Categories
remote work

What Hybrid Work Will Look Like For 5 Leading Companies

No one knows when our world will fully embrace face-to-face work again, but the latest employee and employer data suggest that hybrid work arrangements will be the primary working model of the future. So naturally, every business should want to understand: what will the future of hybrid work look like?

Over the past 18 months, companies have been placing their bets on what the ideal working arrangement will be. Some plan to offer near-complete freedom for employees, and others will cling to their pre-pandemic policies with only light adjustments to keep their teams working in-office for as much time a week as possible. 

To help your team develop its hybrid work plan, let’s review some recent hybrid work policy announcements.

Five Leading Company Hybrid Work Policies

There will be no one-size-fits-all approach for teams to adapt to the new realities of work. For example, some industries will innately require in-person work, but many other teams can efficiently work from anywhere.

These five company hybrid work policies—some better received than others—can serve as a guide for what your team can consider:

  • Adobe: The future of work at Adobe will be hybrid, according to a company blog post in June. Adobe employees will have a 50/50 split between time spent in the office and remotely. Additionally, Adobe will double down on its digital tools and workflows to improve the employee experience, acknowledging that it’s critical to be digital-first in its strategy. 
  • Apple: Apple’s hybrid work plan asks most employees to work in office on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, with remote work potential on Wednesdays and Fridays. Team members can also work remotely for up to two weeks per year. Apple employees raised concerns about this hybrid work policy, which could start as early as October 1. Some academics question if Apple’s return-to-office plan reflects the new realities of work. The company says that it will reassess its hybrid work plan in 2022. 
  • Google: CEO Sundar Pichai detailed Google’s hybrid work plan in a May blog post. He envisioned a future where 60% of Googlers work from the office a few days a week, 20% work in new office locations, and 20% work from home. Most Googlers will spend three days in the office a week, with two days to work from anywhere. Employees’ product area and function will determine the exact days. Team members can also submit interest in moving to another office, although this could impact their pay rate or salary. 
  • Salesforce: Salesforce’s future of work plans have remained essentially unchanged since it revealed its plan in February. Employees are grouped into three categories: Flex workers who come into the office one to three days per week, fully remote workers, and office-based workers who will work from an office four to five days per week. The company says that most employees will be flex or remote only, and all employees will keep working from home until the end of 2021. 
  • Uber: Uber keeps its team and community updated on its hybrid workforce plans through its Return To The Office blog post. As of its June 29 update, Uber employees will spend at least 50% of their time in the office. However, they can spend this time however they prefer, such as one week in the office and one week remote, or three days in the office one week and two days the following week. On remote workdays, team members can work from anywhere. Additionally, Uber is accepting applications for team members to work 100% remotely. 

How To Prepare Your Company For The Future of Work 

As seen with the above hybrid work plans, companies will begin to fill the spectrum of hybrid work—some granting their teams unlimited freedom to fulfill their work requirements, others offering limited remote work, and countless more to fill the gaps in between. 

What will set brands apart in their strategy is how actively they involve their team in the planning discussions. We recommend surveying your team as the first step to build an employee-first hybrid work policy.

To help your team support a healthy hybrid work culture, learn how Frameable’s suite of remote and hybrid team tools can keep your team connected, productive, and happy no matter where they’re based. 

Categories
virtual events

How To Engage Hybrid Event Attendees on Social Media

Congratulations! You’ve designed a compelling hybrid event schedule that thoroughly addresses the needs of both your in-person and remote attendees. All that’s left is to put on a spectacular event, right? Well, almost—but there’s still some pre-work to do!

As your team finalizes your hybrid event sessions and activities, it’s important to focus on a critical planning element that can easily make or break the attendee experience: social media.

From the moment you first announce your event on social media, your team needs to understand how to best use social media to drive event registrations and prime your attendees to gain the most value from social media throughout the virtual conference.  

Highlight Hybrid Event Attendance Benefits For In-Person and Virtual Attendees

Your team needs to explain how all your attendees—no matter how they choose to join—will access high-value sessions and engagement opportunities that make the most of each attendance option.

Tailor your conference website and all event promotional content to address the unique benefits of each attendance type, as well as how the two groups can connect throughout the conference. We recommend that you create a dedicated FAQ page on your event site that thoroughly addresses both types of attendance. 

At a high level, here are some of the benefits of attending a hybrid event in-person or virtually to highlight in your FAQs:

Hybrid Event Attendance TypeAttendee Experience Benefits
In-PersonIn-person conference experiences are beloved, and greatly missed, by many professionals. Emphasize the potential for human connection by joining in person, but also reinforce the CDC and local or state guidelines that will be enforced, plus any other ways your team will keep attendees safe.

Certain demos or activities are better coordinated with an in-person crowd, due to the energy level and ability for instant collaboration. Highlight these unique opportunities for attendees who join in person. This prevents virtual attendees from being disappointed or demanding a refund due to missing out on a specific in-person only activity.
VirtualFlexibility is a necessity for virtual attendees. Reinforce how your event is designed to fit within your attendees’ busy schedules, including details on whether sessions are recorded and later available for replay. 

A well-built virtual conference platform can greatly improve the virtual attendee experience. Spotlight the features of your event platform, including specific features that will help your remote attendees connect with the live experience. 

Make it easy to save your must-attend sessions to the virtual attendee’s calendar software of choice. It’s incredibly frustrating for virtual attendees who are excited for a session, and arrive with a question at the ready, only to see a notice that the session was held two hours ago thanks to the agenda only reflecting the live event’s timezone.

How To Promote Your Hybrid Event on Social Media

Social media channels are an invaluable avenue to market and promote your event with ideal attendees, especially given the potential reach of most social media channels. You don’t want to limit yourself to your existing mailing list and blog readers to promote your event when people can join from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. 

Share a steady stream of event promotion content to build excitement for the experience and drive registrations up until the day of your event. By engaging with your prospective attendees on social media, you’re also establishing those channels as a place for attendees to go during your conference to connect and engage with your team and fellow attendees (we’ll discuss that more in a bit).

Here are five ways to drive hybrid event registration through social media:

  • Tag confirmed speakers and spotlight their sessions. Announce sessions on social media by tagging the speaker and previewing their session. Include a video or image of the speaker to help “stop the scroll” on social media.
  • Create speaker, exhibitor, and sponsor social media kits. Share a social media promotion kit with all event speakers, exhibitors, and sponsors. Include event images and draft social media messages for Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn (at a minimum) so your partners can easily promote your event on their social channels. Consider including a unique registration discount code tied to each speaker, wherein they receive some benefit for getting people to register with their code.
  • Provide regular updates about your event’s COVID-19 safety preparedness. Although many people are comfortable attending an in-person conference, your team needs to address potential safety concerns early and often to reassure attendees who may be hesitant about joining an in-person experience. The goal is to provide transparent updates about your onsite plans to show your prospective attendees that you’re doing everything possible to protect their health.
  • Use an event hashtag. Create a custom hashtag to accompany your event. Ideally, this hashtag can be used throughout the year to reinforce a sense of community outside the conference. Research your preferred hashtag across channels to ensure it is not already commonly used for a different purpose. 
  • Share visuals and video sizzle reels. Visual content is more likely to be seen by your community on social media. Invest in custom event images and video sizzle reels that highlight what attendees can expect, both for the in-person and virtual experience. 

6 Ways To Use Social Media to Drive Engagement During A Hybrid Event

Your most engaged attendees will likely use social media to ask questions, share their learnings from the conference, and attempt to network with other attendees during your event. It’s important to prepare your team to effectively find and engage with this content in real time.

After you address these foundational ways to highlight your hybrid event engagement opportunities, follow these best practices to spark conversations and build excitement on social media during your hybrid event.

Create Event Attendee Social Media Groups

In addition to your registration website, your attendees need a central place to go to access all the relevant details about your virtual event and connect with other attendees. We recommend you create a private social media group to grow into an event community. Encourage attendees to join this group when they first purchase their tickets, and regularly promote this group during the event. Assign a staff person to monitor the community throughout the event. 

Enlist Social Media Moderators

Depending on the size of your event and the number of priority social media channels for your community, your team needs at least two team members solely focused on addressing attendee needs on social media. These moderators will engage with attendee content, including amplifying their takeaways, answering questions, and suggesting other sessions they should attend based on what they’ve enjoyed so far. They can also help create excitement by giving away prizes or other resources of value to attendees that are active on social media. Don’t forget to also have the moderators check in with the social media group to share photos and videos and post conversation-starters.

Build a Social Wall

A social wall is a live display of social media posts about your conference, typically centered around the event hashtag or geolocation tags. Your team should include a social wall in your in-person experience and on your hybrid event platform to provide in-person attendees encouragement to join the virtual conversation and help remote attendees feel part of the greater conference experience. You can check out these 10 social media wall tool options for your event. 

Share Polls, Quizzes, and Contests 

Encourage engagement and help attendees get to know each other by sharing polls and quizzes related to your conference. These can include fun facts about conference speakers or preview elements of upcoming networking opportunities. Consider having different types of activities—and prize drawings for completing them—for each social media channel. 

Host a Virtual Scavenger Hunt

Create a scavenger hunt activity that both in-person and remote attendees can join. Encourage them to snap photos or take screenshots during the conference, and share those images on social media to check items off their list. Offer a prize or swag bag for anyone who completes the list.

Use Twitter Lists

Help attendees connect with speakers and other guests at your conference by creating a public Twitter list that attendees can opt into. During registration, ask if the attendee has a Twitter handle that you can include on the list. You’ll want to create an additional list with all of your conference speakers. 

Cohesive Hybrid Event Technology Enables An Engaging Event Experience

Your hybrid event attendees need ample ways to connect with each other throughout your event and across the virtual communication channels they prefer. There are several steps your team can take to facilitate this, including creating a dedicated conference hashtag and actively encouraging conversations about your event on social media. 

But even the best-intended efforts can fall flat if your event platform simply cannot provide the interactive attendee experience that your attendees deserve. With the right hybrid event platform, your team can create beautifully customized event branding that highlights your event hashtag and includes a social wall alongside sessions to encourage engagement. 

Find out why Social hour is your ideal hybrid event platform.

Categories
virtual events

8 Best Practices For a Hybrid Industry Conference and Trade Show [via Social hour]

This post originally appeared on the Social hour blog.

Planning a hybrid event can be challenging for many teams, especially when blending the in-person and remote attendee experiences. Do any of these common hybrid events planning questions sound familiar to you?

  • Should a hybrid event prioritize the in-person audience or remote attendees? 
  • How can attendees of either type network and engage with the other? 
  • Will my exhibitors find value in a hybrid event?

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to hosting an incredible hybrid event, we believe the best way to create a cohesive and engaging experience is to prioritize the virtual experience and craft a complementary in-person event that blends seamlessly with the virtual event platform. 

We know this may be a counter-intuitive approach—”but the in-person experience should always come first!”—and it is a tall order to fill. But the brands that experiment with and perfect virtual and hybrid experiences will be best set for success in the future of events and community engagement.

To help you plan your next hybrid event, we’ve gathered these best practices to ensure you create an outstanding attendee experience, regardless of how they choose to join. 

8 Ways To Improve The Hybrid Event Attendee Experience

As more teams experiment with their hybrid event strategies, we can use their learnings to improve our approaches based on what worked well (or not so well). 

After researching recent virtual and hybrid events like Surf Expo, Essence Festival of Culture, CXEnergy 2021 Virtual Conference, and countless others, here are eight ways you can build a seamless event experience for all of your hybrid event attendees:

Broadcast all sessions via live stream with a unified commentary feed. 

All of your event sessions will likely involve a mix of in-person and remote-based attendees unless you host exclusive experiences only for your in-person attendees. To present a cohesive session experience, broadcast all sessions via live stream to virtual attendees, and project a commentary feed alongside your stage that includes thoughts from all attendees, regardless of location. 

If streaming all the conference content live is not feasible, consider pre-recording all breakout sessions, and having the speaker host a watch party on-site, followed by live-streamed Q&A sessions.

Stream your in-person attendees alongside sessions. 

It may sound strange at first, but we recommend live-streaming your in-person audience alongside your sessions. Why? Because the full scope of your event and its energy is difficult to absorb through a presenter-only one-way stream. 

You can accomplish this best practice with a digital or hybrid event platform that supports multiple simultaneous streams. If possible, consider streaming your remote attendees on a screen to your in-person audience, too, so everyone can realize just how many people are at your event. 

Don’t forget lunch. 

Provide a few lunch options for your in-person and remote attendees and partner with a nationwide delivery app partner to deliver meals to your virtual attendees’ homes. In addition, create spaces during the lunch break so in-person and remote attendees can easily chat and connect. 

Enlist moderators and help them coordinate.

Assign separate moderators to oversee your virtual and in-person attendees during sessions. Gather questions from both groups through your dedicated event messaging platform or audience polls, and then aggregate these questions into a shared document with all moderators. Ideally, you will have at least one moderator gathering questions for both groups each session and an additional moderator solely focused on reviewing/blending the two sets of questions and presenting them to the session host or participants. 

Encourage attendees to pre-submit questions. 

The goal for any event is to host crowd-pleasing sessions. As soon as your attendees hear about your event schedule, they should be excited about the discussion and will likely start to think about their own questions or goals for each session. So why should they have to wait to start engaging? Enable attendees to submit questions through your trade show app ahead of time. 

In addition to getting the buzz started about your event, this will help moderators set initial questions for sessions, can help refine conference presentations (if attendee questions are provided to the speaker ahead of time), and could provide ongoing content opportunities for your team. If a session has many unanswered questions, consider hosting a webinar or publishing an e-book or a series of blog posts to address your attendee needs.

Swag bags for everyone. 

Prepare swag bags for your in-person attendees to pick up at registration and mail similar bags to all virtual attendees. Remember that your attendees want useful items that help them day-to-day or provide instant relief at the event. Most trade show attendees have amassed a seemingly endless stock of low-quality pens, stress balls, and other items that quickly are thrown into a drawer once the event is over. Instead, give them something on-brand that they will actually use, like a USB drive, portable charger, or mints. 

Replicate your trade show floor online. 

Once you have all your other technology in place to enable attendee’s engagement, you can consider building a 3D rendering of your exhibition hall that allows virtual attendees to see displays and setups. You can also spotlight sponsored booths for your attendees to visit and interact with, and use a remote platform that helps attendees easily talk to and swap contact info with exhibitors. Some events have gamified this experience, offering prizes and giveaways to attendees who visit booths, or hosting a scavenger hunt to encourage more booth engagement. Consider adding an online-only exhibitor row to accommodate past exhibitors under travel restrictions and encourage in-person attendees to participate in the online experience.

Widen your exhibitor net but stay local. 

Almost all event exhibitors (96%) indicated that their marketing budgets are decreasing or staying the same in 2021, despite needing to support both in-person and digital versions of many events. Event planners can work around this by conducting a thorough exhibitor search within a drivable distance from their event venue. Although some legacy exhibitors may drop out due to the inability to travel, eager exhibitors in the local area can fill those slots. 

Select The Best Event Technology For an Exceptional Hybrid Event Experience

The above best practices are just a handful of current considerations for hosting a successful hybrid event. Remember to survey your community to understand what they hope to gain from a hybrid event experience and use those findings to build the optimal event for your unique audience. 

A common thread through all of these best practices is that your chosen hybrid event platform can easily make or break the attendee experience. You need a platform that can seamlessly connect your remote and in-person attendees to make them feel like the stars of the show. Learn how Social hour can make this your hybrid event reality

Categories
virtual events

Bridging the Experience Gap: How to Build Hybrid Events That Excite and Engage [via Social hour]

There is a significant difference between hosting or attending an in-person event versus its virtual equivalent. This came into sharp focus for event planners and marketers during the COVID-19 pandemic, as we had to very quickly adapt experiences to an online-only audience. While many of us are looking forward to the return to live events, our event attendees have made it clear that the way of the future is hybrid events. 

Bridging the gap between live and virtual attendee experience means building a hybrid experience that engages both audiences with equal access to opportunities for connection. In order to build these events, we must think differently about event planning from the ground up. 

It’s been said before and it bears repeating: a quality hybrid experience cannot simply be a live event with an online experience bolted on. To blend the two experiences meaningfully, you must plan each aspect of your event around both experiences, or build a quality online event and flow your live event around it. 

To understand how to create a high-quality hybrid event, we need to deeply explore the differences between live and online events and identify how hybrid event planning can create the perfect bridge to merge them. 

Online Versus In-Person Attention Spans

One big advantage of live events is they are mostly a captive, fully engaged audience. They are on-site, immersed in the physical conference space, surrounded by other attendees. They are buffered from whatever is waiting for them at home or the office. The flip side of this is that if an emergency arises that they must attend to in-person, they must leave the event, and risk not returning at all. 

Online attendees, however, are surrounded by the distractions of home or the office, and are more likely to have a split focus throughout the event. While this can be challenging, being a virtual attendee also means it is easier to dip in and out of the event as needed, in order to address external needs. 

Hybrid Events Can Give Attendees the Best of Both Worlds

When crafting a hybrid event, we want to build out an immersive experience for both types of attendees, while also making it easy to come and go as needed. We want attendees excited and focused on the event programming while making it seamless to step away and return as needed.

There are several ways to help keep your audiences drawn in. Effective use of social media to build an online community can help create ongoing engagement and prevent momentary distractions from turning into complete disengagement. Use of virtual lobbies and common spaces to keep your virtual audiences “on-site” between sessions and engaging with content and other attendees is also key. 

Virtual vs. Live Networking 

A major challenge for virtual events is creating easy and fun opportunities for networking. Live event attendees have the advantage of casual chance meetings in hallways while moving about the event space or during scheduled social hours and networking events. 

For virtual attendees, it is critical to choose an event technology platform that makes networking opportunities easy, and provides a way to integrate virtual and live networking. When surveyed, 39% of respondents who had attended a hybrid event expressed feeling left out. Bridging the networking gap is a critical way to overcome this challenge and keep your virtual attendees engaged and feeling connected. 

How to Craft a Hybrid Networking Experience

Employing several methods to improve networking opportunities will help your hybrid event shine. This is another instance where effective use of social media to build and maintain online communities can be helpful — this helps people connect before, during, and after your event. 

Both live and virtual attendees should have badges that provide quick, key details about themselves. Then build a bridge that links how virtual and live attendees can access information about each other. For example, all attendees should have an online profile that is completed ahead of the event. It should be easy for live attendees to point others to their profile (example: a QR code on their event badge that can be scanned with the event app), while virtual attendees’ avatars can contain similar key info and a prominent link to their profile. 

Creating and curating dedicated hybrid networking spaces is critical. As mentioned previously, live attendees have easy access to other attendees. For online attendees, create virtual lobbies and conversation spaces that create the same chance meetings. Set up tables and spaces that draw people into conversations using ice breaker questions, shared interests, or even casual games. By allowing virtual attendees to see who is in the room at large and seek out conversations, they will feel much more included and engaged with your event. 

Differences Between Live and Virtual Agenda Management

One of the biggest challenges of hosting any event is maintaining the agenda and helping people know where they should be, and when. For live events, there are many opportunities to get this right through the distribution of printed schedules, appropriate signage, and audio announcements that help attendees know where they need to be. 

For online participants, this can be a much poorer experience. Having to manually create events on your calendar risks getting key details and times wrong. Connecting to a session at the wrong time and receiving confusing messaging (for example, “this session has not yet started” when the session has ended) can be frustrating and disheartening. On the positive side, if virtual events have intuitive navigation, attendees can change locations with just a click — faster than live attendees could move to a new location.

One Digital Master Agenda to Rule Them All

One of the best ways to provide a stellar experience is to make it easy to create a custom digital agenda that seamlessly imports into the attendee’s calendar. If you are planning to use a custom app for your event, consider making an agenda builder with push notifications a built-in function. This can be helpful for all participants, especially at large events spread out over a large conference center. 

When an attendee is unable to make it a desired session, have the virtual replay, resources, and other key information easily accessible through the agenda when connecting to the online session space to make the experience better for everyone who needs to be in two places at once.

Virtual Audience Participation Largely a Live Event Afterthought

A huge factor in how integrated your virtual audience feels hinges on how you manage interactions between a speaker or panel, and the in-person versus virtual audiences. Handling this poorly can result in virtual attendees feeling hidden behind the screen and not a real part of the event. Frequently, speakers are unable to easily see and respond to incoming questions from online participants, which leads to a poor experience for everyone. 

For the best interactive experience for both live and virtual breakout session attendees, assign a moderator dedicated to monitoring and representing online comments and questions. Consider a setup where virtual attendees can ask their questions live using a video interface that allows the speaker (or even the live audience) to see them. Give dedicated time to both the in-person and virtual audiences for the Q&A. And don’t forget to provide opportunities for the two to engage with each other, as well as with the speaker or panel, throughout the session. 

The Trade Show Floor Is More Than Just a Collateral Library

Trade shows and conferences with a vendor showroom present a special challenge for hybrid events. This takes getting creative to offer a virtual experience that brings that same sense of fun and engagement that walking the floor brings.

When you are live at an event, you get the thrill of seeing the displays, meeting the people, and collecting fun swag as you walk the trade show floor. And of course, the showroom is a classic place for networking and chance meetings. 

Incorporate Your Event’s Networking Tools to Deliver an Interactive Virtual Trade Show Experience

Too often, virtual trade shows consist of a static menu of logos that lead to a document library, and possibly a calendar link to set up a 1:1 meeting. Replicating the live trade show experience virtually requires more than a simple vendor list and/or a static website interface. 

You need to get innovative to meet attendee and exhibitor trade show goals. Consider a 3D interactive model of the trade show floor. Imagine being able to hover over a virtual booth and getting a popup that shows company or product info, videos, and even a way to send messages or questions to the booth staff. Up the ante with the ability to see what attendees are currently visiting the same booth. Create exhibitor-hosted birds-of-a-feather networking table talks or group attendee virtual office hours to provide casual opportunities for networking and interaction. 

Start Building Better Hybrid Events

It takes creative energy and modern event management technology to build out exceptional hybrid events. It cannot be overstated that our approach to hybrid event planning means completely rethinking what it means to blend and bridge these two disparate experiences into one cohesive and engaging event. With the right planning, technology, and inclusive approach, your hybrid events will achieve further reach and superior engagement of your entire audience.

Are you ready to build innovative and exciting hybrid events? Check out socialhour.com.

Categories
virtual events

8 Best Practices For a Hybrid Industry Conference and Trade Show

Planning a hybrid event can be challenging for many teams, especially when blending the in-person and remote attendee experiences. Do any of these common hybrid events planning questions sound familiar to you?

  • Should a hybrid event prioritize the in-person audience or remote attendees? 
  • How can attendees of either type network and engage with the other? 
  • Will my exhibitors find value in a hybrid event?

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to hosting an incredible hybrid event, we believe the best way to create a cohesive and engaging experience is to prioritize the virtual experience and craft a complementary in-person event that blends seamlessly with the virtual event platform. 

We know this may be a counter-intuitive approach—”but the in-person experience should always come first!”—and it is a tall order to fill. But the brands that experiment with and perfect virtual and hybrid experiences will be best set for success in the future of events and community engagement.

To help you plan your next hybrid event, we’ve gathered these best practices to ensure you create an outstanding attendee experience, regardless of how they choose to join. 

8 Ways To Improve The Hybrid Event Attendee Experience

As more teams experiment with their hybrid event strategies, we can use their learnings to improve our approaches based on what worked well (or not so well). 

After researching recent virtual and hybrid events like Surf Expo, Essence Festival of Culture, CXEnergy 2021 Virtual Conference, and countless others, here are eight ways you can build a seamless event experience for all of your hybrid event attendees:

Broadcast all sessions via live stream with a unified commentary feed. 

All of your event sessions will likely involve a mix of in-person and remote-based attendees unless you host exclusive experiences only for your in-person attendees. To present a cohesive session experience, broadcast all sessions via live stream to virtual attendees, and project a commentary feed alongside your stage that includes thoughts from all attendees, regardless of location. 

If streaming all the conference content live is not feasible, consider pre-recording all breakout sessions, and having the speaker host a watch party on-site, followed by live-streamed Q&A sessions.

Stream your in-person attendees alongside sessions. 

It may sound strange at first, but we recommend live-streaming your in-person audience alongside your sessions. Why? Because the full scope of your event and its energy is difficult to absorb through a presenter-only one-way stream. 

You can accomplish this best practice with a digital or hybrid event platform that supports multiple simultaneous streams. If possible, consider streaming your remote attendees on a screen to your in-person audience, too, so everyone can realize just how many people are at your event. 

Don’t forget lunch. 

Provide a few lunch options for your in-person and remote attendees and partner with a nationwide delivery app partner to deliver meals to your virtual attendees’ homes. In addition, create spaces during the lunch break so in-person and remote attendees can easily chat and connect. 

Enlist moderators and help them coordinate.

Assign separate moderators to oversee your virtual and in-person attendees during sessions. Gather questions from both groups through your dedicated event messaging platform or audience polls, and then aggregate these questions into a shared document with all moderators. Ideally, you will have at least one moderator gathering questions for both groups each session and an additional moderator solely focused on reviewing/blending the two sets of questions and presenting them to the session host or participants. 

Encourage attendees to pre-submit questions. 

The goal for any event is to host crowd-pleasing sessions. As soon as your attendees hear about your event schedule, they should be excited about the discussion and will likely start to think about their own questions or goals for each session. So why should they have to wait to start engaging? Enable attendees to submit questions through your trade show app ahead of time. 

In addition to getting the buzz started about your event, this will help moderators set initial questions for sessions, can help refine conference presentations (if attendee questions are provided to the speaker ahead of time), and could provide ongoing content opportunities for your team. If a session has many unanswered questions, consider hosting a webinar or publishing an e-book or a series of blog posts to address your attendee needs.

Swag bags for everyone. 

Prepare swag bags for your in-person attendees to pick up at registration and mail similar bags to all virtual attendees. Remember that your attendees want useful items that help them day-to-day or provide instant relief at the event. Most trade show attendees have amassed a seemingly endless stock of low-quality pens, stress balls, and other items that quickly are thrown into a drawer once the event is over. Instead, give them something on-brand that they will actually use, like a USB drive, portable charger, or mints. 

Replicate your trade show floor online. 

Once you have all your other technology in place to enable attendee’s engagement, you can consider building a 3D rendering of your exhibition hall that allows virtual attendees to see displays and setups. You can also spotlight sponsored booths for your attendees to visit and interact with, and use a remote platform that helps attendees easily talk to and swap contact info with exhibitors. Some events have gamified this experience, offering prizes and giveaways to attendees who visit booths, or hosting a scavenger hunt to encourage more booth engagement. Consider adding an online-only exhibitor row to accommodate past exhibitors under travel restrictions and encourage in-person attendees to participate in the online experience.

Widen your exhibitor net but stay local. 

Almost all event exhibitors (96%) indicated that their marketing budgets are decreasing or staying the same in 2021, despite needing to support both in-person and digital versions of many events. Event planners can work around this by conducting a thorough exhibitor search within a drivable distance from their event venue. Although some legacy exhibitors may drop out due to the inability to travel, eager exhibitors in the local area can fill those slots. 

Select The Best Event Technology For an Exceptional Hybrid Event Experience

The above best practices are just a handful of current considerations for hosting a successful hybrid event. Remember to survey your community to understand what they hope to gain from a hybrid event experience and use those findings to build the optimal event for your unique audience. 

A common thread through all of these best practices is that your chosen hybrid event platform can easily make or break the attendee experience. You need a platform that can seamlessly connect your remote and in-person attendees to make them feel like the stars of the show. Learn how Social hour can make this your hybrid event reality

Categories
remote work

Data Roundup: Employers Want People Back In The Office, But Workers Say ‘Pass’

After more than 15 months of almost exclusively remote-based work, many companies intend to bring their workers back to the office this September. However, the stakes are high for brands if they cannot appropriately meet their worker’s needs given a growing movement in the U.S.: The Great Resignation

As we saw from employee surveys nearly a year into the pandemic, more than half of workers wanted remote-based work to be their primary way of working moving forward. We even questioned if it was time to say goodbye to the corporate office forever

Now, as companies finally prepare their return to the office, employees are standing their ground and may even quit their job to preserve their work-life balance. But not all employers are willing to adopt a hybrid-first workplace model. 

Let’s explore the latest data around employer and employee expectations for the future of work to understand where the disconnect is.

Employees View Workplace Flexibility As Essential

It should be no surprise that workers are hesitant to return to the “old way” of work. However, given the right tools, employees are just as productive at home and can more effectively balance their work and personal needs.

Studies up through July 2021 reinforce the employee demand to maintain flexible work policies:

These surveys show that employees enjoy a range of benefits from workplace flexibility, including the freedom to set their preferred office hours, the ability to create a personal, distraction-free workspace, and relaxed workplace attire requirements. 

To further increase their workplace satisfaction, workers hope to re-imagine how productivity is measured, with 86% of professionals surveyed by Citrix preferring to work for a company that prioritizes outcomes over output.

Employers Split On Hybrid And In-Person Models

Despite the clear enthusiasm from workers for remote-friendly working policies, a portion of companies would prefer to return to predominately in-person work:

Already, this data suggests that employer and employee desires are misaligned. But perhaps the most alarming of the data is that only 8% of C-suite and HR leaders expect their employees to quit once COVID restrictions are fully lifted. 25% believe that no one will quit. 

Bridging the Future of Work Divide

As seen by these recent studies, a company’s hybrid working arrangements (or lack thereof) will be a significant factor for employees as they decide whether to join in The Great Resignation. 

Companies simply cannot afford to neglect their employee needs when planning a return to the office. Employees are not bluffing, and they will leave your company in search of more flexible work if it is a priority for them.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach for teams to plan a hybrid work arrangement, but it starts with a simple conversation. Talk with each of your team members. Seek to understand their preferences for the future of work. And use your actual team feedback to build your plan, instead of relying on executive orders and trusting unfounded assumptions.

The Role Of Technology in Hybrid Work

Regardless of the exact breakdown between in-person and remote-based work at a company, one thing is clear: employees need robust, standardized, and integrated virtual tools that help them collaborate with their colleagues, no matter where they’re based. 

Learn more about how the Frameable suite of collaboration tools was built to support a healthy remote and hybrid working team culture, with intuitive features that can increase productivity and enhance collaboration no matter where employees are located.

Categories
virtual events

Bridging the Experience Gap: How to Build Hybrid Events That Excite and Engage

There is a significant difference between hosting or attending an in-person event versus its virtual equivalent. This came into sharp focus for event planners and marketers during the COVID-19 pandemic, as we had to very quickly adapt experiences to an online-only audience. While many of us are looking forward to the return to live events, our event attendees have made it clear that the way of the future is hybrid events. 

Bridging the gap between live and virtual attendee experience means building a hybrid experience that engages both audiences with equal access to opportunities for connection. In order to build these events, we must think differently about event planning from the ground up. 

It’s been said before and it bears repeating: a quality hybrid experience cannot simply be a live event with an online experience bolted on. To blend the two experiences meaningfully, you must plan each aspect of your event around both experiences, or build a quality online event and flow your live event around it. 

To understand how to create a high-quality hybrid event, we need to deeply explore the differences between live and online events and identify how hybrid event planning can create the perfect bridge to merge them. 

Online Versus In-Person Attention Spans

One big advantage of live events is they are mostly a captive, fully engaged audience. They are on-site, immersed in the physical conference space, surrounded by other attendees. They are buffered from whatever is waiting for them at home or the office. The flip side of this is that if an emergency arises that they must attend to in-person, they must leave the event, and risk not returning at all. 

Online attendees, however, are surrounded by the distractions of home or the office, and are more likely to have a split focus throughout the event. While this can be challenging, being a virtual attendee also means it is easier to dip in and out of the event as needed, in order to address external needs. 

Hybrid Events Can Give Attendees the Best of Both Worlds

When crafting a hybrid event, we want to build out an immersive experience for both types of attendees, while also making it easy to come and go as needed. We want attendees excited and focused on the event programming while making it seamless to step away and return as needed.

There are several ways to help keep your audiences drawn in. Effective use of social media to build an online community can help create ongoing engagement and prevent momentary distractions from turning into complete disengagement. Use of virtual lobbies and common spaces to keep your virtual audiences “on-site” between sessions and engaging with content and other attendees is also key. 

Virtual vs. Live Networking 

A major challenge for virtual events is creating easy and fun opportunities for networking. Live event attendees have the advantage of casual chance meetings in hallways while moving about the event space or during scheduled social hours and networking events. 

For virtual attendees, it is critical to choose an event technology platform that makes networking opportunities easy, and provides a way to integrate virtual and live networking. When surveyed, 39% of respondents who had attended a hybrid event expressed feeling left out. Bridging the networking gap is a critical way to overcome this challenge and keep your virtual attendees engaged and feeling connected. 

How to Craft a Hybrid Networking Experience

Employing several methods to improve networking opportunities will help your hybrid event shine. This is another instance where effective use of social media to build and maintain online communities can be helpful — this helps people connect before, during, and after your event. 

Both live and virtual attendees should have badges that provide quick, key details about themselves. Then build a bridge that links how virtual and live attendees can access information about each other. For example, all attendees should have an online profile that is completed ahead of the event. It should be easy for live attendees to point others to their profile (example: a QR code on their event badge that can be scanned with the event app), while virtual attendees’ avatars can contain similar key info and a prominent link to their profile. 

Creating and curating dedicated hybrid networking spaces is critical. As mentioned previously, live attendees have easy access to other attendees. For online attendees, create virtual lobbies and conversation spaces that create the same chance meetings. Set up tables and spaces that draw people into conversations using ice breaker questions, shared interests, or even casual games. By allowing virtual attendees to see who is in the room at large and seek out conversations, they will feel much more included and engaged with your event. 

Differences Between Live and Virtual Agenda Management

One of the biggest challenges of hosting any event is maintaining the agenda and helping people know where they should be, and when. For live events, there are many opportunities to get this right through the distribution of printed schedules, appropriate signage, and audio announcements that help attendees know where they need to be. 

For online participants, this can be a much poorer experience. Having to manually create events on your calendar risks getting key details and times wrong. Connecting to a session at the wrong time and receiving confusing messaging (for example, “this session has not yet started” when the session has ended) can be frustrating and disheartening. On the positive side, if virtual events have intuitive navigation, attendees can change locations with just a click — faster than live attendees could move to a new location.

One Digital Master Agenda to Rule Them All

One of the best ways to provide a stellar experience is to make it easy to create a custom digital agenda that seamlessly imports into the attendee’s calendar. If you are planning to use a custom app for your event, consider making an agenda builder with push notifications a built-in function. This can be helpful for all participants, especially at large events spread out over a large conference center. 

When an attendee is unable to make it a desired session, have the virtual replay, resources, and other key information easily accessible through the agenda when connecting to the online session space to make the experience better for everyone who needs to be in two places at once.

Virtual Audience Participation Largely a Live Event Afterthought

A huge factor in how integrated your virtual audience feels hinges on how you manage interactions between a speaker or panel, and the in-person versus virtual audiences. Handling this poorly can result in virtual attendees feeling hidden behind the screen and not a real part of the event. Frequently, speakers are unable to easily see and respond to incoming questions from online participants, which leads to a poor experience for everyone. 

For the best interactive experience for both live and virtual breakout session attendees, assign a moderator dedicated to monitoring and representing online comments and questions. Consider a setup where virtual attendees can ask their questions live using a video interface that allows the speaker (or even the live audience) to see them. Give dedicated time to both the in-person and virtual audiences for the Q&A. And don’t forget to provide opportunities for the two to engage with each other, as well as with the speaker or panel, throughout the session. 

The Trade Show Floor Is More Than Just a Collateral Library

Trade shows and conferences with a vendor showroom present a special challenge for hybrid events. This takes getting creative to offer a virtual experience that brings that same sense of fun and engagement that walking the floor brings.

When you are live at an event, you get the thrill of seeing the displays, meeting the people, and collecting fun swag as you walk the trade show floor. And of course, the showroom is a classic place for networking and chance meetings. 

Incorporate Your Event’s Networking Tools to Deliver an Interactive Virtual Trade Show Experience

Too often, virtual trade shows consist of a static menu of logos that lead to a document library, and possibly a calendar link to set up a 1:1 meeting. Replicating the live trade show experience virtually requires more than a simple vendor list and/or a static website interface. 

You need to get innovative to meet attendee and exhibitor trade show goals. Consider a 3D interactive model of the trade show floor. Imagine being able to hover over a virtual booth and getting a popup that shows company or product info, videos, and even a way to send messages or questions to the booth staff. Up the ante with the ability to see what attendees are currently visiting the same booth. Create exhibitor-hosted birds-of-a-feather networking table talks or group attendee virtual office hours to provide casual opportunities for networking and interaction. 

Start Building Better Hybrid Events

It takes creative energy and modern event management technology to build out exceptional hybrid events. It cannot be overstated that our approach to hybrid event planning means completely rethinking what it means to blend and bridge these two disparate experiences into one cohesive and engaging event. With the right planning, technology, and inclusive approach, your hybrid events will achieve further reach and superior engagement of your entire audience.

Are you ready to build innovative and exciting hybrid events? Check out socialhour.com.

Categories
virtual events

How To Create Stunning Baby Shower Invitations For Print or Email

If you’re hosting a baby shower for a friend or loved one, it is easy to get overwhelmed with the planning details. Who should we invite? What should the theme be? How can we connect everyone?

Thanks to the rise of virtual events, it’s easier than ever to host a flawless digital or hybrid event to celebrate the new addition(s) on the way!

Recommended timing:  You should host the shower four to six weeks before the baby’s due date, and you should send invitations one to two months ahead of the event. 

To help make this process a breeze, we’ve created this guide to creating stunning invites for your baby shower, including what to put on a baby shower invitation, the pros and cons of digital baby shower invitations versus paper, and the top tools to create your invitations. Let’s get started!

What To Include In Your Baby Shower Invitation

Your baby shower invitation should provide guests with all the details they need to prepare for and join the baby shower. Your invitations are a crucial part of the planning process, and it’s important to include the right details to help save time later on.

At a minimum, your baby shower invitations wording should include:

  • The mom- or parent-to-be’s full name
  • The day, time, and anticipated duration of the party
  • Location of the gathering, which is a URL if you are hosting a virtual baby shower
  • RSVP details and reply-by date
  • Contact details for more information or to share any dietary restrictions, if the shower has an in-person or mailed food component
  • Gift registry details. Note, however, that some baby shower planners recommend including the registry details on an enclosed card instead of on the actual invite

There are some optional details you may want to include, as well:

Categories
virtual events

3 Ideas That Will Help You Throw An Amazing Online Baby Shower


Are you unsure whether to host a virtual, in-person, or hybrid baby shower? 

Although some parts of the world are resuming in-person activities, many areas are still unable to meet in close quarters safely. And even if most of your close friends or family are vaccinated, some of your prospective guests may be uncomfortable meeting in person with large groups.

This may come as an initial disappointment for people used to a traditional baby shower, but you can still host a truly exceptional online baby shower, whether it’s all digital or a mix of in-person and virtual.

Here are some ways you can delight friends and family alike as you celebrate the mom-, dad-, or parents-to-be. 

Pick a Fun Virtual Baby Shower Theme

A theme is an easy way to add structure to your online baby shower and serves as a starting point for how you design the experience. 

Your theme can come through in various ways, including guest outfits, the design of your virtual baby shower platform and virtual backgrounds, activities that you play, the style of your baby shower invitations, any treats or goodies that you mail to guests, and more! 

If you plan an all-virtual baby shower, decorate the room that will be featured on camera, and consider sending guests a fun hat or other wearable attire that’s on-theme to create a festive atmosphere. If your virtual event platform allows it, play music that matches your theme during the event. 

If you plan a hybrid baby shower, decorate the in-person gathering location just as you would for a traditional baby shower. Give guests party favors that go along with the theme and that can double as fun photo or video props. Don’t forget fun food and drinks, too!

Popular Baby Shower Theme Ideas

Some popular baby shower theme ideas include:

Categories
online meetings

10 Games and Icebreaker Activities to Engage Virtual Meeting Attendees

There was significant uncertainty during most of 2020 about how long employees would need to work from home, with many people anxiously awaiting their return to the office. A year into the pandemic with vaccinations on the rise, workers hope to keep these flexible working arrangements, ushering in the era of hybrid work.

As we navigate this transition, companies will increasingly focus on combining the in-person and remote working experiences and improving the remote work employee experience. Notably, loneliness is one of the top three challenges for remote workers, meaning there is an opportunity for companies to connect their teams and build genuine and fulfilling work relationships. 

Online Team-building Games and Activities for Virtual Meetings

There is no single way for companies to effectively address the range of concerns for employees associated with returning to office work. However, an excellent place to start is to assess how your team can build and reinforce a positive culture in both physical and digital environments. 

Consider implementing these simple team-building games and activities at the start of your video conferencing calls to strengthen your team dynamic and lessen feelings of loneliness for your remote workers. Here are ten virtual meeting icebreakers and team activities to consider:

  • 20 Questions: Provide a series of creative questions for guests to get to know each other better. Compile your list in an easy-to-access document that all team leads can access ahead of their meetings. Realistically, 20 questions are too many for any single call, but you can aim to explore at least one or two questions each meeting.
  • Ad-Lib Games: Similar to Mad Libs, you can play any variety of free online ad-lib games, like Mad:)Takes. Simply select your word game theme and have meeting attendees contribute words to fill the story. 
  • Desert Island Scenario: In this game, team members must choose three of seven optional objects for them to use if they were stranded on a deserted island. This is simple to play, and you can share the list of options in your video conference platform’s chat box so everyone can quickly review their options.
  • Desk Show and Tell: Give attendees advanced notice of this activity, and have them point their camera toward their desk to show their workspace. Encourage them to share any funny stories about the items within their reach, or explain why certain items are significant.
  • Hybrid Work Bingo: Provide your team with a new bingo card at your regularly scheduled meeting. During the week, they will fill out that card based on their work activities. At the start of your next meeting, have team members share if they got bingo and encourage them to share a story or two about the items they checked off. 
  • Name, Place, Thing, Animal: Similar to Scattergories, provide attendees with a random letter to then list a famous person’s name, a place, an animal, and a thing that begins with that letter. Allow one minute for people to write their answers, and then have everyone share their responses.
  • Rank It: Provide a list of five random objects and a fictitious scenario, and ask meeting attendees to rank those items in terms of usefulness in the scenario. The goal is to provide a diverse range of options and out-of-the-box scenarios, including objects like “hairdryer,” “overcooked spaghetti,” or “a blue marker that only works half the time,” and scenarios like “ski vacation,” “year-end review of results,” or “space exploration.”
  • Scattergories: At the start of each call, give attendees one letter and five categories in your video conferencing chat window. Give them one minute to come up with a word that starts with that letter and fits within the category, and then have everyone read their answers.
  • Two Truths and a Lie: Ask guests to share two truths about themselves and one lie. Then, have the other attendees vote on which of the three statements is the lie.
  • Virtual Scavenger Hunt: Ask guests to find obscure items in their homes within one minute. You can grab a variety of free lists here.

Whichever game(s) you decide to play, remember that consistency is vital to establish a new pattern for your employees. Encourage all people managers and team leads to start their calls with a five-minute activity and solicit new icebreaker ideas from attendees.

A Hybrid Workforce Needs Modern Video Conferencing  Solutions

Evolving your workplace culture to support a hybrid workforce is an exciting opportunity, and directly ask your team about how you can improve their experience.

Continue to introduce new games and activities during your conference calls to keep ideas fresh and provide new ways for team members to get to know each other.

Even the best efforts to connect a team can fall flat, though, if the right technology isn’t in place. Some video conferencing solutions are clunky, unintuitive, and will crush even the most fun team-building activities. 

Learn how Team.Video and Socialhour.com can support your team’s video conferencing and virtual event  needs.