Well, hello! It’s always a pleasure to have you with us so we can better help you navigate the world of events. If you’re here, chances are you came from our recent hybrid webinar, featuring Will Curran and Kyle Kocinski. Or maybe you just can’t wait to start planning for your first hybrid event of 2021 and beyond. Whatever the reason is, we’re glad to see that you’re taking action and learning about one of the most important aspects of the experience. And in order to help you get things running, we compiled this hybrid venue checklist, complete with everything you should be looking for.
As you venture into these complex hybrid waters, you’ll notice that your to-do lists will expand. In this new age of events, planners and vendors alike will have to push for innovation whilst expertly marrying the best aspects of virtual and live. Okay, that sounded a tad scary. But don’t worry – it’s all about breaking it up into small chunks. We’ll be putting out a lot of hybrid content in the upcoming months to make sure you have all the tools you need. Today, we start with a hybrid venue checklist. And if you’re left with any questions, make sure you reach out to our amazing team – we’re here to help!
Indoor & Outdoor Spaces
If the weather allows it, we highly recommend that you look into venues that offer both indoor and outside spaces. We must remember that every decision made when planning a hybrid event will have to be made with the big C in mind. Even when the virus is long gone, the lessons learned from it will remain deeply ingrained into our minds and behaviors.
Attendees will likely be more mindful of personal space and ventilation, so provide options that allow you to sparse out the audience, as well as spaces where those warier of indoor rooms can feel at ease. Plus, who doesn’t love to be out in the sun and pleasant weather? Cookie points if there are some cocktails involved!
Stage & Seating Spaces
How much can the space available be optimized in order to be both appealing, innovative, and comply with COVID-19 regulations? And what options do you have to play around with? Hybrid venues can look very different depending on the goals of your event. From studios to convention halls and the aforementioned outdoor spaces, the stage and the seating arrangements should be one of the aspects where you get to be as creative as possible.
From an aesthetic point of view, you obviously want everything to look as good as possible. Furniture plays a big part in that. Regardless of whether you prefer a cool, futuristic look, or a classic and elegant feel, the furniture should be able to tie into the narrative of your event.
But more than just for show, the furniture should also be as comfortable as possible! We’re all feeling the cabin fever, and many people are aching to go back to live experiences. Virtual attendees have been sitting on their couch all of 2020. It’s time to up accommodations for comfort to please the in-person attendees. They’ll thank you later!
This is where we introduce the idea of a COVID-19 Compliance Officer or CCO. This will be the person in charge of making sure every guideline regarding COVID compliance is being met and respected – we’ll chat more about these guidelines below, but the important thing to know is that having a CCO by your side will be a key aspect of planning hybrid events.
When it comes to entryways at your hybrid venue, you’ll want to look for designated entrances and exits for speakers, staff, and attendees. COVID-19 screening should be done at each entrance and exit point. The CCO monitors the log of all onsite personnel. Additionally, make sure you designate one-way pathways when possible. For hallways narrower than 12 feet, have hallway monitors allowing 2-way traffic at both ends of the hallways. It’s all about keeping it safe!
We don’t need to go into much detail as to why restrooms are necessary, especially if your event happens to include an open bar. But where safety is concerned, you’ll want to make sure there is a sufficient number of stalls, touchless soap dispensers, and faucets when possible.
Sanitizer stations to use prior to entering the bathroom should also be present. Remember to consider how you are going to monitor how many people are in the bathroom to maintain social distancing. Cameras? A designated person? Is the venue willing to provide this person, or does it fall on you?
Okay, now we get into the nitty-gritty. There’s a lot that goes into COVID-19 compliance, and each venue will probably have its own set of specifics. As will you, most likely. A great first step is to ensure you have a CCO by your side, as well as reviewing local news from local health authorities to ensure adherence to their most up-to-date guidance. Here are other important things to look for and check off the list in terms of materials:
- Materials: 3 times the amount of speakers, staff, and attendees per day;
- Surgical masks for minors (if applicable);
- KN-95 masks for screening and cleaning;
- Nitrile gloves;
- Hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol by volume;
- EPA N: Cleaning / disinfecting Supplies;
- Privacy folders to store screening surveys;
- Blue marking tape and marking equipment;
- Disinfecting wipes;
- Goggles or face shields;
- Wristbands or credentials (different color per day): 2x amount of personnel per day.
Does the venue provide cleaning services? And if they do, are they up to date with COVID regulations, or do you need to make sure these services are provided on your end? A clean venue is always a must, but in times like these, it’s more than just nice – it’s an absolute necessity.
The importance of good, commercial-quality Internet cannot be overstated. Remember that you have an entire audience tuning in from home, and neglecting this portion of your attendees is not a hybrid event mistake you’ll want to make. There’s a lot that goes into this, so our best advice is to let your production team take the lead – they’ll know what to look for in terms of bandwidth. In the meantime, check out this #EventIcons episode on the topic to learn more!
Oh, AV. After more than a year of virtual-only events, most planners probably forgot about this exhausting portion of a live experience. Thankfully, Endless has been there, done that – AV was our bread and butter for many years, and we continue to bring our knowledge to the table as the industry evolves towards hybrid.
If you’re already struggling with specific AV restrictions, reach out to our team. But if you’re just curious about the topic, head out to our Whiteboard Wednesday episodes about how to remove AV restrictions and what to look for on a site visit to a hybrid venue – they’re a fantastic starting point!
Everything at your event that runs needs power, whether it is the ovens for caterers, your light show, video, or sound. And this power is coming from a source – but does your hybrid venue have enough? And what does the power placement look like? Fortunately, we’ve already done all the gymnastics for you!
Check out this WBW episode on power placement. Once again, we urge you to work with a production team. Chances are they’ve been doing this for a long time and know all the boring numbers and tech stuff required for a smooth event.
There’s no escaping the need for ventilation…and not just because you want your attendees to be sweat-free. By now, we all know that COVID-19, as well as a myriad of other viruses, spread through air particles. This means that having a well-ventilated hybrid venue is yet another step to take towards attendee safety. How many windows does the space provide? What does the overall ventilation system look like? Things like these might have seemed small in the past, but as we evolve to craft positive experiences for the audiences, so do our needs when defining the most important aspects of our events.
Is there anyone out there who’s not aching to network face-to-face with other human beings? Well, probably some people. But we’re willing to bet that the great majority is jumping up and down with happiness at the thought of doing so. Networking has always been one of the biggest reasons why people attend events, so providing them with a space to do so, particularly in a post-COVID era, will be essential. If you’re worried about bridging the gap between audiences at a hybrid event, check out our best tips!
Much like sitting arrangements for the networking and speaking portions, dining or eating, in general, will also need to comply with a set of rules. Food preparation will have to be done safely, by people wearing proper protective equipment. The number of people at a table can’t exceed a certain amount, and the distance between tables must be respected.
Does the venue offer these possibilities? How many chairs and tables can co-exist while respecting guidelines? Is outdoor dining feasable? And can safe food preparation be ensured? These are all important questions to ask yourself.
And that’s it – you’ve officially dipped your toes into the waters of hybrid. Congrats! You are now one step closer to the future of the events industry. Of course, there are many other things to consider when putting together an event with the scale and magnitude of hybrid. But slow and steady wins the race, and getting acquainted with the most important things to look for when choosing a hybrid venue is already a big step.
As you venture into this journey, make sure to choose the right production partners. Ideally, these will be people who have plenty of experience with both virtual and live events and can hold your hand through the process of planning, executing, and delivering flawless experiences. Much like in 2020, when everything fell apart, we are all in this together as we rebuild our industry!