A Hybrid Case Study: 59th ICCA Congress

ICCA, the International Congress and Convention Association recently concluded its first ever hybrid congress culminating in a series of online and in-person sessions in Kaohsiung and 8 hubs, attracting 1500 delegates, 280 associations, and featuring 220 speakers in 100 hours of content. Cape Town and Century City Conference Centre were the proud hosts for the Africa Hub of this hybrid conference

We sat down with industry leaders, and specialists in their respective fields to discuss the ins and outs of what it takes to plan and execute a hybrid event on this scale. Corne Koch (Head of Cape Town and Western Cape Convention Bureau); Esmare Steinhofel (ICCA Regional Director for Africa); Alushca Ritchie (World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations President);  Nadia Lombard (Event coordinator and virtual Conference Specialist at Century City Conference Centre) shared their thoughts.


Corne Koch – Head of Cape Town and Western Cape Convention Bureau

Question 1: Why was this an important bid for Cape Town?

The Cape Town & Western Cape Convention Bureau, in partnership with the South African National Convention Bureau, submitted a bid to be considered as one of eight Regional Hubs to host the 59th ICCA Congress 2020. The safe re-opening of air connectivity to international corporate and leisure travel is key on our agenda, and submitting this bid, the destination aimed to demonstrate that we are well equipped to continue hosting business events in a safe and responsible manner.  The destination also wished to use this event to showcase solidarity with the global events industry in adapting to a transformed way of presenting business events

Question 2: What were some of the lessons learnt about hosting a Hybrid conference in the post Covid-19 era?

The conference venue demonstrated that it is adhering to health and safety protocols during the entire attendance journey – from arrival at the centre, to presentation and set-up of the conference facilities as well as in its food presentation during lunch.  A key learning in planning the event was that all links have to be tested well in advance, to have a back-up plan for when a live broadcast does not work and to ensure that the programme has an excellent programme director and runs on time.



Esmare Steinhofel – ICCA Regional Director for Africa

Question 1: What were the unique criteria to consider in terms of selecting a venue for an international hybrid event?

The destination and venue had to comply with all the relevant safely protocols for the in-person delegates.  Due to the hybrid nature of the Congress, high bandwidth connectivity and a dedicated connection for a two-way feed was of the utmost importance.  Another key factor for a hybrid event is keeping the different international time-zones in mind in order for most delegates to watch live-streams.

Question 2: What were the top tips and lessons learnt during your experience while planning and attending a hybrid event?

Trust is a big factor – trust in the destination and all suppliers.  Always have a plan B should anything go wrong with live streaming.  The moderator of the event is also key in making the virtual attendees feel part of the event.



Alushca Ritchie – World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations President

Question 1: Tell us about your experience as a delegate to the Africa Hub for the 59th Annual ICCA Congress?

The atmosphere at ICCA congresses are generally quite exciting and it was interesting to feel some of that energy come through virtually through the dynamic speakers and presentations. The venue setup and logistics seemed to work well.

Question 2: In terms of key decision making criteria for future events for your association:  how has this changed and what do you see the next few years’ events look like?

The postponement of our International Convention by a year was something that was difficult to do, however under the circumstances a good decision. The hybrid component was something we were considering as ‘interim’ solution, however it has become clear that a hybrid option for all our future conventions and meetings will be a compulsory aspect. We have amended all our bidding documents and RFPs to include a technical and AV component to accommodate this.



Nadia Lombard – Event coordinator and Virtual Conference Specialist at Century City Conference Centre

Question 1: What can you teach others about the unique aspects of planning a hybrid event?

What makes the planning for a Hybrid event so unique is that we are coordinating one event with two different experiences and need a balance between in-person and virtual delegates. We need to be able to assist in facilitating engaging content on stage for our in-person delegates, while ensuring the same content is translated and received with the same engagement level by our virtual attendees.

Question 2: What are your top tips for planning a virtual or hybrid event?

Asking the right questions and truly understanding the client’s vision for the event would enable myself as a coordinator to align the necessary resources towards a successful in-person and digital delivery. By understanding our client’s vision and what it is they wish to achieve, all event partners work towards realising our client’s goals for the event as a whole.

It is very important to have one project manager or programme director for a hybrid event to drive both the in-person and virtual resources towards successful delivery. With a hybrid event, there are more resources and moving parts to co-ordinate than just an in-person or virtual event.

This then leads to my next tip, working with experienced and like-minded event partners and resources with one common goal is key critical. The virtual world is constantly evolving and working with experienced event partners makes the difference.

A crucial component of a hybrid event is an excellent moderator – someone who can think on their feet and ‘keep the show going’ should any technical issues be experienced, interrupting the flow of the programme.  Virtual delegates could easily lose interest should there be a delay, and a good moderator can keep them involved.  This also pertains to time-keeping:  a moderator in the virtual and hybrid environment has to keep live speakers and panelists to their time limits, as well as keep the live audience to adhere to strict break times.  Remember that once a broadcast starts, audiences have to be in place – not just the virtual delegates!

My final ‘tip’ would be to compile an enticing agenda for the event that would keep both your in-person and virtual attendees entertained and engaged, this provides the opportunity for brands to really be creative and provide an immersive experience through digital content and software.