Interview: Fanny Senez on Organizing Hybrid Events
Thanks to the progress of vaccinations and the removal of most travel restrictions, hybrid events are currently a major trend. However, there are only very few event organizers who already have experience with this type of event, unlike their virtual equivalents. Accordingly, the organizers of the International Young Lawyers’ Congress in August 2021 played a truly pioneering role.
AIJA is the world’s only association dedicated to the interests of lawyers aged 45 and under. It has over 4,000 members from 90 different countries. At the annual International Young Lawyers’ Congress, dialog and sharing knowledge is at the forefront.
"We focused on the virtual aspect first. A Congress that works online is compelling for in-person attendees, too."
The first-ever hybrid congress offered a tailored program physically and virtually.
The guests enjoyed the opening gala in this unique location at the Swiss National Museum during the Rundfunk Festival
For any kind of social program, whether virtual or on-site, event planners can rely on the support of Zürich Tourism's congress team.
Fanny Senez initiated and implemented the idea of a hybrid event
Are there any other take-aways with regard to planning hybrid events?
It’s worthwhile adapting to the new conditions personally, too. In contrast to planning an online-only event, the hybrid format involves dealing with two different events – which means twice as much work. I was lucky to be able to hand over the online element to a new colleague. He dealt primarily with the technical aspects, ensuring everything ran smoothly. Hiring a presenter purely for the online aspect of the Congress also paid off for us. She got attendees into the mood for sessions before they began and closed them out nicely. We also had to consider the interpersonal aspect of the program as well as the professional content. We also offered a suitable social program for online participants. For instance, we held our closing ceremony online. Although we don’t know the exact number of people who attended, initial feedback confirms it went down very well. However, as an events manager, you have to be aware of differences in time zones. And host cities could also improve in this regard. The relevant virtual offerings are few and far between. There’s room to fill this niche.
How did you benefit as an organization from hosting the event in a hybrid format?
Our members especially enjoy in-person contact. After 18 months of the pandemic, we also sensed a great deal of screen fatigue. People really wanted to meet in person. At the same time, there were people who were still unable to travel for various reasons: because their firm didn’t permit it, because travel restrictions were still in place or because they themselves didn’t feel safe enough to do so. Making it possible for both groups to take part brought us a great deal of goodwill. We also think the hybrid format gives us the opportunity to gain new members in future. Online attendance offers a low-stakes opportunity to try out AIJA without having to travel far.
Was it difficult to find sponsors for the hybrid event?
Luckily, no. Our sponsors were very flexible. Although it wasn’t clear how many in-person attendees we would have in the beginning, support was already guaranteed. However, I must say that budgeting was much more challenging than in previous years, not only because a lot of factors were uncertain for a long time, but because we didn’t want in-person attendees to pay more to fund the hybrid aspect of the event. However, thanks to careful planning, we managed to pull it off – and I’m proud to say that we managed to cover our costs overall.
What was your experience of working with local partners and Zurich Tourism?
Great. Due to the current situation, it was essential for us to have first-hand information on the applicable legal requirements in our Congress’ host city at all times. Zürich Tourism was a huge help to us in this regard and helped us and our members with travel restrictions and so on. We also held an online event in advance where a representative from the Hotel Marriott and Vanessa Reis from the Convention Bureau provided detailed information on the event.
Last but not least, did you enjoy the host city of Zurich?
We really did. Our members were especially delighted that Zurich is a city that’s easy to explore on foot. People mentioned how much they appreciated how quick and easy it was to get to the city from the airport. Some of the places we visited were a huge hit, too: we held the opening gala in the Swiss National Museum, where we got to catch the Rundfunk Festival. During our time in Zurich we also visited two brand-new locations, the Kongresshaus and The Circle – an exciting experience for visitors from both the city as well as further afield.