2020 required many nonprofit organizations and charities to become familiar with virtual fundraising galas — online events that allow supporters to connect via a virtual platform and donate to their favorite causes. These virtual events are popular and there’s every indication that nonprofits will continue using fundraising platforms like PayBee’s online setup even after the pandemic.
However, nonprofits and charities also need to be prepared to host a new kind of fundraising event — hybrid galas. These live/virtual events combine the best parts of in-person and online galas, allowing your supporters and donors to attend your fundraisers both live and virtually, making your gala more convenient for your supporters and more profitable for your organization.
That said, how will an ideal hybrid event setup look like? Although many nonprofits and charities are still working out their perfect arrangement of live and virtual activities, here’s what we feel are the most important things to focus on when hosting a hybrid event.
Be Prepared to Have Two Teams Managing Your Hybrid Gala
Well before your hybrid event, your team should have well-thought-out plans for both your in-person and virtual experiences. Remember, hybrid events are basically two experiences in a single event, and it’s to your benefit to make sure you have adequate staffing and support for the online and in-person portions of your hybrid gala.
If you intend to produce a sophisticated virtual experience for your online audience, you may want to invest in a professional crew with experience in coordinating and producing virtual events. Make sure these crews are well-versed in handling all your event’s filming, editing, and livestreaming needs. A professional crew should also supply their own equipment, including cameras, microphones, and editing software.
If you intend to manage the virtual experience of your hybrid event yourself — or even if you do end up hiring a separate crew — make sure you become very familiar with the online platform you’re using for your event. PayBee’s virtual platform is very user-friendly, but it’s still best to test out every feature and option your platform offers so you can talk intelligently about it with your crew. The same thing applies to your streaming service and content distribution network.
Your fundraising team may be more familiar with hosting in-person galas, but you also need to consider how your in-person event will intersect with your virtual experience. For instance, part of your event venue may need to be set up for regular live streaming so your virtual audience can view and interact with the event. This requires your in-person gala staff to coordinate with the online production crew so everyone can work well in tandem.
Above all, make sure everyone on your teams knows their roles and responsibilities. You should also have a very clear and detailed “run of show” outline that lays out every single hybrid event activity in the order you need them to be presented. Remember, once your hybrid gala goes live, everything will move very fast, so your crews need to know what to do at every given moment.
Plan for Plenty of Rehearsal Time
If you’ve hosted in-person fundraising events, you know the value of rehearsal. Your speakers need to know how to present to an audience in your event venue, your tech staff needs to ensure you have good lighting, and you need to iron out any glitches that might affect your audience’s enjoyment of the event.
Virtual events also need rehearsals for all the reasons stated above — plus making sure you know how to manage your online platform software. The nice thing about these rehearsals is they can be recorded, allowing you to experience these events the way your online audience will and make sure you work out any technical bugs.
Guess what? Hybrid events also need plenty of rehearsal time. In fact, hybrid event rehearsals are more complex since you need to make sure your virtual attendees interact well with your physical audience.
Hybrid auctions are a good example of how rehearsals are vital when preparing for a hybrid gala. In a hybrid auction, both your live and online attendees bid on items using mobile bidding apps. The bids are sent to your online platform, which can process the information almost instantly.
However, your online audience may also be watching and listening to a live auctioneer through their computer screens — and that auctioneer’s performance may experience a lag time of a few seconds based on the type of live streaming service you use. As a result, if your live auctioneer ends the bidding at the wrong moment, your online audience won’t know this until after your live audience — which can leave some of your attendees feeling left out and slighted.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to use your rehearsal time to work out any lags or delays in your livestreaming, and coordinate with your live auctioneer and MCs so they know when to talk and what to announce so both your live and virtual experiences sync up. Small details like this can have a big impact on your hybrid event, so keep them in mind when you rehearse.
Be Prepared to Offer Redundancies in Your Internet Service
Virtual events live and die by how well your online audience receives good picture and sound through your Internet Service Provider (ISP). However, problems do occur, which is why it’s important to have backup plans for if your internet or streaming service provider experiences issues during your event.
Director and cinematographer Paul Mathieu has been producing livestream concerts and film festivals for over 20 years. In a PayBee Virtual Webinar, Mathieu notes he provides redundant internet connections as part of his service. These backup internet connections or “dual ISPs” help keep your virtual or hybrid event going in case your primary internet connection goes down. Mathieu adds that livestreaming has the option of going to another internet service if something goes wrong — such as if your account is flagged for using certain types of music or copyrighted material.
Considering that half (or more) of your hybrid event audience may be attending online, having redundant internet connections is essential to keeping your event moving smoothly and ensuring that many of your attendees don’t suddenly feel left out by a technical glitch.
Keep Your Audiences Connected with Streaming/Interactive Chat
Knowing how your virtual audience will interact with your in-person attendees is essential to hosting a successful hybrid event. Remember, hybrid galas don’t just mean providing your online audience with a livestream look at your in-person event. All of your audience members need to feel included — which means offering multiple ways of interacting.
Providing streaming and interactive chat features is a great way to keep everyone connected. PayBee’s online fundraising platform includes a live chat feature that allows your online attendees to easily communicate with each other and comment on the group activities as they happen. This chat feature is also highly intuitive and easy to use for most audiences, which is important since your attendees need to be familiar with any tech you use to communicate.
If your hybrid fundraiser includes a discussion panel, it’s important to have a moderator to organize all the questions being asked by both your in-person and online audience. This is particularly vital if you get questions from multiple platforms — such as email questions, live chat, and social media. Your moderator needs to field all the questions so that all of your audience members feel involved and able to interact with everyone.
Make Sure Your Live Entertainment Translates Well to an Online Audience
Both in-person and virtual galas can offer plenty of entertainment options. In the past, successful fundraising events have attracted large audiences by offering:
- Live and Silent Auctions
- Costume Parties
- Talent Shows
- Fashion Shows
- Sports Tournaments
- Casino Nights
When planning your hybrid event entertainment, however, you’ll need to plan for activities that play well for both in-person and virtual audiences. This means you’ll need to consider how different attendees will respond to your entertainment — and how you might need to alter the way you stage your entertainment to accommodate both audiences.
Concerts, for instance, can play very well with both virtual and in-person audiences. However, if you set your hybrid concert in a dark room or offer too many light effects and loud sound effects, they might not translate that well to a virtual audience that views the event through live streaming. You’ll need to consult with a professional production crew and conduct rehearsals to make sure the concert conveys the type of energy you want for online and live audiences.
Some entertainment options, such as hybrid auctions, are specifically designed to play well to both an in-person and online audience. Once again, however, you’ll need to rehearse your performance and become familiar with your online platform to ensure that technical issues like livestreaming delays don’t interfere with your audiences’ enjoyment.
Setting Up Your Ideal Hybrid Fundraising Gala
If all of this sounds a bit overwhelming, you should know that everyone — even professional event planners — are working on understanding the intricacies of the ideal hybrid event setup. So, even if hybrid galas are the future of fundraising, it’s understandable that hosting a successful hybrid fundraiser isn’t going to be simple, especially if it’s your first one.
That said, by focusing on the necessary technical and planning aspects of a hybrid event — and giving your production teams plenty of time to rehearse and become familiar with their roles — you’ll be able to give your hybrid event a level of professionalism that your supporters and donors will remember.
To really learn about what you need to set up a successful hybrid event, you need to consult with the experts. Sign up for a free demo of PayBee’s online platform to become more familiar with the new fundraising tools that are available to you. You’ll also get a chance to ask your questions on hybrid fundraising to a qualified support staff who can help guide you toward the next stage of your nonprofit or charity’s fundraising efforts.