CASE STUDY: Running a hybrid event during COVID-19: The HM Awards, Hyatt Regency Sydney

The HM Awards is an annual industry event for the Hotel and Accommodation sector held for the past 18 years. It is the leading industry awards in the APAC Region that celebrates the best properties, departments, people, chains and brands in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.

After a difficult and tumultuous year, which saw the industry as one of the hardest hit, there was an overwhelming desire for people to reconnect. With Sydney facing tight COVID restrictions, the format of this long-standing event had to be adjusted, presenting the organisers with an opportunity to proceed with the Awards as a hybrid event.

The challenges

2020 was certainly an extraordinary year to deliver an Awards Presentation Gala event and the decision to proceed in a hybrid format presented some unique challenges.

The primary challenge was centred around the hybrid format itself. The key to its success was delivering an event experience that was entertaining and memorable for those in the room, as well as the virtual attendees. For the event organisers, it was like producing two events in one.

Most importantly for the in-person event, ensuring that it met all the COVID Safety guidelines was paramount. Event restrictions included caps on the numbers of physical attendees, no drinking while standing (which was challenging for networking opportunities), and the delivery of a silver service dinner that needed to be achieved within safety guidelines.

For the virtual component of the event, the main challenge was to ensure a seamless delivery in a format that was engaging, so that online attendees felt connected to the event and part of the experience.

The solutions

For the event organisers, working closely with Hyatt Regency Sydney as a key partner was essential to the successful delivery of the event. Together, the following measures were put in place:

  • An agreed COVID Safe plan. With NSW Government restrictions changing frequently, the team worked together to adjust as necessary
  • Hyatt Regency Sydney ensured the following measures were in place:
    • The physical event was held within the Grand Ballroom which could accommodate a maximum of 216 people within the 2sqm rule for a plated sit-down dinner – six people maximum per table.
    • Food and beverage service adjusted
    • Dedicated QR code upon guest entry
    • Temperature checking with thermal camera
  • Great collaboration with the AV team to deliver an exciting in-room and virtual experience with ‘show style’ entertainment and the support of Melissa Doyle as an excellent MC to facilitate both the in-person and virtual evening.

The event experience

To host a hybrid event within tight restrictions requires great collaboration between the event organiser and the venue. The team at Hyatt Regency Sydney ensured they worked closely with the organisers to collaborate on the COVID Safe plan and remained flexible as the environment continually changed.  

To ensure every precaution was taken, the organisers planned for all the ‘what if’ scenarios and ensured backup plans were in place. Regular communication with attendees in the leadup to the event ensured that they understood the COVID Safe plans and offered options for those who did not feel comfortable returning to a large group gathering.

The event achieved its maximum in-person attendance target of 216 guests, whilst being broadcast live to 2,000 guests across the Asia Pacific. Many of the hotel groups viewed the event as a wonderful opportunity to reward and acknowledge their staff and it generated a great sense of celebration, goodwill and appreciation after such a challenging year.


The HM Awards, a hybrid event at Hyatt Regency Sydney
The HM Awards, a hybrid event at Hyatt Regency Sydney

Looking to the future  

We are fortunate to have the resources, skills and technology available to deliver business events in a way never thought possible. There is a great desire for people to connect and while virtual and hybrid business events will aid the way forward, the aim is to bring people together again face-to-face.  

“The world is different again in 2021 and we strongly believe there is a lot of optimism in this new world phase.  NSW has a great track record of handling outbreaks and clusters while still keeping the economy stable, so Sydney and NSW are our main focus for hosting events in 2021.”  Bethanie Tobin, Events and Operations Manager, The Intermedia Group

Connect with the Hyatt Regency Sydney to host your next business event.

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