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A user’s guide to hybrid events at Congress Centre

Posted on 05 October, 2020

A hybrid event at Congress Centre, the TUC's 152nd annual Congress

The concept of hybrid events isn’t a new one, but it’s certainly becoming an important part of the event industry. Combining live and virtual elements allows event organisers to increase the reach of their events and allow more guests to attend thanks to easily-accessible streaming platforms – the sky really is the limit: your chosen venue may have capacity for 500 delegates, but if it becomes a hybrid event you could invite thousands.

Running events in this way creates more flexibility for delegates, giving them options on how they’d like to attend your event: from their office, home or live at the venue. All of this makes your event more appealing and enables you to widen your reach to an international audience (if appropriate) and increases promotion opportunities before, during and after, with the option to watch footage back at a later date. 

There will of course always be a social requirement for interaction and networking, but hybrid events allow you to provide the best of both. Giving your delegates a choice allows them to avoid the commute if they so wish, or come along and join in live and soak up the atmosphere with you in person if that’s what they prefer.  

Hybrid events at Congress Centre

Our credentials

We’re no strangers to a camera crew at Congress Centre. In September, we hosted the 152nd annual Congress for the Trades Union Congress, which was transformed into an all-virtual event for 2020 and saw Keir Starmer and Frances O’Grady as keynote speakers.

Congress Centre used as a 1950s London filming location for Killing Eve

We’re also used regularly as a filming location including recently for the likes of Netflix and their hit series The Crown as well as BBC’s award-winning Killing Eve. With lots of tech already in house and all the space required to facilitate extra external equipment, there’s almost nothing we can’t accommodate.

The backdrop

It’s just as important for a hybrid event to stand out as it is for a physical one, so don’t overlook the setting. Our unique décor and stylish 1950s features provide a subtle yet distinctive backdrop which helps to boost memorability. That, combined with a West End location, modern amenities and high-tech equipment ensures your hybrid event will be a crowd-pleaser – both physically and virtually. Everything event organisers need to host an effective hybrid event. 

Congress Centre used for events then and now

The AV

A high-standard of AV is key for hosting a successful hybrid event. You want to ensure that your event not only goes off without a hitch, but leaves your delegates impressed . You do need to consider the experience of those attending in person and those viewing online separately, however with the right AV, this can be achieved with ease.

Congress Hall is our largest space and is probably one of the best equipped in central London thanks to a recent £250,000 investment into its AV offering. Creating a professional event setting here is easy because of features like its 18ft drop-down screen, large stage and intelligent lighting system. Plus, all that floor space means allows for all the necessary tech to be set-up without intruding on the space or experience of those attending in person. 

The Congress Hall in an empty layout at London conference centre Congress Centre

Fast and reliable Wi-Fi is also a must – you don’t want to risk your live-stream cutting out mid-event! At Congress Centre, we provide a secure, 1GB fibre connection which ensures a high-quality stream experience for all virtual delegates, without the risk of connection hiccups. You don’t even have to worry about setting anything up yourself – we have a practical team of technicians in-house who can assist with all parts of getting your hybrid event set-up right. 

Attending in person

The crowd who attend in person will contribute the most to the atmosphere of the overall event. Making sure they’re enjoying themselves and feel comfortable will have a positive impact on the quality of your event – and those watching at home are likely to notice. The benefit of hosting a hybrid event at Congress Centre is the team’s dedication to going above and beyond to ensure that a tangible atmosphere becomes reality. Plus, a small crowd allows you to be more selective with who you invite to attend in-person and who participates virtually, which in turn allows us to boost each individual’s event experience. Win-win! 

You can also feel confident in the safety of all attendees here. We have been deemed “Good to Go” by Visit Britain and AIM Secure by the Meetings Industry Association for demonstrating our commitment to running a covid-secure venue. Large spaces, wide corridors, one-way systems, touch-free catering and an enhanced cleaning schedule all combine to protect everyone at the venue and make sure they feel comfortable at all times

Plexiglass screen installed at the reception area

Find more information on our COVID page.

Congress Centre is also in a convenient, central location to make travel arrangements as straightforward as possible. As well as being a short walk from several tube stations, there are two public car parks in the immediate vicinity, metred on-road parking, cycle racks for those on two wheels and even a Boris bike docking station located on Great Russell Street.

Attending virtually

It can feel tricky to think of ways to get your virtual audience involved as much as the physical one, but there are some easy and creative ways to keep them engaged. Polls and surveys are a great tool for getting live feedback as well as talking points from. At a hybrid event in Congress Hall, you could have the poll question displayed on the built-in 18ft screen and then reach out to the online audience for their answers. Similarly with speakers and panel discussions, viewers could send in questions which can be displayed on-screen in the venue and answered live.  

Content and visual displays your virtual audience can react to in live time are a failsafe way to make those attendees feel noticed and, in turn, keep them engaged. For smaller hybrid events (or ones with bigger budgets) you could also send small gifts or relevant to the content to each attendee ahead of the event. Perhaps something that could help them with virtual networking or breaking the ice. Some inventive ideas include mini cocktail making kits, ‘sharing’ snacks or any small thing with instructions on when to use it. Better yet if those attending in person are given the same thing!

Have a question about hybrid events?

We’d love to have a chat to see if we’re the right fit for your next hybrid event. With large event spaces and state-of-the-art AV, we’re confident we can accommodate nearly any event – physical, hybrid or virtual. If you have any questions, please get in touch on contact us on 020 7467 1318 or on congress.centre@tuc.org.uk.