Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) Acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Narrm, the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present, and to Elders of all First Nations communities that visit MCEC.

Planning a Hybrid Event

Conferences are coming back differently. Research by Business Events Australia demonstrates increasing business confidence in holding events over the coming year; however concerns remain around COVID-19 restrictions on travel and gatherings.

Hybrid events, which involve in-person and virtual attendees, are an exciting solution. But if hybrid sounds daunting, talk to the experts.

Mark Higgins, MCEC Digital Event Manager points out that conference organisers don’t need to be on top of all the technical details when planning a hybrid event. “At MCEC, we have the technology, software and know-how, so the best place to start is with a conversation”.

Here’s Mark’s five suggestions when thinking about your next conference.

1. Talk to us early

The sooner we start talking the sooner we can help you plan an extraordinary event.

If you only have high-level ideas, that’s OK. We can show you what’s possible with our spaces, technology and events software and help you choose the platform and features that best suit your conference type, size and complexity. Talk to us about:

  • conference purpose

  • who will be involved – attendees, speakers, sponsors – and from where

  • what you want to achieve – for your organisation, attendees, sponsors and for yourself

  • the level of interaction you want available – do you want your remote audience to watch or have the choice to interact?

2. Offer value

We understand that event organisers need to offer an experience that gives everyone value for their investment. Remote attendees expect more than a talking head on screen and sponsors expect to have a presence and make meaningful connections. We have digital tools to engage remote attendees and ensure sponsors are seen and heard, such as:

  • apps to bring remote attendees into the room to contribute

  • live Q&A sessions

  • chat rooms

  • direct connection to other attendees, speakers and sponsors

  • access to event-exclusive resources.

3. Be professional and prepared

Digital events have the benefit of allowing you to pre-record content. This is ideal for remote speakers. It gives them the time, tools and support to get their presentation right without the stress of an audience. It also delivers a quality outcome, with no live mishaps or nerves.

As Mark Higgins notes, “We often see that speakers who have pre-recorded their session can watch and then participate in a live Q&A discussion, relaxed and ready to engage”.

“Our production specialists can advise them on the best way to present, set up the room, use the microphone, and so on. And we have contacts with studios across the country, so if your speaker is interstate, we can organise for their presentation to be professionally recorded.”

We can support your in-person speakers with a rehearsal session to help them become familiar with the room and technology and feel comfortable, prepared and ready to go live.

And on the day of the event, we offer a support line so anyone having issues can get help via a phone call or live chat.

4. Create atmosphere and interest

The look and feel of your event are critical to the experience, in-person or remote.

Our spaces allow for branding, visual backdrops, theming, lighting, furniture and props to create an atmosphere for people in the room.

Our digital events platform can also create a welcoming and engaging onscreen experience for remote attendees. We can help with content, design, layout, logos and backdrops.

“Consider adding elements on screen such as tickertape for news, key messages and Twitter feeds. Think about what’s on screen between sessions. Add a pre-recorded video loop, sponsor videos and messages, event information, or even an MC to let people know what’s coming up and connect with your remote audience,” says Mark.

5. Think outside the screen

Hybrid events provide an opportunity to think about events differently. For example, consider hosting a blended event – imagine your national event based at MCEC and broadcast to other states where people are gathered in real life. It’s the best of both worlds. Everyone can participate, without the stress of travel and density restrictions. At the same time, they can meet with others in person to network and socialise.

These are just five ideas; there are many ways to make your hybrid event exceptional, and lots to talk about.