’s needs.

Consider the following when choosing an event platform for your event:

  • Is it reliable and easy to use?
  • Will it be easy to duplicate events to create a series?
  • Can it create custom virtual spaces for different groups of attendees?
  • Can it accommodate large audiences if you need that capacity?
  • Does the platform allow for recording and replaying event content?

Not only has event technology made it possible to offer attendees (or no-shows) on-demand content they can view at their convenience, it’s also changed how organizers view event data. Stand-out event platforms offer access to analytics that make it easier to answer these questions:

  • What did attendees like the most about the event?
  • Where did attendees spend time during the event?
  • Which sponsorship booth received the most engagement?

Do your research and secure a trustworthy shared experiences platform that truly supports your event and helps every aspect of the experience run smoothly.

When you work with Hopin, you're not just adopting technology, you’re getting a proactive partner who can help you navigate your event management responsibilities. Speak with a member of our team today to see how we can help set you up for success.