Last month, thousands tuned in to PCMA’s first-ever global hybrid conference. But a select few experienced the in-person side of the hybrid coin, attending the conference via several hubs scattered around the world, from Singapore to Florida.
In Las Vegas, Caesars Entertainment played host to 50 attendees who flew in for four days of content and much needed face-to-face connection. The program was only the second conference to be held at the new 550,000-square-foot CAESARS FORUM conference center, which opened in 2020 on the Las Vegas Strip with more than 300,000 square feet of total meeting and event space (including two of the world’s largest pillarless ballrooms).
Apart from the opportunity to take in CL21’s livestreamed content in a more engaging way, the experience gave attendees a peek into possibilities for their own future hybrid programs and how they can collaborate with partners like Caesars Entertainment and Encore.
“One of the biggest objectives we foresee is planning the in-person customer journey — what are we trying to achieve? If we want live attendees to be engaged and enthusiastic, then we need to design a program that features face-to-face interaction as well as streamed content,” said Patrick Espinoza, director of sales at Caesars Entertainment.
Read on for more details and insight on how the team at Caesars pulled off the four-day hybrid conference.
Plans and protocols
From an audiovisual and tech standpoint, the conference setup resembled a live event in many ways, with three screens, a stage, an ample sound system, and support from partner Encore. An emcee and “a voice of god” helped to fill in empty space between sessions.
“Our biggest challenge was to make sure the content was ready and available at the times we wanted to stream,” said Reina Herschdorfer, director of marketing at Caesars Entertainment. “It required good planning on our part. Prior to the conference days, we had a contingency plan in place in case the selected content was not available, which never occurred.”
As for health and safety protocols, the room set called for one person per six-foot table, with attendees receiving their seat assignment at registration. “This was not an easy task, as we wanted to make sure all participants had good seats and that those traveling together were seated together,” Herschdorfer said. However, it also had an unexpected upside. “I heard comments that the assigned seating turned out to be a benefit, as attendees sat next to other attendees instead of the people they always sit with, creating an opportunity to meet new people and exchange new ideas.”
During meals, the Caesars team capped seating to four attendees per six-foot round. To prevent crowding and bottlenecking, they also designated entry and exit points and used floor stickers and signage to encourage safe physical distancing. Daily temperature checks and masks (except while eating and drinking) were required. To ensure compliance, marketing efforts ahead of the event outlined these protocols, and friendly vocal reminders were given during sessions.
Upping the Ante
Distancing and seating assignments turned out to be the lesser of the team’s concerns. “Our biggest challenge — besides the capacity numbers fluctuating due to our governor’s mandate and assuring that we were going to deliver a safe meeting — was how to create an event where participants felt engaged,” Herschdorfer said. “We also considered that the program needed to be robust and rich, as participants could have watched the content at home and would need to feel that traveling was worthwhile.”
To do this, the Caesars team peppered the schedule with live entertainment, group meals, site tours, and activities. An early breakfast kicked off each day, followed by time for the group to absorb the sessions together in the FORUM’s ballroom. “We had a Caesars executive welcome the group and present the sessions each morning to engage that live component,” Herschdorfer said.
Afternoons included opportunities for attendees to take in some of Caesars Entertainment’s newer venues and experiences, as well as the best of Las Vegas. Besides a Pink Jeep tour of Red Rock Canyon, the group toured the Hoover Dam and the Mob Museum. The itinerary also included a private, behind-the-scenes tour of Allegiant Stadium, the new home of the Las Vegas Raiders, and a trip to the outdoor Neon Museum. Attendees dined at Rao’s at Caesars Palace as well as celebrated a gala dinner in the Paris Hotel’s Versailles Ballroom. Evenings ended with live entertainment — Daniel Emmet, a finalist on TV’s “America’s Got Talent,” performed along with Caesars’ own Tenors of Rock.
“Everyone was on their feet and dancing at their individual tables!” Herschdorfer said. “Being in-person is like experiencing a live concert verses streaming a favorite musician via social media — there is nothing that rivals that in-person vibe and energy!”