Like its name, hybrid feels at once like something familiar and foreign. We may understand what hybrid means -- a combination of two or more distinct elements or two components performing the same function -- but it gets more complex when we dig in further. With a hybrid vehicle, for example, most people generally understand that the car is powered by a fuel engine and a battery, but how many people can explain how the car switches from battery-only to using the fuel engine?
Similarly, applying the concept of hybrid to meetings and events can seem opaque. Despite having experienced hybrid events such as the Grammys, Oscars, and sporting events, the magic that brings it all together requires months of unseen planning and the talent of skilled teams.
The majority of events moving forward will be hybrid, which makes it an exciting time to work at a hotel that can host these types of events. They also bring additional layers of complexity, like the requirement of hotel professionals to understand their hotel’s network capabilities and sort through the providers and solutions that exist today to determine what’s best for their clients.
To fully embrace this new hybrid landscape, hotel professionals need to start by understanding the challenges that planners are facing. We’re sharing our 11 years of meeting and event experience, including operating hybrid events out of our locations, and our conversations with our planner clients, to define what hotels need to know about hybrid events.
Planners are facing three main challenges when it comes to hybrid meetings and events:
- The technology and overall experience is new and untested
Planners are tasked with holding hybrid events that are exciting, engaging, and a seamless experience for both audiences. However, the technology and output is largely new and untested. No one wants to be the guinea pig for new technology, especially when a client’s excitement about their first in-person event in 12+ months is high.
- It’s not clear how well the venue and the technology will integrate
Planners are unsure of how well the venue and the technology will integrate. Your clients know your venue well, but they don’t know the technology partners you’re bringing in to facilitate the hybrid component. Are they a tech company that doesn’t understand meetings and events? Do they understand what planners need for a great event?
- It takes double the time and effort to plan both the remote and in-person experiences
Planners were strapped for time before COVID-19 and they have even less time now. With many people in the meetings industry laid off due to the pandemic, planners have the task of hosting hybrid events with smaller teams and smaller budgets while wrangling a brand new event type. Their time and resources are at an all-time premium. Compounding this challenge, many hotels will be operating with leaner teams as meetings begin to return, shortening planning windows and reducing margin for error.
With the perspective of planners in mind, the goal for hotels to hold great hybrid events is three-fold: you want to educate, build trust, and put hospitality at the forefront. These are the 6 ways hotels can achieve these goals:
- Partner with a trusted company to help execute your hybrid events
Choose companies who understand hybrid events and the meeting and event process. If the tech company you partnered with has never worked with hotels before, it’s likely they won’t understand how to meet your needs. For instance, does the tech provider’s customer service standards align with the hotel’s hospitality culture? Will remote attendees receive the same standard of support, hospitality and care as the on-site attendees?
- Seek out partners who can explain where the remote and in-person experiences differ and where they intersect
Most platforms are capable of delivering separate experiences with moments of interaction and we’re a long way from having a fully merged hybrid experience where remote and in-person attendees “feel” like they’re sharing many moments throughout the event.
- Require that your partners provide a checklist that your planners can reference
Planners want transparency into the planning process so they can ensure that the event will go well. Require that your platform partners lay out a checklist to bring some transparency into the planning process. .
- Minimize the number of providers to simplify things for your clients
Hotels need to be the translator of the many products and services and communicate it in a way that helps planners decide. Select only the best providers who understand your venue and your clients’ needs. Make sure your teams are fully trained on all of the providers you’re working with and can speak to their offerings in a way that a five-year-old could understand. What is most important is being able to recommend one provider over another based on the client’s needs or use case. For example, a trade show will likely need a different platform than a training meeting.
- Prove that the hybrid events work by providing case studies, testimonials, and a proof of concept
Your tech partners should have case studies, testimonials, and a proof of concept that you can share with your clients so they get a feel for what the events will be like. This is a new world, and providing validation goes a long way to building trust and managing uncertainty. No planner wants to risk their important meeting with unproven technology. Having the ability to show that a hotel and a technology partner have been there together before will help customers feel at ease with the solution and process.
- Put hospitality at the forefront of the experience.
Technology may be the focus of hybrid events now, but your clients use your venue to experience the hospitality that comes with events in a hotel. If the team operating the tech experience doesn’t emphasize hospitality, your client will receive an inconsistent service experience.
While hybrid events feel new and untested, hotel professionals can take simple steps to address the uncertainty that planners are feeling today. Learning the basics and partnering with the right providers who understand hospitality and what planners need will help both parties become experts in hybrid events.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jim O’Donnell is the Vice President of Partnership Sales at Convene, a flex office, meetings, and events space company.