• Embrace the Chaos

     
    FROM THE Summer 2021 ISSUE
     
    Photo credit: Clean Comedians

Five strategies to make your hybrid event a huge hit from one of America’s top event emcees. 

As a busy master of ceremonies, my mission is to entertain, engage, and empower audiences. I have hosted more than 1,500 live, virtual and hybrid events. These include galas, annual gatherings, after-dinner programs and nearly every type of event you can imagine. 

One of my favorite clients is Insperity, a Fortune 1,000 company headquartered in Kingwood. I was invited to host the 2021 Insperity Awards show and to serve as a consultant during the pre-production phase. 

Here are five tips gleaned from the awards program that can help you make your next hybrid meeting a success: 

Tip #1: Get clear about the mission of your meeting. Party with a purpose! Insperity’s event team was crystal clear about the experience they wanted to create: “It’s been a tough year, but we are going strong. We want to celebrate our super-achievers.” They had a solid theme for their sales and marketing meeting: “Rising Above.” This awards show was about putting the spotlight on the top salespeople at Insperity and keeping the company’s sales momentum up. What is the main purpose for your live + virtual event? 

Tip #2: Make sure both your online and in-person attendees feel included. We needed to connect two separate audience segments and make them feel like one. With the awards program, most of our attendees—and award winners—were joining us virtually from all over the country. And some of Insperity’s sales leaders and staff were attending live in Houston. We wanted to create a powerful event that connected both our online and in-person attendees. As the host, I welcomed everybody into a shared experience focused on our award winners. We knew there would be some bumps along the way. I told them: “Let’s embrace the chaos and celebrate together.” And that’s what we did. 

Tip: #3 Identify who is doing what backstage, onstage and on-camera. As you move into your event planning, consider two groups and choose carefully: your production partners and your program presenters.

Here were just some of the key roles at the Insperity event:

» Meeting manager/producer

» Script writer

» On-site show caller 

» A/V director (along with an audio engineer and camera operators)

» Teleprompter operator 

» V.I.P. award presenters 

The biggest mistake I see meeting producers make is forgetting to create a solid one-page working schedule or run of show that can be shared by all the players involved. This document should pinpoint the who/what/where/when of your program. Create an easy-to-read printable one sheet. (I recommend you not use Excel.) This should be distributed via email to all your key players prior to the program and handed to the on-stage speakers before the meeting. 

Tip #4: Conduct a brief “talk-through” meeting 30 minutes before your program begins. Get all your presenters together and on the same page about who’s doing what and when. Mark Twain said, “It takes me three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” 

One of the most important things we did during Insperity’s awards show was what we did before the show. We had many focused meetings prior to our big meeting. We covered virtual connectivity issues, scripting, blocking, transitions, video segments, and more. Several of our presenters were dynamos when it came to speaking to live audiences, but they did not have experience speaking via a virtual platform. We spent time helping them feel comfortable presenting to our online audience. Look right into the camera. Talk like you are having a conversation with a friend. 

Tip #5: Look for dynamic ways to generate shared experiences with your attendees. The Insperity event team created suspense and surprise. These are two powerful ingredients to bake into your meeting mix. How did they do that? The company sent a videographer to the top award winners’ homes to capture their reactions when they were recognized. This was an energy-boosting piece of our program. It also helped us fulfill the main purpose of our event: to celebrate Insperity’s sales superstars. It also enhanced the “wow” factor of the show.  What will you do to engage the interest and involvement of your people during your hybrid meeting? 

Hybrid events are here to stay. By following these five tips, you can maximize your live + virtual events. Here’s to creating meetings that matter for everyone in your organization no matter the location from which they join your program.