Every so often there are local or world events that prompt the complete transformation of a product or service based on customer demand. COVID-19 has changed the hospitality industry as we knew it and tested our ability to be dynamic, creative and most of all, positive amid very challenging conditions.
Hospitality is going through a transformation that starts at home, moves through the travel journey, shifts the hotel stay experience, and spans beyond a guest's departure from hotels. It's about a true connection. Keeping someone engaged with you and your brand even when you're not with them.
For companies and event planners, there is a new dilemma: How can we work together to create an environment where people feel safe attending an onsite function or, should that not be possible, how can we recreate a truly inclusive, collaborative experience for remote attendees?
The answer is hybrid events.
What are Hybrid Events?
Companies describe these new types of experiences differently, but there is a consensus that a hybrid event’s intended outcome is to provide a remote attendee a seamless experience that makes them feel as included as those who have chosen to attend a function in person.
A hotel’s ability to clearly communicate their vision and plan for delivering events, may completely shift a customer's plans to host a function onsite or their willingness to work with one hotel vs. another. Technology is a definite driver. As anyone would expect with the high degree of technology associated with virtual and remote experiences, standards are being developed to ensure properties can deliver on the joint brand + solution provider vision for hybrid events. This is particularly interesting because, let’s face it, the hospitality industry is not known for its speed of technology adoption when compared to other verticals.
High-Speed Internet Managed Service Providers (MSPs) play a critical role in our evolution into hybrid events. We understand what is happening to the property networks on any given day and how various circumstances can potentially impact a guest's perception of the online experience.
To execute a successful hybrid event, typical requirements outlined by some of the largest hospitality brands include, at minimum, the following critical elements to enable a successful event:
- Minimum bandwidth requirements
- Ability to isolate network traffic
- Allow listing proprietary devices
This is by no means a complete list, but a small sample of the minimum items hoteliers should be reviewing with MSPs in preparation for such functions. It is also important to note that MSPs vary widely in size, expertise, and work methodology. A great way to evaluate the performance of a company is to ask yourself if you are working with a vendor or a partner. Note that there is nothing wrong with either term, and both can potentially perform adequately. The difference is that a vendor will listen to your requirements and execute them. A true partner is invested in the results, rather than being narrowly focused only on the readiness of a specific event.
What about Teams and Zoom?
Events are not binary. There is no one way to make a traditional event become hybrid overnight. One could argue that, if the event is being broadcast through your everyday online collaboration tools and is delivering great participation, action item tracking and powerful employee engagement, then you have yourself a successful function. Both Zoom and Microsoft have worked diligently to create options that can retrofit hotel and office spaces to host connected meetings, giving users great new tools to leverage in-room hardware and software to show and reflect their schedules, contacts, and agenda in a way that keeps them productive, whether in the office or on the road. These systems are a great departure from what has been known in the past as "videoconference equipment." They can be small, affordable and, in most cases, completely paid for after just one use. Units designed for smaller rooms are bundled in a camera and soundbar package and can be connected to the in-room television. Packages designed for larger rooms and various locations can include multiple cameras, speakers, and individual signage or tabletop panels. They require more planning, more bandwidth and professional installation.
Work with your partner to understand what options may be available to you and how they might assist in designing an experience that fits the unique needs of your customers.