Eva Talk

Addressing the Challenges of Hybrid Events With Harris Schanhaut, CME

Every event presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities, which must be addressed, managed and executed as seamlessly as possible. As event professionals and brands struggle to decide between online events, in-person events, and hybrid events in 2022, that notion has never been more prevalent.

If the last two years have taught us anything, it is that events today are more transitional than ever before. Organizers can benefit most from hybrid events, taking advantage of all the benefits both virtual and physical events have to offer. With hybrid events, participants can engage with a more diverse audience regardless of where they attend.

As part of the event experts series, 10times asked Harris Schanhaut, CME to share his expert viewpoints about hybrid events, event technology, and the trends shaping the events industry right now.

Additionally, he discussed various marketing and production tools that event organizers can use to create seamless hybrid experiences.

About Harris Schanhaut, CME:

Harris Schanhaut, CME has managed conferences, meetings, and events in a variety of industries, including healthcare, technology, financial, pharmaceutical, wellness, and manufacturing. Over the years, he has published numerous articles in trade publications and spoken at industry events. 

Furthermore, Schanhaut served as co-chair of Meeting Professionals International’s Greater New York Chapter’s Strategic Partnership Committee, which was named Committee of the Year. He also served on the Trade Show Exhibitors Association Board of Directors, where he was honored with the President’s Award. 

In addition to serving on the Board of Advisors of BPA Worldwide, the monthly forecasting board for Trade Show Executive magazine, Schanhaut  serves as Chairman of the Audit Commission for the Event and Exhibition Industry and is often a guest lecturer at St. John’s University on events and trade shows.

* Could you please walk us through your professional journey? What attracted you to events industry in the first place?

I didn’t realize it until many years later that I did my first event in 6th grade. Living on Long Island with my parents, I very much wanted to visit Brookhaven National Laboratory. They were not interested. I asked my science teacher who liked the idea but left it at that. 

I really wanted to go, so I called the lab and found out they did school tours. I called the school bus company who said they can transport us. I shared the details with my science teacher. That became the first time my school did a class trip to the lab.

I really did not know what I wanted to do professionally. Like many young men, I was attracted to cars. I went to the New York Auto show and was blown away. Of course, many of the cars were great, however how they were presented is what caught my attention. I noticed some displays were better than others and I was mentally taking notes of what the differences were. For a while, I went to that show every year loving the cars and seeing how the displays were evolving.

Professionally though, I was not happy with the various roles I was in. When I saw there were opportunities in event management, I became focused and applied to every opening I saw. Once I was hired into the events industry, I never turned back.

* How to balance on-site and virtual events to provide hybrid value?

There is incredible value to hybrid events. The producer can capture many more attendees by offering both on-site and virtual participation. From the professional attendee’s perspective, that person’s company might offer a fixed amount of funds to visit shows annually. The employee can choose to go to a few key events on-site and the others virtually, effectively stretching their budget.

* What according to you, do planners need in terms of tools, marketing and production wise to achieve a seamless hybrid experience?

In my opinion, from the producer’s point of view, if you are doing a big on-site show with a lot of AV already planned and budgeted for, it’s not a huge leap to add a virtual event platform to the mix. Alternatively, if you are on track to create a virtual event, or a smaller event without the extensive on-site AV support, to make it hybrid, the costs and complications will skyrocket. 

The key stakeholders will have to make a call to see if the anticipated numbers of participants will justify the costs. The producer must also see if they have the time to incorporate all that is needed to go hybrid.

The basic tools a producer will need to pull off a good hybrid event are an experienced AV team with the accompanying equipment and skills, and a great event platform that has demonstrated abilities in hybrid. The AV team lead and the event platform must work very closely together.

From the marketing perspective, the word must go out often that the event is hybrid so participants can choose how they want to attend. From a revenue perspective, it may be a good idea to limit what the virtual participant can be a part of, to entice more on-site attendance. Another way is to make the on-site registration fees less expensive than virtual.

* What do you see as the biggest game-changing event tech in the next few years?

Next big tech I see in events, which can add value rather than glitter, is AI. From a presenter’s view, AI can read facial expressions which can be shown on the confidence monitor so if needed, the presenter can adjust in almost real time for a more engaging experience. 

The same can be true for exhibitors to judge who is really interested and who just wants the swag or prize. Of course, the participants would have to agree to this as part of the terms and conditions as a part of the registration. 

The value of AI falls off for the virtual participants. The producer can gain valuable insights from AI by real time traffic patterns. The biggest sponsors can pay for additional support as part of their package to have show management entice more traffic to their stands with announcements, ads, push notifications, etc. From seeing overall interests on the show floor and in the sessions, the producer can share with the sponsors what the hot topics are so their sales team can adjust.

* Any additional advice you would like to give to our event planners?

My advice for my peers is to ask questions of your key stakeholders as soon as you learn you will be doing an event. Why do you want to do this event? Why do you think an event is the best solution for that market? Have we done this event before? 

If so, what were the results last time and what improvements they expect. Ask the key stakeholders what metrics leadership uses measurements to judge their performance, so you can present the post event report in those terms. Another related question for them is after the event has concluded, how can you present that report so if they never had any direct feedback about the event so they can objectively decide if the event is a success.

For more in the Events Industry Experts series, check out our interview with  Janice Cardinale, Courtney Stanley, Helen Moon, Danica Tormohlen, Ashley Brown, Jason Allan Scott, Brandt Krueger, Corbin Ball, Will Curran, and Stephan Murtagh today!

Are you interested in sharing your insights or viewpoints with the events industry? Join the Eva Talk.

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