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Inaugural Programming Demonstrated Hybrid Event Excellence

As Published for Meeting Planners International: Link to Blog



The U.S. presidential inaugural ceremonies that appeared on all major networks on Jan. 20 were a stellar example of hybrid programming. The afternoon and evening productions highlighted the importance of the arts and showed us how celebrity cameos can serve to communicate powerful messaging.


The inauguration events included seamless transitions between speeches and presentations, moving performances by a diverse group of musical artists and the introduction of a powerful young African American poet whose words moved many to tears. The emotions that come from witnessing a one time “live” production—with others gathered to observe—cannot be matched. The virtual audience was vicariously feeling what it must have been like to be there in person while watching from the safety of their homes. The inauguration was a near-perfect example of a successful hybrid event.


Later in the evening, without commercial interruptions, millions were also invited to watch while everyday people including healthcare workers, teachers, kids with lemonade stands and great charitable projects and other Americans were introduced by celebrity emcee Tom Hanks. Three former presidents, in one common voice, offered support, hope and counsel for the newly elected president. All of this messaging was edited together with pre-taped and live streaming musical performances that kept the program moving along and exposed viewers to a diversity of musical styles as a graphic of the U.S. map united them visually. All artists were carefully produced, and production elements were seamlessly woven together and included fireworks and a live celebrity singing to a full orchestra track while cameras panned over to the new president enjoying the live spectacle. The costuming was coordinated and the audio track well mixed, and no part of the presentation lasted long enough for anyone to get bored. The celebrity cameos were also effective, especially when seen interacting with everyday heroes.


“Planners should study this event because it demonstrates the effective combination of familiar elements: a moderator, a common theme and keynote speeches from senior executives.”

Planners should study this event because it demonstrates the effective combination of familiar elements: a moderator, a common theme and keynote speeches from senior executives, packaged along with powerful celebrity segments. It also reminds us of the importance of proper advance planning for production elements (whether live or pre-taped) and how backgrounds such as landmarks, cultural attractions and other “scenery” reinforce overall perceptions. As we begin to go forward into the coming year and restrictions are lifted and vaccines become more widely available, programming like what was seen at the inaugural should serve as a guide.


Celebrities are less expensive for virtual performances than they have ever been. They have never been more accessible. Lesser-known performers can still add value to programming and make the difference between a boring virtual experience where most attendees “tune out” and active engagement that leaves attendees motivated to do their best work with a new sense of collaboration, optimism and purpose.


We are no doubt facing a tough year ahead in the meeting and event industry, but we can plan our hybrid events to be successful and effective in a way that will bring value to clients as they try to motivate employees to achieve their goals. We will do well if we plan our hybrid events for corporations, associations and charitable groups using the inauguration as an example of the best in hybrid programming.


Photo by Quick PS on Unsplash




About the author: Nancy Hays is the president of Nancy Hays Entertainment & Speakers, Inc., VirtualCelebrityTalent.com and DanceWithNancy.com. Nancy specializes in producing celebrity talent and speakers for meetings and events and dance programs for virtual participants. In addition, Nancy works through NancyHaysSpeaks.com as a virtual moderator, professional dance instructor and musical entertainer. Nancy's products and services have received critical acclaim in major publications including LA Times, Washington Post, Variety and others, and she has made appearances on major network news and talk shows. Reach out to her at nancyhaysentertainment@gmail.com

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