Hybrid events combine both an in-person and online experience to create something spectacular. When planning a hybrid event, you have to create an experience that engages your online attendees just as much as your in-person guests.
Anca Trifan is the founder, creator, and CEO of Tree-Fan Events – a boutique event planning and production agency that she founded after years of working in event production. She is the host of "Events: demystified”, a tactical Podcast for anyone in the events industry, and joins us to talk about digital event production and planning engaging hybrid events.
Anca’s Top 3 Takeaways
- The pandemic offered an opportunity for nonprofits to improve and refine their digital fundraising models. In 2022, we have an opportunity to continue using digital fundraising techniques to connect with people worldwide and raise more money by reaching a wider audience.
- Don’t try to create an identical experience for your in-person and online attendees. You don’t need to stream the entire event to your at-home viewers, instead find key touchpoints and find ways to engage them separately like sending interactive kits to their homes or participating through online applications.
- Build a strong team. You need people who are focused on both the in-person and digital experience and are managing different aspects of your event to ensure it’s running smoothly. If you are new to virtual or hybrid events, it may be wise to work with an experienced technical producer to guide you through the structure and tools needed for a successful hybrid event.
Our Favourite Quotes
(02:49) One thing to note is the virtual event has proved that organizations are 10% more likely to be raised at or above the fundraising goal if they were going with a digital event showing that the evolution of virtual fundraising is here to stay.
(06:13) As both event planners and audiences become more comfortable and accustomed to attending online events, the feasibility of incorporating online fundraising into traditional in person fundraising is more possible now, I feel like than ever now.
(18:06) I think the biggest challenge in hosting a hybrid event is to get you in person and an online experiences to work together. And this is why it's super vital to have someone to oversee both what's happening in person versus what's happening in the virtual realm.
Let's talk about hybrid events with Anca Trifan.
Hello and welcome to Driven's Fundraising Superheroes Podcast. I am your host, Sabrina Sciscente, and as an innovator of nonprofit technology, our team at Driven is determined help you get the most out of your data. We want to help you unlock your true fundraising potential with our software that specializes in everything from donor management, volunteer management, and even member management. So if you're interested in learning more, please give us a visit at trustdriven.com.
Hybrid events are a fantastic way to expand your digital reach and still reap the benefits that an impersonate has. But it is important to note that your virtual viewers will have a completely different experience than your in person attendees. So helping you create an intimate experience for those watching online and in person, well, that is where someone like Anca can come in to help. Anca Trifan is the founder and CEO of Tree Fan Events, a boutique event planning and production agency that she founded after years of working in event production. She's the host of Events Demystified, a technical podcast for anyone in the events industry, and I'm so excited to speak with her today.
So thank you, Anca, for joining me on the show.
Thank you so much for having me.
So in what ways have nonprofit use hybrid events to increase their fundraising impact in the past? Is there anything that you've done recently that has really stood out to you?
Well, let me just profess and start with the fact that I love working with nonprofits. Doing events for nonprofits has been something that I've done for the last twelve years now, and especially during COVID. It was so much more important to come up with a support system and a plan to help the nonprofits that were struggling to figure out how they're going to raise during a time when you couldn't have events. In a lot of nonprofits, that's the main way for them to raise funds during their one event, one gala. So a lot of the nonprofits that had to cancel their fundraising event in 2020, they did suffer financially. But those that were able to adapt their fundraiser into a virtual or digital type of event were amazed by how much money they were raising during the past, I don't know, two, three years now. I feel like I can't even keep count anymore how long it's been since we started the Panamaic, and we're still sort of like in and out. I'm not sure where we're at with it, depending on what area and which location of this world you live in. One thing to note is the virtual event has proved that organizations are 10% more likely to be raising at or above the fundraising goal if they were going with a digital event showing that the evolution of virtual fundraising is here to stay.
And while we're going back to in person, a lot of the events that I'm working on right now, they are in person or hybrid is because of that virtual element that's still part of the fundraising strategy. And the reason why Virtual Galaxy have succeeded is because they offer a way to reach a much larger number of donors and supporters at a pretty minimal cost, really, if you think about it. And with the aid of effective online fundraising platforms and virtual fundraising events, they usually have the ability and enable a lot of the organization to reach well beyond their geographical locations where most of their donors would be. And I've had events where our clients were shocked that they would have an audience, like somewhere in Saudi Arabia. We don't know anyone there, but here we are. And if they're there and they're willing to give us money, we're not going to say no. So in this new evolution of what virtual was in 2020, 2021, and now we're seeing a lot of the hybrid fundraising happening. What this has done is given nonprofit a chance to improve the digital fundraising models and explore opportunities for post pandemic fundraising.
And if you're not familiar with what the hybrid fundraiser is at, its most basic hybrid gala is a fundraiser that offers an in person and online experience of the same event. Now, I didn't say that it has to happen at the same time. It could happen at different times. It's just the same experience of the same event. Even the experience could be a little different depending if you're in person versus if you're online. So there's a little bit of miscommunication that just because you have a hybrid event, your audience has to all meet at the same time at all times. And that's not true. There are different strategies and different models. What this offers, though, is your supporters an option to attend a portion of your in person event via a live stream. And that means they could even be hosting an auction where some of the participants place their business person, while others bid on items from home using mobile apps on their smartphones at different times from each other, with a few strategic touch points technically, where if you do want to make it happen at the same time, you could have a few touch points where the two audiences can partake in the same experience at the same time.
And it's fantastic to build, like, some moments of wonder and of surprise and delight. Like maybe have a bad opening bed where both audiences can engage. Or maybe a magician, or maybe some cooking experience, or a cocktail where everybody sort of like experiencing this, like I'm drinking my cocktail in person, but at home I can make my own because maybe I will send some type of a box with ingredients and there is a virtual host that is guiding me through the process. As both event planners and audiences become more comfortable and accustomed to attending online events, the feasibility of incorporating online fundraising into traditional in person fundraising is more possible now, I feel like than ever now. That being said, many nonprofit are still experiencing a bit of a learning curve as they discover that there are different ways in which you could effectively blend online and in person experiences. And you have to consider for yourself what works and what doesn't. In order to feed the unique needs of your donors and your supporters, you will have to figure out how do we create an optimal hybrid fundraiser for our nonprofit to ensure that not only is profitable, but also secures a greater support.
And that could mean regular contributions from our donors and our volunteers. And it's important to remember that hybrid galas are meant to accommodate supporters who prefer to attend fundraisers in person, but also those who prefer to participate online for accessibility reasons or who knows how many other reasons. Done right, your hybrid event will not only widen your network of donors and supporters, but also promote your nonprofit as a very inclusive organization, which is something to keep in mind and consider.
Oh, definitely. When we started the podcast, it was actually during the time the pandemic began and we had so many conversations around virtual events. And what you were saying about reaching new audiences is so true when you're in a virtual space, there's such an opportunity to connect with people internationally. So it's definitely something for organizations to keep in mind when planning in the future. I'd love to dive in a little bit more and get your opinion on what makes a successful hybrid event.
Well, let me just give you a quick case study of a fundraiser. A nonprofit that had a fundraiser. Their regular fundraiser normally would have been in person. It was their yearly gala and this happened all the way until 2020. And in 2020, they were forced, like a lot of other nonprofit to consider other options. That's when they hired me and my agency to help them because they are new at this. They don't know what they're doing and they're like, we don't want to do it wrong. And if there's a way to do it wrong, it's like we have a lot of donors and supporters and we want to maximize how much we can raise. So we did a 100% virtual event and the goal was, hey, can we hit 500,000? And actually we raised 550 was like over a little bit over 550. I don't remember exactly the exact numbers. So that was like such a boost of confidence for the organization because they were like, well, I can't believe that we used to raise around 500 in person, but here we are. We actually raise more virtually. So this year actually was beginning of March because we were able to meet in person.
And where we are here, physically, we are able to pour over 650 people in the ballroom and there's a few you obviously covered safety protocols and policies that we follow. But for the most part, it's safe for people to be back in person. So the gala that we plan for and were strategizing for was going to be a hybrid gala. We were going to have 650 in person, and then we're going to have a virtual synchronous live stream that was going to touch the experience that the virtual audience had, was going to touch point with what the in person audience was experiencing at different moments on the timeline. And we made sure that those moments were very much timed and it made sense. And based on what the programming was. So this year, the goal was okay. So if we raise, like 550 the year before, how about goal is going to be 575? That sounds like a manageable goal. I kid you not. We raised over 111,000, and that was amazing. And a huge part of that was not just the in person, but was also the virtual audience. So if you have completely mixed out the virtual, we could potentially very much hit the 575, and that would have been good.
Like, by all means would have been great, right. But the potential to raise another, like 225 or 235 on top of that, I mean, who wants to say no to that? Right. So what would be the success secrets of this? Well, it was the previous strategy, the fact that we really put a lot of thought into who are we inviting and who's going to be filling those seats in person? Who are we reaching out for pre-event pledges, because it's super important, especially when you're doing a virtual pledge, a pledge that's virtual to have already a list of precommitted pledges that you can get the fire started. It's almost how you have a campfire and you have the fire starter. You want to get that so that you can get a fire going if that's all the resources you have. So the same thing applies with a lot of the virtual pledges where you get the fire started with all the pre commits, and then everybody else kind of, like, gets in the excitement and they want to be part of that, and they start donating. And then we had this asynchronous timeline, and the content was asynchronous as well.
So we started with in person. We had a little bit of entertainment, and then we went the content online. That's where we split and was a different content that the virtual audience was experiencing, while everybody else in person was mingling and having a cocktail and buying raffle tickets and doing all the things right. And then when we came back to the next touch point was when we were starting the event in person with the welcoming and a few words from the President and all the things right. Depending on how your organization set up, it's important to know what's important to be said and what's okay to leave behind. And we were constantly just building on this timeline based on what was more beneficial for a virtual audience to engage in versus what the programming was in person. And then the next success secret was the pre event and day of production level of professionalism, but also rehearsals and your team. Who are you building around yourself? That is not just the production team, the technology team, your auctioneering team, your volunteer team, the virtual platform that you're using. All those teams have to work hand in hand to make sure that that event is successful and you raise as much money as you potentially can.
Right? Because at the end of the day, that's the goal.
Yeah. Building a team is incredibly crucial to the success of an event because there is so much that goes into it. And you touched on the experiences of both in person and virtual guests, and it's going to be completely different because they're in two different places and one person is immersed in your event while another is experiencing it from a screen. So as an event planner and as somebody who has to be mindful of these two things, how are you going to create an engaging experience for both? What are some things to keep in mind when you're planning?
Well, one of the things to keep in mind is that hybrid events are successful because they allow different groups of people to attend your event and support your own nonprofit in the way that it's most convenient for them, while also allowing for more inclusive in person gatherings. And that can improve social interactions and can even lower cost if you don't have to have a large in person gathering because you offer a lot of your attendees the option to join virtually while also enabling hundreds of additional supporters. So ten virtually increasing brand awareness and financial support that way. And a nonprofit organization can enjoy some huge benefits by hosting such hybrid events, because practically any fundraiser can be adapted into a hybrid setting where in person and online audiences interact with each other seamlessly. So while you do that, though, it is important to offer the virtual audience options so that you can make that event convenient for your supporters so people that can make the trip to your in person event to your venue due to travel restrictions or personal reasons, they can still join. One of the key elements also to keep in mind is that virtual fundraising events and hybrid they do need excellent picture and sound and live streaming as a technology in order to not fail half of your audience if they want to participate in your gala by joining in virtually and you have to be able to live stream well, you have to be able to integrate the technology that's in person from your audio visual set up to your platform that you're streaming to, whatever the landing page that you're using, that it has call to action and it has the right button.
So that if I'm on your landing page and I'm watching the stream and someone from the microphone says, okay, now go and donate. And I'm looking at my screen and I'm like, I don't know where to go to donate. There's, like, no place to go and donate, and you don't have any easy links and buttons to take you to those like, in a way, you failed your virtual audience because you make it hard for them. If you're making me dig through pages and Google things to be able to support you, you're putting all kinds of Stoppers in my ability to help you because I want to help you. But just don't make it so darn hard. Make it easy, right? So there's also a lot of things that you need to keep in mind. You have to have the support system, the support staff, the online tools, and even the event planning timeline that gives you enough time to plan for an event that will offer you a good return on investment for all the efforts that you put in, because otherwise, what's the point? And that's one thing that a lot of people don't realize.
That a lot of the virtual hybrid events that we've been planning for the last three years now, they actually require way more time for planning than an in person event would require. Just because there's a lot more things to think about, there's a lot more content to produce pre-event. There's a few more things to add to that to do list that's already long as it is. So you have to be able to keep those tax in mind and be on top of that, because you want to establish your goals, but also plan some activities and then market your event because you can do all this work. But then if you don't market your event, you're not going to have enough eyes on screen for a virtual event. And I think the biggest challenge in hosting a hybrid event is to get you in person and an online experiences to work together. And this is why it's super vital to have someone to oversee both what's happening in person versus what's happening in the virtual realm. So by even, like, hiring a technical event producer or maybe have an entire production team that specializes in hybrid events, you have to have a team that sees them, and it's expert in the type of expectations that is necessary to be able to produce an event that will have a high ROI.
And in so many ways, the online audience and the in person audience, they are going to have very unique experiences. And you have to ask yourself, just how can we plan an event that keeps both of them equally engaged? Because that is one of the ways in which, for most event planners, the tendency is to think of this as a two separate events that are happening at the same time instead of two experiences virtual and in person of the same event. And if you think that way, it can cause you to maybe favor one audience over the other. And that can certainly reduce the amount of donations you receive from your virtual audience if you completely ignore them. And in many cases, it's been proven that a virtual audience can be a larger audience than your in person group, because obviously you're limited in person by the people that are in that venue, by potential safety regulations. But your virtual could be unlimited. Assuming that you did a little bit of marketing and assuming that you did a little bit of leg work getting to the day of the event. And one thing to keep in mind is you do have to make sure that whatever that virtual audience is experiencing, they do feel like they're an active part of the event.
And there's different tools. Obviously, you can have the chat tools, but you have the donation links and you have the polls and the chat, cheerleaders and content that specifically produced for the virtual audience. Have a virtual host, maybe, or maybe a preview of what's happening at the venue. Like, right before you start the event. Like if you had a band that was playing during the cocktail hour, tune them into the virtual audience and let them experience as well. And then have someone host the event on the virtual side where they can walk them through, like I said, like the experience of creating their own cocktail at home. Bring your own cocktail or something. Just bring your audience, your first audience into the event. That one simple thing can really have such a huge impact on your donations. And then, as I mentioned earlier, don't forget to add those call to action links for donations on your page, wherever it is where you're streaming. There's a lot of places where a lot of organization will be like, well, we want to stream to our Facebook page. I'm like that's. Great. But then make sure that somebody in chat constantly puts those links for people that are there and are watching to be able to go too easily, too, so that you are watching the event.
But you're not just a spectator. You're also engaging with your pocket, with your wallet, with your giving. Right. So I guess to sum it up, don't forget about your online audience. Sure, they're meeting in a virtual environment, but that doesn't mean that they can be made to feel like they're part of the event and feel comfortable. And it is simpler for them to interact online. And the better it is for them to do that. And the better the experience that they have, the more ROI you could see in the ways of donations and the ways of pledges and beating.
Yeah, you have to be really open to just like, getting everyone involved. You made some amazing points, and I would love to explore options for organizations who maybe don't have the resources or the time to invest in a really intense hybrid event. So what advice would you give to organizations who may be struggling with lack of time, resources or knowledge when they're planning events like this?
Well, that's a great question, but I think one of the first question to ask yourself is why are we having this event in the first place? Because if you're going to have an event, then you have to be able to answer the question. Then what kind of event do we need to have to engage our audience and encourage them to donate? And depending on your audience, the activities that your audience wants to participate in, the expenses that are associated with some of them, the budget, the lack of budget, the nature of your nonprofit the answer will vary. So that's something to keep in mind. Always start with the why there's many ways in which you can still do fundraising without having to spend a lot of money. You can still do hybrid fundraising, but it will probably not be the type of event where it has all the bells and whistles. It won't be the type of event that you will have a huge production, but it will still meet the needs that you have. And that's important to keep in mind. Right. Because as an event professional, honestly, I know that a lot of people have asked this question themselves, and I don't feel like you're the only one.
Let me just say that you're not, because it's one of the most frequently asked questions that I hear. And I personally made it a point to come up with as many creative solutions as possible to help this type of smaller groups pull off a virtual and hybrid event with real resources and smaller budget. And those events can still have that hyperaction value added, even on a smaller budget. But ultimately, you want to get your job done and exceed your audience expectations. And there are ways to do that if you're curious and you want to have a conversation in depth. Obviously it will depend a lot more on your fundraiser, your event, your organization. But I would love to talk to you and learn more about what is the type of vent you're looking at? What resources do you have that you can use, and what other resources do you need in order to get to the goal or get to the place where you feel comfortable that this is a model for you and it's the right fit for your event. So definitely shoot me a message that's sort of like the best way in which I can answer this, because there's so many different ways in which you can go about.
And there's no necessarily one size fits all, but there's definitely options.
Oh, there is 100%. Before we go today, I would love for you to let our audience know. How can they get in touch with you. Where can they go if they have questions about their virtual events the best way?
If you're on LinkedIn, you can find me on LinkedIn either under my name, I'm Anca Trifan or my agency is T-R-E-E-F-A-N events. And if you're going on the website, you can find me there as well. And that's where you can actually book a 20 minutes free consultation with me where we can talk specifically about your event. And the website is treefanevents.com and I'm sure that you're going to have that in the notes. I guess in closing, what I want to touch on is hybrid events do come with unique challenges, but also rewards. So in order to make sure that your next hybrid event is a success, do keep in mind also the role that the professional auctioneer plays in an event as well, like it did in person for an event. The same way a professional benefit auctioneer that has done virtual events in their two years of Covid, they will really be so much more successfully sad in their ability to pay attention to not just what's happening in the room, but also what's happening virtually because you will have as an auctioneer so many different things that you need to keep track of, especially if you're engaging with an online audience and you have a bidding platform that you have to keep an eye on with the bids coming through.
And then you have to see all the other ones in person. And using an online bidding platform that is easy to use. That's another way of setting yourself for success and maybe having a text to give for anyone that's less technology savvy. There's people that just hate having to learn yet another platform, but they can text to make it easy for them and then employing the services of a strong technical event producer like the one here that I know that is proficient with hybrid fundraising events and a support team that happens to have done not just in person event, but also virtual events. And now they can successfully carry on with hybrid events.
Yeah. So for audience listening, definitely get in touch with Anca if you'd like to learn more, if you have any more questions and I just want to give you another huge thank you for coming onto the podcast and sharing your knowledge with us.
Thank you. This is my pleasure. Thank you for having me.
And thank you all for listening. Like Ankle mentioned, I will have all of our links in the show notes to her social media, her website. And so if you have any further questions for her or want to get in touch to help plan your next hybrid event, you can reach out to Anka using the links in the description box. And if you would like to learn more about Driven in the past podcast episodes or join our mailing list, we would love to get in contact with you so you can get information to all the above at trustdriven.com. Thank you again for watching. And we'll see you next time on the fundraising superheroes podcast.