Get AHEAD Building the Future: Hybrid Events
Building the Future is GetAHEAD’s annual careers event aimed at students and graduates with disabilities who are looking for work. Traditionally the event was a one-day in-person event. During lockdown in the last two years, the event took place online in a week-long format, due to the pandemic restrictions on indoor gatherings.
This year, the event was hosted in a hybrid model, based on the feedback we received from attendees over the last two years of having a virtual event. On August 31st 2022, the in-person elements were kindly hosted by Citi in their offices in Dublin city with online elements taking place on AHEAD’s Zoom account.
Planning and Event Elements
Planning for the event began in late May with meetings taking place weekly with Citi. This was the first time AHEAD had facilitated a hybrid event, so a lot of care was taken to test technology and brainstorm ways to ensure accessibility throughout the whole process.
What we found from the previous two years of virtual events was the in-person networking opportunity that took place was difficult to create in an online space. To be able to offer attendees elements that were beneficial no matter how they chose to engage was important to us and so it was decided to focus on elements that suited virtual environments rather than trying to recreate the same event both in-person and online.
At the registration stage, the event was coordinated and advertised as one event using Eventbrite. On the Eventbrite page, attendees could choose if they wanted to attend in person or online. From there they selected the elements they wanted to book in for.
The event began with employers contributing to a panel discussion. The day then included lots of different elements: mock Interviews, CV clinics, Employer stands, Headshot stations and hybrid workshops.
You can find a copy of the programme for the event below:
Mock Interviews & CV Clinics
Mock interviews and CV clinics had been facilitated virtually over the past two years and worked really well. As this style of interviewing is also becoming more widely used by employers, it also gave a great opportunity for attendees to practice this style of interviewing with a recruiter who would give them individual feedback to help improve their performance.
It was decided then that mock interviews and CV clinics would be available simultaneously for both in-person and online attendees.
For online appointments, mock interviews were allocated 35 minutes as opposed to 30 minutes for in-person ones. This allowed for extra time to deal with any technical issues and worked well to help keep on schedule.
Similarly, with the CV clinic appointments, online attendees were allocated 5 minutes longer than their in-person counterparts. On top of this, virtual slots were pre-booked, whereas in-person slots were walk-in. By pre-booking these slots, it allowed the employer volunteers to look over CVs in advance which further saved time and allowed for any technical issues.
In the afternoon, three hybrid workshops were available to watch in person or virtually. Employers hosting each workshop presented remotely, and it was streamed live in person. AHEAD worked with the AV team in Citi to ensure the conference call function in the room worked seamlessly. This was tested 3 times prior to the event making sure that attendees in-person and online experienced the same sessions.
Attendees were encouraged to use Mentimeter to ask questions of the speakers which were monitored by the host of the event.
These workshops attracted 115 people registering online and 30 attendees watching in person.
Making sure the event was as accessible as possible was a top priority. Offering both online and virtual streams to the event enabled a lot more people to access the event. In addition, the following considerations helped make the event less intimidating and more accessible for all.
The first step in this was offering training sessions prior to the event to all employer volunteers. There were two sessions; one took place on Zoom and was targeted towards virtual volunteers and the second one took place in the Citi offices and was aimed at those who would be volunteering in person.
Each session lasted an hour long and covered some basic disability awareness and a detailed run-through of different volunteer roles. The virtual training also included some insight into making the virtual setting accessible. The recording of the virtual training was made available to all volunteers taking part in Building the Future.
Almost 40 employee volunteers attended one of these sessions meaning about 60% of employer volunteers had pre-event training.
At the physical event, there were a few extra steps taken to maximise the accessibility of the space for all attendees. For the first time, we provided a quiet room for attendees where they could go if they felt overwhelmed or needed a break away from the busy event. This space had low lighting, and fidget cubes were available to help attendees who needed them to de-stress.
We were aware that, for a lot of the in-person attendees, this could have been the first large event they had attended since lockdown or even the first careers event they had ever attended in person, meaning many of the attendees might be particularly anxious or nervous about attending. To combat this and to encourage attendees to start the conversation with employers, a bingo sheet was devised where it included statements such as ‘This employer has been a WAM employer for over 5 years’ and ‘This employer has a disability ERG (Employer Resource Group)’. This helped to give attendees a starting point to begin a conversation. You can see a copy of this below:
As this was the first hybrid event AHEAD facilitated, it was a great learning opportunity into what works and what doesn’t work.
The hybrid workshops were a highlight with almost 150 people attending either in-person or virtually.
At some stages of the event having one co-ordinator for both online and in-person elements proved difficult when there were some technical issues with the online Mock Interviews just as the exhibition area was opening in-person. This was managed well on the day but was a big takeaway for future events. Going forward for hybrid events we will assign separate coordinators for online and in-person who will work in tandem.
Overall, Building the Future received positive feedback with 100% of attendees saying they felt they benefited from the event.
94% of attendees rated the overall usefulness of the event as either good or excellent, and the overwhelming majority of attendees were satisfied with the communication and structure of the event.
One attendee commented:
A great event. I learned so much it was a great environment, and it was so nice to be in such an inclusive community. I met some amazing people, both employers, attendees, staff, and volunteers. I could not recommend it enough and I hope it continues in the future. It was a terrific opportunity, everybody could not help enough; they were so kind.