Categories
virtual events

All Successful Virtual And Hybrid Events Have These Five Things in Common

Over the past 20 months, as the COVID-19 pandemic upended many of our in-person events and celebration plans, we all found new ways to keep celebrating all of life’s special moments virtually. 

We cheered on graduates as they walked the virtual stage, raised our glasses to our favorite newlyweds as they said their “I Do’s,” and even took our careers to the next level at virtual conferences, hybrid industry events, and online trade shows.

At Frameable Events, as we partnered with people across the globe on a range of events, at a time when human connection was more necessary than ever. We gained a deep understanding of what attendees expect at a hybrid or virtual event. It may surprise you, but we’ve found it all boils down to just five elements that are essential for your event success, regardless of what type of gathering you’re hosting. 

Five Must-Have Elements for Any Type of Virtual or Hybrid Event

Event planners can transition almost any traditional event component online. In some cases, the online environment may even enhance the experience for everyone involved. 

However, many event planners are still stuck on the idea of replicating their in-person event exactly as it was—just now in an online setting. This results in one-time talks streamed from the keynote stage, leaving attendees lost in a sea of webcam streams without a way to connect meaningfully with those around them.

When planning your next event, I challenge you to focus on enabling attendee engagement throughout the entire experience as your most important element. Engagement is the single most crucial factor that determines your event’s success. 

So how can event planners guarantee engagement at their next virtual or hybrid event? We’ve found these four elements are essential to your success, and they all help drive attendee engagement, too:

  • Limit the number of participants in each session or room
  • Ensure an equitable talk-to-listen ratio to help avoid listening fatigue
  • Give attendees opportunities to take breaks
  • Track metrics and analytics that help you assess engagement disconnects at your event

Enabling Virtual or Hybrid Event Engagement

In my recent article on Trade Show News Network, you can learn more about how each of the five elements we introduced above can affect engagement at your next event. I also share my advice on how to ensure a cohesive hybrid event experience (hint: you want to focus on virtual first).

What questions do you have about virtual event engagement? Tweet me @AARiggs.

Categories
remote work

5 Ways to Support Your Employees with A Flexible Hybrid Work Plan

Is your team ready to transition to the hybrid future of work? If you haven’t documented and shared your hybrid work plan yet, it’s not.

The latest employee and employer survey data shows that most teams will introduce a hybrid working model once COVID restrictions are lifted, with a smaller percentage of companies planning for a primarily in-person workforce.

Despite the enthusiasm of many U.S. companies to return to the office this fall, growing concerns around the COVID-19 Delta variant (and any future variants) may postpone many team’s plans, as is the case for Apple.

Although it’s not clear when most teams will be able to resume office-based work safely, now is the ideal time to explore your team’s concerns about the future of work and partner with them to develop your hybrid work plan. We share five ways to get started.

5 Steps to Draft a Hybrid Work Plan for Your Flexible Workforce

Charting your team’s return to the office may feel like an impossible task, given the ever-evolving set of challenges and considerations your teams face. But if you solicit executive and employee insights to guide your planning, your team will be more forgiving of any missteps or hurdles along the way. 

These five steps will get your team started in building its hybrid work culture, including how to address your team’s needs throughout this process.  

1. Survey Your Team

Kickstart your hybrid work planning by surveying your team members to understand their expectations for the future of work. Use a mix of qualitative and quantitative questions in your survey, and supplement these findings with one-on-one conversations to drill further into specifics.

Preface all surveys and conversations with an explanation of how your team will use the information. Reinforce that you welcome all ideas as you will need your team’s honest feedback to best structure your team’s future work policy. 

You need as complete a picture as possible of your employees’ current challenges with remote work. Your surveys and conversations should explore all of the following areas for your team members:

  • Preferences for how many days a week they work in-office, if any
  • What type of work or activities do they feel is best conducted in the office 
  • Personal circumstances that may affect their ability to work during certain business hours
  • Whether they need more or different tools or resources to complete their work
  • If the team’s current success metrics align to support a healthy and productive work culture

2. Adapt Your Physical Space for Virtual and Distanced In-Person Collaboration

A recent PwC report found that only 13% of executives are prepared to permanently let go of their company’s physical workspace. But that doesn’t mean the office should stay exactly as it was.

Use your team survey feedback to assess what activities will be most common in your physical office. For example, do team members want an open layout for easy mixing and mingling? An array of small, private meeting rooms for someone to take a quick call? Socially distanced personal workspaces?

Once you have a sense of how many team members may be in your office at any given time, create new solo work and collaboration spaces that can accommodate the average number of employees. Consider implementing a desk hoteling strategy to optimize your layout further. It’s also essential to optimize your physical office space for hybrid work, not just for those who return to the office. And don’t forget to give shared spaces the technology they need to integrate into your virtual team spaces.

3. Reset Your Workplace KPIs to Reflect New Hybrid Work Norms

The shift to remote-based work forced teams to assess how to support a healthy and productive working culture. For most teams, this meant a thorough look at the team’s workflow and collaboration tools, common communications practices, and other traditionally unquestioned aspects of the team’s work.

Now, teams should review whether their markers of success align with what actually drives business value. According to a Citrix survey, 86% of employees said they would prefer to work for a company that prioritizes outcomes over output, meaning they want to be measured by the impact they can deliver to the entire business, not just their direct work output.

In your employee surveys and conversations, ask your team if they feel the key performance indicators (KPIs) they are measured against accurately reflect the value of their work, and assess if a different KPI is more appropriate. Review your list of new proposed KPIs, and ensure that your team can accurately track each KPI, or if you’ll need to adopt a new practice or tool to do so. 

4. Support Your Hybrid Work Plan with Digital Communications Guidelines

Communications guidelines are a vital aspect of a healthy hybrid working culture that most teams often overlook. Many teams adopted new virtual collaboration tools during the pandemic, but it’s essential to take this one step further and document what team members should use each tool to accomplish.

Some team members may overuse their virtual communications channels, possibly because they are used to getting quick face-to-face feedback in an office environment. Create guidelines that discuss which channels should be used for workplace communications, do’s and don’ts for using these channels, and general guidelines that explain how your team can preserve a healthy working culture online. 

You can start building your workplace communication policy guidelines based on these samples from Cutting Edge and JotForm.

5. Over-Communicate About Your Hybrid Work Policy

It is understandable for leadership teams to wait until their hybrid work planning is underway or the hybrid work policy is close to final before communicating these plans with the team. However, this may not be the right approach for today’s environment.

A McKinsey survey found that nearly half of workers feel that a lack of clear vision about the future of work from their employer is causing them concern or anxiety. To address this, create a regular communications cadence to keep your team updated on your team’s planning, and regularly invite questions or create open space to discuss these plans.

Start with your employee surveys. After the initial fielding and analysis, share high-level findings in a team email, and host an optional meeting to further drill into the feedback. Update your team at least once a month on any progress your team has made and upcoming opportunities to learn more. Finally, host an optional meeting each month for employees to ask questions about the future of work and for the leadership team to gauge the early sentiment towards their plans.

If appropriate, your team can create a hybrid work planning committee composed of cross-department team members of various levels. This committee will partner with your executive and HR team to assist in various planning discussions and represent each department or team. 

Remember, it’s better to keep your team in the loop on your plans and invite their feedback earlier on. Otherwise, you may unveil a hybrid work policy that fails to meet your team’s needs and amplifies their feelings of stress or anxiety.

Help Your Hybrid Culture Thrive With Intuitive Collaboration Tools

Once your initial hybrid work policy is created, and you inform the team of your plans, continue reviewing and adjusting your policy as new concerns emerge. 

To further support your hybrid work future, learn how Frameable’s suite of team collaboration and social connection tools can help increase your team’s productivity and provide data that can help you get ahead of potential workplace culture issues. 

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 Frameable Events is your ideal hybrid event platform.

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

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 Frameable Events can make this your hybrid event reality

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 Frameable Events.

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

4 Ways To Invite Alumni To Your Virtual College Class Reunion

Have you been planning your virtual college class reunion? It can be easy for your reunion planning committee to get wrapped up in all the details—from setting goals for your event, creating an exciting schedule filled with activities and fun networking opportunities, and finding a platform to meet these needs.

But if you spend all your time planning those above areas, your event can still fall short if you neglect one key area: promotion.

It’s hard to forget that your reunion is just around the corner when you’re part of the planning committee. But your alumni need ample notice in a few different places to maximize their likelihood of attending and ensure they have a fulfilling reunion experience.

 Let’s explore the best practices for promoting your upcoming virtual college class reunion. 

Create A Virtual Class Reunion Hub

Before you start promoting your online college class reunion, create a central location for your alumni to access key information about the event. Then, regularly update this hub as new details emerge and the reunion gets closer. 

If multiple communications hubs pop up as you plan and promote your event, your alumni will likely become confused about where to receive the most up-to-date information. Instead, maintain one core page—be it a dedicated website, an event page on an existing alumni site, private social media group, etc.—that links out to all the alumni resources for the reunion.

Your virtual class reunion hub should, at a minimum, include these details:

  • Date, time, and location of the reunion
  • How to register or RSVP for the reunion, including any fees
  • A detailed schedule of events
  • Networking opportunities
  • Contact information for more details
  • Asks/considerations for guests
  • Answers to frequently asked questions, like the ideal attire
  • Technology troubleshooting guides

4 Ways To Promote Your Virtual College Class Reunion

It’s not enough to send a single invite to your alumni and expect your registrations to skyrocket. Your reunion planning committee needs to send multiple invitations and reminders through various channels to maximize your RSVP count. 

Partner with your alumni association to source contact details for your alumni. Use this initial list to start your outreach, but you will need to expand this list and your outreach strategy to get in front of more alumni.

Consider a combination of these four primary ways to reach your potential college class reunion attendees:

Digital or Physical Invitations

Share a digital or physical invitation to start promoting your virtual reunion. A direct invitation is a perfect way to announce the event, and these invitations should guide your alumni to your class reunion hub.

Ideally, start inviting alumni up to a year before your event. This leaves ample time for your invitations to navigate the mail system and eventually reach your invitee. However, digital invitations are a much more direct (and potentially trackable) way to invite your alumni.

Consider a combination of both print and digital invitations if your time and budget allow.

Email Newsletter

Create an email newsletter to keep your alumni up to date on the latest plans for your college reunion. Start light with the number of your messages, ideally sending just one update every one or two months when you are a year out from the event. Then, as the reunion gets closer, you can send weekly or more frequent emails as needed.

Use the email newsletter to drum up excitement for the reunion, encourage donations to the university, and ultimately drive more attendance.

A few ideas for what to include in a virtual college reunion email newsletter include:

  • Fun photos from your graduating year, presented in a fun trivia style, such as, “can you guess what this is?”
  • Spotlight notable alumni who will attend the reunion, ideally with a quote about why they are excited to attend
  • Promote speakers or sessions at your reunion
  • Discuss the networking opportunities available to your alumni at the reunion

Social Media

Social media channels will widen your net of invitees. There are a few ways to maximize the effectiveness of your social media promotion:

  • Reunion event page. Invite your former classmates to an event page on Facebook or LinkedIn. Ensure that a member of your communications and marketing committee monitors these event pages for questions or comments from your prospective attendees.
  • Hashtag. Create a hashtag to accompany your reunion posts. This will help your alumni sort through information about the event and connect with others who are attending.
  • Direct messages. Social media’s “social” aspect is vital for getting people excited about your online reunion experience. Have each member of your planning committee directly message any of their friends and former classmates, and encourage those friends to invite their friends. 
  • Paid posts. Promote your virtual college reunion with sponsored posts that will directly target members of your alumni network. Most social media channels offer cost-effective promotion that can greatly boost the reach of your event’s promotions. 

Phone a Friend

This strategy will be necessary if your alumni network is not particularly active on social media channels. However, it will require a more significant time investment. Directly call alumni that you have not been able to reach by other means, and quickly let them know about the reunion and where they can get more information.

It’s important to respect your alumni’s time when calling. Leave a clear and concise voicemail if you cannot reach them live, and only call them up to three times leading up to your event, ideally one time a month.

Delight Your Alumni Network For Reunions to Come

As your team continues promoting your reunion, tap into your alumni network to refine and improve your reunion experience. Share short surveys and polls to gauge what your alumni hope to gain from the experience, and use this information to put the finishing touches on your planning. 

By directly engaging your alumni ahead of your event, they’re more likely to be excited about your event—and possibly return for your next reunion.

But promotion is just one part of hosting a successful online college reunion. Learn more about how to plan a virtual college reunion event that your alumni will love, and see how MIT used Frameable Events to support its alumni reunion here. Once you’re ready to get started, see how Frameable can help you make it an event to remember.

Categories
virtual events

How Your Online College Reunion Goals Should Adapt To New Alumni Needs

Are you hosting an upcoming college reunion? Although it is natural to default your planning to a traditional in-person reunion experience, there are several advantages to hosting an online event experience. But how can you tell which event style will be best for your alumni?

To help plan your college class reunion, let’s explore the pros and cons of virtual event experiences and in-person event experiences, and how your audience needs should shape your reunion agenda and activities

How Is A Virtual College Reunion Different From An In-Person Reunion?

Virtual college reunions provide many of the same benefits and possibilities as an in-person reunion without the costly hurdles of travel for your alumni. 

You can replicate most aspects of an in-person college reunion online using on-demand or live-streamed videos and a combination of open networking rooms and channels for your alumni to mix and mingle. 

At a high level, here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of each type of college reunion:

Virtual College Class ReunionsIn-Person College Class Reunions
ProsNo travel hurdles for attendees

Potential cost advantages for reunion organizers

The online format makes it easier to track engagement and essential information for future reunions

Recorded sessions can be accessed and replayed after your reunion is over, serving as promotional materials for future reunions
There is an innate appeal and excitement with in-person gatherings and reunions

The local community receives a business boost thanks to the alumni who travel to the reunion

Group activities and happy hours are easier to plan when everyone is in the same location
ConsSome attendees may not be tech-savvy and have difficulty navigating your event experience

The local community receives no boost in business
Travel needs and costs could detract alumni from attending, limiting the size and diversity of your group

In-person events require a significant time commitment and lock your attendees into the experience

Goals For College Class Reunions By Audience

When planning a college class reunion and deciding whether to offer a virtual or online event, it’s important to consider the different audiences and their respective goals for the reunion. Your alumni are certainly a priority audience, but this group is filled with unique individuals that each have their own hopes for the event. Then there is also the greater university ecosystem that relies on reunions to fulfill other needs.

Alumni Goals for College Reunions Evolve Over Time

Your alumni will have a range of hopes and goals for attending your college reunions, and these needs will change depending on if you are hosting a five-year, ten-year, or 15+-year reunion.

Generally, your alumni will attend the reunion to:

  • Reconnect with old friends
  • Relive the excitement of college days
  • Forge new professional connections or partnerships
  • Show their family their alma mater
  • Assess whether your college is a good fit for their children or other loved ones to attend

Your reunion planning committee will need to build an agenda that provides ample open networking space, as well as more structured talks and sessions to appeal to these diverse goals.

According to information from Stanford University and Harvard University, you can expect reunions shortly after college to be most popular, with a sharp dip in attendance at the 15-year celebration, followed by a pickup from the 25th reunion onward. The earlier reunions are often characterized by alumni insecurities about their work and life; it is often best to prioritize open networking opportunities and high-energy games and activities for these events. As your alumni become more comfortable with their lives, they are ready to engage in more intellectual-focused topics and presentations (typically around the 15-year reunion mark). 

University Goals For Class Reunions

The second most important audience for your virtual class reunion is the university, or, specifically, its current leadership, faculty, and students.

Reunions are an important opportunity to reconnect alumni with their alma mater and instill a sense of pride in their university. Ideally, college class reunions will encourage alumni to donate to their university, helping to sustain its work and support future generations of students. 

Actively partner with members of your alumni association to ensure that the university’s fundraising goals and other needs are accounted for during your virtual reunion planning. 

Survey Your Reunion Attendees To Understand Their Needs

The best way to build a fulfilling virtual reunion agenda is to directly ask your alumni and leadership of your university what they hope to gain from the reunion experience. Employ a mix of short survey questions and targeted 1:1 conversations to dive into the full range of considerations for the reunion. We share a few questions to consider in our college reunion planning overview.

The Future Of College Reunions Is Online

With your audience survey results analyzed, your reunion planning committee is better prepared to deliver a fulfilling reunion experience for your various audiences. Track how your alumni needs change as you advance in your reunion years and adjust your strategy to continue delivering an outstanding reunion for everyone involved.

Even as more communities reopen and resume in-person activities, we expect virtual college reunions will remain popular for their ease of access and unrivaled conveniences for attendees—especially as committees show just how impressive an online college class reunion experience can be. Don’t just take our word for it, see how MIT’s alumni reunion on Frameable Events reignited MIT’s energy and excitement around virtual events.

Learn more about how Frameable Events can help you host an incredible virtual alumni reunion event

Categories
virtual events

How To Form A Successful College Class Reunion Planning Committee

Are you excited to reconnect with your alma mater and its alumni for an upcoming college class reunion? 

Many colleges and universities are now hosting reunion celebrations online, which means friends and classmates can connect easier than before—providing an unrivaled opportunity to strengthen your alumni network and bolster their relationship with your university. However, while many of the same traditional reunion activities can occur during a virtual reunion, there are a few virtual reunion planning differences to address.

If you’re a part of your university’s online reunion planning committee or just getting started organizing that committee, let’s explore how to structure your virtual college reunion planning team for success. We’ll explain the ideal college reunion planning committee structure, roles and responsibilities for each member, and an ideal timeline to plan your event with ease. 

Partner With Your Alumni Association

Before making any plans for your upcoming college class reunion, contact your university’s alumni association to check if there is already a planning committee in place that you can join. 

Your alumni association should also have resources and guides to help streamline your planning. Work with them to understand any available funds to support the event, attendance of past reunions, ways to fundraise for a class reunion, an ideal timeline for planning your college class reunion, and any other historical information that can inform your planning. 

Even if your alumni association already has a team ready to plan and support the reunion, there is almost always a need for more volunteers to help with the planning. It’s a lot to get done, and it never hurts to have more hands-on-deck to help plan and coordinate events during the reunion. 

Key College Reunion Planning Committee Roles

There are a few central positions you will want to appoint on your virtual college reunion planning committee. These individuals will then partner with a group of volunteers to conduct the day-to-day planning activities for the reunion.

The size of your committee will depend on how many alumni you anticipate will attend your event. Unfortunately, there is no definite way to answer how many people should be on a college reunion planning committee. Still, it is best to have at least 20 people ready to help throughout the planning process.

These are the essential reunion committee positions and associated responsibilities:

Reunion Chair 

The reunion chair oversees all reunion planning and acts as the main point of contact for the alumni association and other planning committee members. This role is responsible for coordinating committee meetings, making all final approvals, and overseeing the planning timeline.

Alumni Support Chair

Your prospective attendees will have a range of questions leading up to and during your event. Appoint one person to oversee and coordinate alumni support services. This person will act as a traffic controller and partner closely with the communications/marketing team to route requests to the finance, technology, or program teams as needed.

Communications/Marketing Chair

The communications or marketing lead oversees a team to coordinate all alumni outreach before and after the event. In addition, this team partners closely with the alumni association to:

  • Source alumni contact information 
  • Create and distribute invitations or save-the-date cards, as well as ongoing event communications through phone, email, or other channels
  • Manage any reunion-related social media channels or online communities. Build information hubs for reunion attendees, including an event website

Finance Chair

This individual is responsible for creating and monitoring the budget for your class reunion. At the end of the reunion, the finance chair will report on all expenses and income, as well as any leftover funds. All other committee chairs must gain purchase approvals from the finance chair, and all volunteers are responsible for helping to meet the finance chair’s fundraising goals.

Giving Chair

A core goal of many college reunions is to help raise funds for the university and garner ongoing support for the university’s mission. Appoint a member of your committee to advance this goal. They will partner with the alumni association to determine the best approach to encourage donations to the university. They will also coordinate all follow-up and thank yous for donors. 

Program Chair

Appoint a person who will oversee the creation and management of your class reunion agenda. This individual will not be solely responsible for organizing the series of activities, but they will be the one to finalize all agenda elements ahead of the reunion. 

Technology Chair

The main difference between a virtual and in-person college class reunion is the technical requirements for hosting each. With a virtual college reunion, it’s essential to designate a tech-savvy individual who can partner with the finance chair to find an event platform that will meet your alumni’s needs. In addition, the technology committee should partner with the communications committee to create FAQs and how-to documents to help alumni navigate the tech elements of your reunion. 

An Ideal Online College Class Reunion Planning Timeline

Your team should start planning your reunion at least one year in advance. The first step is to identify the right people to serve as the committee chairs we described above. Then, meet at least once a month, or more as needed, as an entire planning committee to oversee the next steps and encourage each chair to host separate meetings to coordinate their team’s activities. 

Ideally, follow this timeline when planning a virtual reunion:

12 months before event: 

  • Identify all committee chairs and align on responsibilities.
  • Partner with your alumni association to source contact information for all prospective attendees. 
  • Conduct a pre-reunion survey to understand what your attendees want out of your event. This survey can also invite alumni to volunteer to help your planning committee. Field this survey for at least one month, and then use it to inform your next steps.

11 months before event: 

  • Set a general budget for the reunion based on your anticipated attendee count, which you will gauge in your pre-reunion survey. 
  • Divide existing volunteers into appropriate committees.
  • Begin planning your agenda elements and inviting speakers.
  • If there is an in-person component of your reunion, begin sourcing group hotel rates or other travel logistics.
  • Confirm reunion date.

Ten months before event: 

  • Begin exploring event technology vendors.
  • Finalize fundraising plan.
  • Send initial save-the-date postcards or emails.
  • Publish reunion website to serve as a hub for prospective attendees.

Six months before event: 

  • Open registration for alumni. 
  • Coordinate a bi-weekly communications cadence to remind alumni of the reunion and promote your registration. Include social media posts, emails, and other communications channels to reach as many alumni as possible.
  • Post a preliminary reunion agenda to drum up excitement.

Four months before event:

  • Start collecting any memorabilia for the reunion, including photos for the slideshow.
  • Plan and purchase alumni gifts or swag bag items.

One month before the event:

  • Release full reunion agenda.
  • Research and develop remembrance ceremony materials. 
  • Finalize all planning elements.
  • Receive any final presentation or other agenda item files for your reunion. 

One month after the event: 

  • Share a photo slideshow, talk recordings, and other relevant files with attendees.
  • Debrief as a planning committee on post-reunion statistics, including how many people attended and how much money was raised for the university. 
  • Draft a document that collects the lessons learned and outcomes from the reunion to act as a resource for the next reunion’s planning committee.
  • Send all donors a thank-you card.
Design your dream virtual reunion platform today.

Sustain Your College Class Community Between Reunions

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to hosting a virtual college reunion, and we encourage you to structure your planning committee and timeline in a way that can best support any range of fun activities or ideas that your team has in mind. 

Once your reunion is finished and everyone has received their thank-you notes and said their goodbyes, it can be easy to slip back into your “normal” life for another five years until your next reunion. If possible, have a subset of your reunion planning team keep in touch to plan additional events between your reunions to keep the excitement high. 
Learn more about how Frameable Events can help you host a memorable virtual alumni event, and see how MIT used Frameable Events to support its alumni reunion here.

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