“Behind the Scenes” Chat from the UNTETHERED Studio Tour
Two experienced event professionals thought their upcoming hybrid gathering was safe from a COVID-19 shutdown — but then the Delta variant hit.
With just two weeks to go until UNTETHERED Fall 2021, Allie Magyar (Chief Product Officer, Intrado) and Caitlin Davis (Event Strategist, Dynamic Events) chose to change their 3-day hybrid event to multiple 1-day virtual Studio Tours.
They didn’t make the decision lightly: UNTETHERED is a unique series of events that brings event professionals together. Seamless Events CEO Laurel Miller, an active member of the group, suggested keeping one of the scheduled days for some much needed peer-to-peer support.
“Losing the opportunity for participants to experiment with a hybrid format was very disappointing,” shares Laurel. “However, I offered to allocate my team’s time along with our studio so we could go forward with a virtual digital event. That way, everyone could still connect after more than a year of chaos and uncertainty.”
Returning to the goals they’d established earlier, the UNTETHERED planning team quickly revamped their content and brought attendees together for a day of inspiration and empowerment live streamed from the Seamless Events studio.
While they were here, we filmed some “behind the scenes” chat on how they made the call to cancel their original event. Read on to learn what they considered before making the change, tips for doing a 180, and how you can build pandemic-era contingency planning into future events.
Before you cancel your in-person or hybrid event
- Look at what’s locked and loaded in terms of your costs and contracts.
- Try to assess the odds of increased travel restrictions and inconveniences.
- Consider the cancellation frustration point for attendees — what notice is best given their needs?
If you decide to cancel and switch to a virtual event
Cancelling your original event comes with a wide range of emotions. “As meeting industry professionals, we need to give ourselves some grace. To say, ‘Yes, I did this well, and yes — I need to do this even better in a different format.'”
1. See what you can pull from your original event’s plan.
If you’ve decided to cancel, look to Caitlin’s advice: “Take a step back, breathe, and relax. There are definitely nuggets of what you wanted to do originally that can still be created in a different way.”
Your goals and objectives may not change at all — but then again, they may. One goal of the UNTETHERED Fall 2021 event was to push the boundaries of what a hybrid event could be; when the planners flipped to virtual, that goal was no longer relevant.
2. Reset expectations and redefine success.
In the pandemic era, forecasts only go so far. So rally colleagues involved with the event, and get your clients or executive team aligned with any revamped goals, timelines, costs, and attendance. Then move forward with confidence you’re doing the best you can given the world’s realities.
Notes Allie, “It’s up to us to say, ‘This is success. We are meeting the goals and objectives of the event even though it looks a little bit different.'”
3. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.
Carry over the discipline from in-person events to virtual ones. You and your AV Production partner need a true rehearsal: have everyone show up and test out the pacing, the tech, and the content. Rehearsal is where the details get fleshed out and you identify what’s missing.
Additionally, make sure everyone knows what to do if they experience a tech glitch or need support.
For Caitlin, the fast switch from a hybrid to virtual event emphasized the importance of rehearsing. “There are elements of running your entire plan as a team that you won’t catch if you’re just wondering if you’re missing something.”
Adds Allie, “For past in-person events, we’d go line by line through the production schedule. In a digital world, it’s just a different application of what we already know how to do.”
“Having to shift your entire plan into something brand new at the last minute is daunting. As planners, though, we tend to instantly snap into the mode of, “Ok: how do we make this work in the way we have to?”
— Caitlin Davis (Event Strategist, Dynamic Events)
“Seamless Events has just been an incredible partner for us, whether it’s talking about how we think about bringing that in-person experience hybrid, or how we think about being in a studio. We’re really excited about partnering with them and getting their professional AV and production support.”
— Allie Magyar (Chief Product Officer, Intrado)
Advice for future planning
- See what opt-out clauses your vendor contracts offer.
- Build in review points where it’s “go or no-go” for holding your event. Pre-planning versus reacting permits more strategic decisions.
- Create a new mindset around inclusivity and togetherness instead of thinking of virtual as a back-up plan for cancelled in-person events.
We were so impressed with how the UNTETHERED team pulled off their revamped event in so little time. We appreciated being able to showcase techniques that elevate production value, and look forward to attending more UNTETHERED events!
Click here to watch the full “Behind the Scenes” chat with Allie and Caitlin, and hear their thoughts on the importance of having a production team in creating digital experiences.