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BY: GABE GILLIGAN, CO-FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT OF XPODIGITAL
Human connections are the lure of a great conference; personal interactions and the exchange of ideas are the fuel that makes an event memorable. As groups return to your hotel, they will expect you to be able to assist them in providing an enriching experience to their remote attendees that rivals the on-site event.
If you can demonstrate to your clients that you understand this new blended model of physical and virtual events, and if you can provide leadership and guidance to help them adapt to this new model, you will have a fantastic opportunity to retain existing business and attract new events.
Properties that cannot link the virtual world and real world or lack the vision and resources to assist their events to be successful in this extended experience framework will quickly find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.
As you and your team(s) communicate with potential event customers and plan for their upcoming conferences at your hotel, consider these five key factors to ensure a successful event:
Have you redesigned the capacity and capability of your event space? Social distancing measures will dramatically reduce the number of attendees in a single space. Offer meeting planners the option to expand keynotes and large sessions beyond a single room by adding remote viewing areas with streaming options to meet their expected overall capacity. With the right streaming solution, what once was a singular large space can easily be modified into several smaller spaces that provide the desired capacity.
Have you reimagined the look of your event space? Once you’ve optimized the physical layout possibilities of your event space to maximize in-person capacity, take advantage of those multiple spaces to create fun and engaging areas that will appeal to both onsite and virtual attendees. Work with event planners to pull event themes into the physical space so that messaging becomes more engaging and memorable. Think of each event area as a picture postcard that your events can highlight through streaming and social media to share the excitement of being on property with those watching virtually.
Can you leverage your guest rooms as additional event space? This is the “work from home” option for event attendees without actually needing to work from home. With in-room streaming, whether through hotel guest cable channels or online access, you can provide attendees a safe and individual local retreat where they can work (or eat) alone without missing event content. This adds an attractive option for removing yet another barrier to onsite attendance and creating a positive and memorable attendee experience.
Can you ensure in-person attendees have access to all content anywhere on property? As event audiences move into multiple physical spaces onsite, it will be important to clearly demonstrate that event content is not losing its audience or impact. Not only must you have a plan for enabling live content on multiple platforms (in-person, remote onsite, in-room), but to actually implement that plan, you’ll need your onsite technology infrastructure to be top-notch, with a clear set of standards for each type of event. Being able to present a comprehensive onsite content communications plan from the get-go addresses a primary pain point for any event planner in this brave new world of decentralized events.
Can you provide high-quality virtual access for remote presenters and attendees? I’ve saved this point to last, but the ability of an event venue to leverage remote presenters and engage remote attendees will be the lynchpin of any successful event strategy. Every event will require a virtual component, and if you can’t deliver on that requirement, your competition will. Don’t make the mistake of focusing solely on the look and feel of the virtual set; without a comprehensive technology solution to address network bandwidth, connectivity, security and failover, your successful in-person event could become a live stream nightmare (see any number of recent virtual town halls that made the news). Find your technology partner early and make sure they have both the technical and consultative planning skills to manage your virtual services.
As events become decentralized, with onsite audiences dispersed across physical locations and remote audiences and presenters attached by a virtual thread, the successful event destination must be able to ensure that all of these disparate audiences are effectively brought together.
By redefining physical space and implementing effective technology strategies, you can put your event location in the best position possible to compete in this new environment. As your design and engineering teams reassess your hotel’s physical space, now is the time to find the right technology partner to assess your current technology and help implement the right solutions for remote and virtual event components.
About the Author: Gabe Gilligan is co-founder and president of Xpodigital and has been supporting clients in the events and hospitality industry for more than 20 years. Xpodigital provides exceptional Internet, live-streaming, and digital signage solutions and support to leading hotels, events, and commercial installations across North America.