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An Event Planner’s Tips for a Successful Hybrid Celebration of Life Event

Guest Blog
Guest Blog
March 30th 2023 - 8 minute read
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Hybrid memorials can allow for family and friends near and far to attend a memorial or celebration of life. Learn how to plan a hybrid memorial in this how-to guide.

Christina Andreola

There’s no doubt that the Coronavirus pandemic significantly accelerated our adaptation to technology. No longer able to gather in groups of more than ten (smaller in some areas!), we were forced to get creative with how we stayed connected with family, friends, and our communities. Unfortunately, major life events that commonly attracted hundreds of guests - weddings and funerals - were put on hold indefinitely. To gather as a community, we now had to get creative.

Families quickly adapted to learning how to log in to an online platform like Zoom Video on their computers, smartphones, and tablets. Although we weren’t able to gather in person, we had the ability to gather in a virtual location and remember our loved ones. Those in younger generations stepped up to share their tech knowledge with parents and grandparents, giving them an opportunity to participate no matter where they were.

Although distancing restrictions have eased in many parts of the world and gatherings have (mostly) returned back to large attendance numbers, including a virtual element is still a vital part of planning.  Including a virtual community can be as simple as setting up a phone or a laptop that is connected to a Zoom stream or you can hire an audio-visual team to take care of all the details for you. Our team at New Narrative helps families that have all of the equipment on site and needs a virtual attendant. In select locations, we can also manage the in-person technical components as well as the on-site logistics.

When you have an in-person event with a virtual stream, this is commonly referred to as a hybrid event.

Why would you want to consider a hybrid event?

By incorporating a virtual option, you give guests the opportunity to choose how they would like to show up and participate. Family and friends living abroad or with mobility difficulties can now grab an iPad or a laptop computer and connect the event to their TV. Busy colleagues who are traveling or are in the middle of a shift can now duck out for a short period of time to pay their respects. A new parent with two small children can now open up their laptop and stay muted while the kids are being taken care of.

Who can attend a hybrid event?

The short answer is, “Anyone!” and the long answer is that you can pick and choose who to share the invitation with. Some groups find it more appropriate to copy and paste the link on a public platform such as Facebook, Instagram, or on an obituary website. Other groups prefer to know exactly who has this information and may request guests to send an email or RSVP via a website to receive the link.

In some cases, including a virtual stream can attract more guests from your person’s community. Now your attendees can include guests who might not feel like they would come in person, but can pay their respects from afar. We find this is common with honourees who have very public-facing roles (teachers, international lawyers, public figures, dignitaries) or those who were involved with jobs that required them to meet a wide variety of people.

One of our most memorable hybrid events was for a gentleman who had a large online poker community and family members dispersed all around the world. We hosted 50 guests in person and streamed the event via Zoom to 100+ members from his online community. A cousin even streamed in while on vacation at Disneyland to pay his respects and share during the open microphone.

Is a hybrid event only a Zoom? What about Youtube or Facebook? Is there a difference?

In short, yes! There is a difference. The easiest way to understand which option is right for you is to understand that there are two types of Hybrid events: One-Way and Two-Way

A one-way hybrid event is where virtual guests can watch and listen to the ceremony via a stream but cannot be seen or heard by in-person guests.  The most common one-way streams are those hosted via Facebook live or Youtube

A two-way hybrid event is where the virtual guests can be seen and heard by in-person guests. This is perfect for family members who would like to give a speech or participate in the open share from the comfort of their own home.  When coordinated well, a two-way Zoom can be an extraordinary way to involve your global community.

What kind of equipment do we need?

This will depend on your budget, the kind of stream you would like to set up, and what the venue has. We’ll provide a list of considerations below, but at the very least, here’s what we recommend:
- a camera to capture the video
- a laptop to connect to Zoom or youtube (or your platform of choice)
- speakers, if you would like to hear the virtual guests
- a projector and/or TV, if you are sharing a slideshow or seeing your Zoom guests

Our team at New Narrative has coordinated over 200 hybrid celebrations of life, funeral services, and memorials. We want to help you coordinate the most successful and seamless event possible.

Here are our five best tips for your group if you are considering a hybrid component:

  1. Give your guests all the information on their invitations
    Aside from details like the date, time, and a photo of the honouree, consider including some extra information for your guests:
  2. In-Person Details and the Virtual Link. Sometimes guests will experience a last-minute change in plans and having both will be very helpful
  3. A technical support line that they can call for help. This could be a friend, a family member, or the New Narrative support line, which is included with all New Narrative hybrid events
  4. Any special items, objects, or beverages virtual guests will need to bring. Will you be hosting an open sharing segment? A group toast? Creating a word cloud? Special dress code? Note this on your invitation
  5. The time when the virtual stream opens. This will help ease confusion and better prepare your guests for the log in time.
  6. Understand what the venue has and what you will need to bring. This sounds much more daunting than it is. Ultimately, you will want to remember: how will virtual guests see & hear the in-person attendees and how will virtual guests see and hear the in-person speeches?

Here is a little cheat sheet for what we recommend as the basics:

  • Laptop that will connect to Zoom
  • A camera that will connect to Zoom.
  • This can be on your laptop, a webcam, a phone connected separately, or a professional camera
  • Projector & Screen in the room
  • if you want to see the people on Zoom
  • Speakers that connect to the laptop, if you want to hear guests connected on Zoom
  1. Enlist a virtual attendant!
    This role is crucial to providing the best guest experience you can. When you have a dedicated person in charge of managing the guest experience, posting important messages in the chat, and providing real time feedback to your tech person on camera angles, sound, and other elements, it helps with troubleshooting and fixing issues as quickly as possible. This is one of our most important roles at a new narrative hybrid event.
  2. Have an order of events for the ceremony
    Be sure to hand this order of service to your virtual attendance in case online guests have trouble. Bonus: create a digital PDF for guests who are attending virtually - post this in the chat so they can download and follow along!
  3. Keep the stream open 5 - 10 minutes longer than you think.
    One of the best thing you can do for your virtual guess is to keep the online stream open for at least a few minutes. Especially for a zoom meeting, this gives your guests enough time to leave a message in the chat and two processes the ending of the event.  We often find that guests will be so immersed in the ceremony that immediately following the tribute, they will be more likely to leave a message.

We hope you are inspired to incorporate at least one of the elements into an upcoming virtual event or a celebration of life! Ultimately, your virtual guests will be so grateful to have the opportunity to participate, no matter how technical your setup is. Having the opportunity to be a witness to the event is just as important as the perfect technical experience, although we hope this will help you!

If you need our team at any point, we are only an email away - or 778 960 8782

At New Narrative the sole purpose of our events is helping ease the burden of planning a very personalized event in what can be a very un-creative and difficult period. With a unique approach for every family, we are here to help you with planning — however hands on or hands off you need us to be.