Eventbrite hosted the first-ever RECONVENE summit in May. The virtual networking and skillsharing event featured more than 20 talks and workshops from some of the most dynamic thinkers in the event world. We’re recapping the two-day event’s key takeaways on the blog. Watch recordings of every session here.

On March 12, 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic was just creeping onto Americans’ radar, CraftJam sent an email to its customers, telling them its social crafting studio in New York would be closed for one month. It never opened again.

But founder and CEO Nora Abousteit found terrific success with virtual events and plans to continue livestreams even as CraftJam’s in-person events resume, opting for a hybrid business model.

“Often when you close a door, a window opens,” she said during Eventbrite’s RECONVENE summit. “Event creators are the people that guide people back into social life and help them feel comfortable and safe.”

Abousteit shared tips for event creators on adopting a hybrid business model to events going forward. Here are five takeaways.

Watch Nora Abousteit’s full talk below: 

Rethink your SEO and PR efforts to reach new audiences

When CraftJam started offering virtual events, it suddenly became a global company – not just a New York business.

That meant rethinking SEO and PR efforts to, for example, reach people who had left the city and still wanted to be part of the CraftJam community, and those who had never been able to be part of it but would welcome the opportunity.

CraftJam also had to figure out how to ship craft supplies to its newly dispersed audience, and opted for sending slim pouches instead of bulky kits. It will continue to do so post-pandemic.

Virtual and in-person events are complementary, not competitive

“IRL means in real life, but online is real too,” Abousteit said. “For us, it was a lifesaver to be online.”

Virtual events shouldn’t be viewed as a competition or substitution to in-person events — they’re complementary, and not a matter of either/or. This new online event medium targets a completely different audience, and by hosting both in person and online, you’ll encourage crossover between the two audiences.

Hybrid events lead to more opportunities for more customers, and longer relationships with your existing patrons.

Utilize the same systems and event partners for virtual and in-person events

A pivot is much easier if you have an existing infrastructure that you can tweak, Abousteit said, while being open to creating some new services and products. Her advice:

  • Find the right virtual event platform(s) to fit your business needs. Look for the features that are most important to you.
  • Technology overload is confusing to customers, so try to simplify the process. The goal is to reduce customer inquiries and make it super easy for them to join virtual events.
  • Over-communicate, and warn your audience that mishaps might happen. And if they do, it’s OK: Just reschedule.

Train your staff to provide emotional safety

This is necessary in both in-person and online events. Patrons don’t just need physical safety measures, like gloves and masks. Emotional safety will be vital as we move forward. Train your team and organizers on how to adopt a caring, compassionate tone, Abousteit suggests.

Keep in-person events local

Moving forward, there’s huge opportunity for local, intimate events, Abousteit says, which will be especially crucial as the community (safely) reconnects. Some tips:

  • Look for local settings that are convenient and feel safe.
  • Cater to groups: People miss their families, friends, and colleagues.
  • Many people relocated during the pandemic. Implement icebreakers to help your patrons get to know each other. For example, have a question of the day or week; email it out ahead of time so people can prepare a response to share.
  • Let people talk. We’ve been alone for a long time; design your event space to encourage talking to each other, and to make it easy.

Get started with your next in-person or virtual event here.

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