The global pandemic upended the hospitality industry on an unprecedented scale; in response, hospitality providers adopted drastic measures to protect both guests and employees. One of the most impactful changes to the hospitality space is the use of (and dependence on) technology to deliver hospitality and events. While this influx of technological solutions has proven to be a boon for hotels and hospitality spaces in light of their reduced ability to have in-person events, it also presents its own unique challenges.
Perhaps the most nuanced challenge these providers have faced is distilling (and justifying) the why and how of the complex technology required for successful virtual and hybrid events into layman's terms for clients. Demystifying the technology deployed is not an easy feat and requires both finesse and expertise by today’s providers. Similarly, as a client, choosing the right tech solution for their event is an equally challenging feat.
Given this -- by all indicators -- permanent shift to virtual and hybrid events, how can providers bring clients into the fold of understanding that reliable technology is a requisite for the new era of events? How can they illustrate that current tech solutions are not only necessary but can enhance hospitality for both onsite and remote attendees? And how can clients, planners, and hotel/event space providers know they are choosing the right tech solution?
Find a Tech Solution with a “Virtual Front Desk”
With virtual and hybrid events, it’s essential to make sure that the venue employees and chosen technology/platform are in lock step. Choosing a platform with a full-time production team ensures two things: 1) the technology is working properly (thus removing the burden from onsite hotel or venue staff) and 2) the team of tech experts can break down the technology being used and its functionality to clients, remote speakers and attendees. This production team embodies hospitality in technology: it serves as a virtual front desk by servicing both hotel/venue employees and the remote participants by providing clarity, support, and security against ever-present technical surprises.
For guests attending virtually, they would be welcomed ahead of time with agendas, pre-event information, downloadable content, and custom-tailored user interfaces. By engaging early with attendees, hotels can familiarize clients & attendees with the technology and help them understand exactly what goes into producing events in the new hybrid era.
Less is Sometimes More
In the past year plus, dozens of technology product options have sprung up to support events. Unfortunately, the volume of choice has proven overwhelming for many meeting/event planners as virtual and hybrid events are increasingly complex and they may not have the technical knowledge to begin narrowing down the best solution for their program. In a 2021 study from Markletic, 67% of event organizers state that technology is a challenge or concern in ensuring a smooth experience.
The tricky part here is many platforms only provide one aspect of virtual & hybrid events: the virtual platform hosting the content or the production team of experts making the event a premium experience. Selecting an all-in-one tech solution that supports both virtual and hybrid events makes planning simpler by offering everything necessary to create consistency coupled with a premium look and feel. Essentially, the solution should be able to support services like a virtual event site and a full virtual AV production team who would communicate with and support clients, onsite AV staff, and remote speakers.
Having a tech solution that serves as a thread to both the onsite and remote audience is critical to ensuring an authentic feel and shows priority to both audience types. For example, a hotel with prominent ocean views serves an onsite audience; a proper tech solution would incorporate this thematically into the event site and could also add additional engagement features for remote attendees such as music, games, networking, and chat. Online guests no longer feel they are receiving a subpar experience and can enjoy the remote experience equally to their counterparts who are present physically.
One Event, Not Two
Creating a harmonious and hospitality-focused experience is the core of hospitality technology; this is even more critical when hybrid events come into play. The advent of unified technology platforms that integrate the physical and digital components means that it is now possible to host one event that is seamless across both the physical and digital mediums and can cater the experience to both audiences. This then introduces a unified goal of planners, hotels, and tech solution providers: the hospitality experience should be premium regardless of their chosen participation method.
One misconception in hybrid events is the notion that networking is more difficult when an event is online; a 2021 survey from Marketic showed that 71% of respondents believed guests who participate virtually have a harder time facilitating the personal connections that are often a hallmark of a successful live event. Hotels and clients can and should leverage the recent advances in meeting technology to bridge this gap: for example, breakout rooms that can accommodate thousands of attendees, chats with built-in Q&A functions, user profiles, and live polling.
Another misunderstood element of hybrid event planning is around the ability for sponsors, customization, and branding to be equal onsite and online. By choosing a tech solution with the capability for branding to be displayed prominently throughout the duration of the event, hotels and event providers can offer guests personalized digital event experiences that immerse attendees (similar to signage and other brand touchpoints at in-person events).
Hybrid and virtual events are here to stay, and while the technology powering them today may be relatively new and mysterious to many, there are unquestionably benefits to embracing it for the evolution of events, meetings, and hospitality providers moving forward.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lizzie Suiter is the Head of Delivery at Convene, a premium flex office, meetings space, and full-service virtual events company.