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What It Takes to Plan a Great Blended Event Experience

I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to a return to in-person conferences and events. Not everyone is, of course. Many places and firms still have travel restrictions in place, and some people aren’t ready for a return to in-person conferences. That’s the reality we faced when planning our Boomer Technology Circles Summit, which took place virtually and in person earlier this month.

Planning a blended event takes a lot of careful planning. Putting on an engaging virtual event is tough enough, but the planning must be even more detailed when you’re hosting an event with two sets of audiences.

It’s too soon to say whether all of our planning will go off without a hitch, but here’s a look at what went into planning it.

Consider the event’s layers

For the Summit, we like to think of it as layering the virtual experience on top of the in-person event. Prior to the pandemic, we’d hosted the Summit at the InterContinental Kansas City at the Plaza for years, so we have a good idea of what it takes to hold a multi-day event with a big audience, a sponsor hall, keynote sessions, presentations, interactive Q&A, and breakout sessions.

We’ve also been hosting virtual Circle meetings for a while, so we have experience creating virtual events with many of the same elements. The challenge is building all aspects of the Summit for a virtual audience in a meeting space where we don’t control all the technology.

Plan each component of the event for virtual and in-person attendees

We never want members attending virtually to feel left out of the event or like they’re simply attending an all-day webinar. So we considered each component of the in-person Summit and how to layer the virtual experience on top.

Sponsor hall

Some of our sponsors are under travel restrictions as well, so we have two types of sponsors: onsite and virtual. Our onsite sponsors will have a booth and network with attendees as they have in years past.

Our virtual sponsors will also have a booth set up with a computer, monitor, headset and camera. The sponsor can connect via Zoom and meet with in-person attendees from wherever they are.

Both onsite and virtual sponsors can assign a team member to be their virtual rep, who will meet with members who are attending the event virtually. The virtual rep will be available in a Zoom meeting during certain hours, and virtual attendees can pop into the meeting to ask questions and connect with sponsors, much like they would in person.

Circle meetings

Our community meetings have several elements, including presentations, interactive Q&As, and large group discussions. We’re adding a Zoom layer to the presentation by connecting the presenter to Zoom at the front of the room and an Owl camera and TV in the back. This will help bring the virtual crowd into the room along with in-person attendees. They can interact the same as if they were in the room by asking questions, being heard in the room by the presenter and other attendees, and getting a wide-angle view of the room.

Breakout sessions

Breakout sessions, where our members meet in small groups to discuss their goals and challenges, are a part of every Circle meeting. We had to think long and hard about layering the virtual event onto the in-person breakout sessions.

We wanted to ensure our virtual attendees feel like they’re on equal footing with the onsite members, but this is one time where we couldn’t bridge the gap with technology. So instead, we’re separating the virtual and onsite attendees. Onsite members will have the same experience as in years past, and virtual attendees will participate in breakout sessions with other virtual attendees and a moderator in each room.

Sponsor sessions

Our sponsor-hosted breakfasts and lunches are always a great way to learn more about our sponsors’ current products and plans for the future. Similar to the Circle meetings, sponsor presenters will be connected via Zoom at the front of the room and have an Owl cam and TV at the back of the room.

One wrinkle here is that these sessions occur in rooms without an A/V system, and our virtual attendees need an audio experience. So we’re providing Lavalier microphones for speakers and a Catchbox — a throwable, catchable microphone system. Whoever is holding the Catchbox can be heard without subjecting virtual attendees to every side conversation happening in the room.


For keynotes, we had to invest a bit in an upgrade. We hired a production team to be responsible for video during all sessions in the main theater. We’ll have a couple of cameras dynamically switching between a wide view and a focus on the speaker throughout each session, and all of this will be piped into Zoom so our virtual attendees will have a much more produced version than we’ve had in the past.

We’re excited to get to prove all of this planning out and engage with both our onsite and virtual community members and sponsors very soon. Whether you’re planning or attending a blended event, I hope the information I’ve shared here helps you consider the virtual experience as part of the event rather than a separate entity. With the right strategy and approach, you can put on or participate in a great blended experience.


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As a Technology and Business Analyst for Boomer Consulting, Inc., Chris Rochford leverages a diverse background in web development and technology consulting. His role involves managing Boomer Consulting, Inc.’s internal technology, as well as researching how new and emerging technologies can be leveraged internally and for our external clients.

Before joining Boomer Consulting, Inc., Chris spent 15 years in tech, doing web development for state and local government agencies and commercial clients.


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