Empower Conference Leverages Bizzabo To Shift To Hybrid

Empower 21 Main Stage - Empower 21 Case Study


The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention aims to impact the lives of their local communities and the world. In February 2021, the SBTC hosted one of the very first truly hybrid events through Bizzabo.

The on-site portion took place at a large convention center in Texas and the virtual audience tuned in from all over the globe.


The Empower Conference was originally designed to be a fully in-person event. As the event date drew closer, it became clear to Sheryl and her team that there was still a huge need for a digital experience. Some attendees were expressing that they still were not yet ready to attend an on-site event and others wanted to join in from other regions or time zones. Sheryl adds, “We realized there was still a big need to provide virtual accessibility.”

About their Event

Main Point of Contact

Sheryl McFadden, Event Coordinator


Southern Baptists of Texas Convention




Non Profit

Favorite Features

Registration Management, Dynamic Agenda Builder, Bizzabo Native App, Speaker & Sponsor Management

“Bizzabo really supported us, especially at the start of the pandemic. We saw great value in the partnership and the responsiveness of the Bizzabo team was a big part of that. Even though we’re now producing events self-sufficiently, we know we can count on Bizzabo if we have questions.”

— Sheryl McFadden
Event Coordinator


Choosing an Intuitive, Hybrid-Ready Platform

The SBTC team happened to be in the midst of renewing their license with Cvent at the same time that Empower 2021 shifted to from an in-person event to hybrid.

Sheryl needed to find a platform that could support both an on-site and virtual event and seamlessly integrate the two to create one experience. When looking at different solutions, Bizzabo stood out because it was an “easier platform for the team to set up, manage the registration flow, and design.” The team found it to be a logical and intuitive flow that made it easy to build and manage an event from start to finish.


“We are previously with Cvent and comping up to renewal, we researched different platforms and really liked Bizzabo. So when it came to renew our virtual and in-person software, the functionality and ease of use set Bizzabo apart.”

— Sheryl McFadden
Event Coordinator

Producing A Hybrid Event & Integrated Experience

After making the decision to pivot to hybrid, Sheryl was focused on creating a truly integrated experience that made on-site attendees feel safe and digital attendees feel included.

One of the most important aspects of a hybrid event is ensuring the venue is purpose-built for safety. Sheryl made sure to design the space with this in mind, “We had branded floor stickers and posters reminding people to stay 6 feet apart, we offered branded masks and swag for everyone and they were all individually wrapped.” Using posters, stickers, and swag was
also a great way for the Empower team to add elements of branding to the on-site design.

The venue portion also featured sponsoring exhibitors. While virtual attendees were able to connect with those brands
online, the in-person attendees were able to visit the booths which were strategically placed to ensure everyone was safe and comfortable. “We had exhibitors on-site and we set up a space for them and made sure they were 10 feet apart from
the next booth.”

Expo Floor - Empower 21 Case Study

Sheryl was equally focused on delivering content in a way that would effectively reach all of her attendees as this was a huge conference with over 50 sessions. She made it simple for attendees to filter through sessions by using tags on the agenda page. “I used multiple tags for the agenda – topic tags, session tags for breakout session 1, 2, etc, and then I also tagged it by day, making it easy for attendees to narrow down their choices quickly.”

Sheryl doubled down on the technical production of Empower 21 to ensure that the virtual audience had the best experience possible and felt as included and present as the venue audience. In each of the main session rooms, the Empower 21 team had three cameras and an on-site production team that called the camera angles. They streamed those sessions directly to a live feed for the virtual attendees and then made those recordings available on-demand after the conference.

“It’s really cool how Bizzabo works, with the logic built into the platform, we could hide the breakouts that weren’t available to the virtual user helping us make the platform work for both our on-site and virtual attendees.”

— Sheryl McFadden
Event Coordinator

Sheryl and her team were also able to access rich data analytics and understand exactly which speakers, sessions, and content the attendees engaged with the most. “We were able to see how long each virtual attendee stayed interested in a session. We had three speakers in each main session so we could gauge their interest based on when they logged back in and what they looked at to determine which speakers they liked most.”

Guiding the Attendee Journey with Registration Management & Ticket Types

One of the trickier aspects of planning a hybrid event is how to set up tickets and registration. Sheryl and her team were among the first to test the waters of hybrid and they wanted to create a seamless attendee journey without sacrificing any data they could gather from registrations.

Sheryl strategically set up two ticket types, one for virtual attendees and one for on-site attendees. They generated revenue from the on-site tickets by charging according to meals. “Our in-person tickets were paid and that was based on the meals they were staying for, so we built out ticket types to reflect that and I then made those tickets conditional so it tells the registration, ‘if they register for this, then show these tickets as available.’”

Event Check-in - Empower 21 Case Study

The team also offered on-demand access for both audiences and so that people who attended live could also get a virtual ticket to watch sessions they missed or rewatch content they found valuable. This inventive method created both a hybrid experience and hybrid attendees who accessed the content in-person and virtually.

“With so many sessions being offered and concurrent sessions, even our in-person attendees can benefit from accessing the on-demand, which Bizzabo’s magic link makes so easy. We didn’t charge for the virtual ticket, so we thought, ‘well what would make someone want to also access the virtual ticket, what’s the added benefit?”

By setting up the ticket types this way, Sheryl was able to guide all of her attendees through their own personalized event journey, whether in-person, virtual, or hybrid. She also gathered valuable insights from all the data she collected through the registration workflow.

“With Bizzabo, we had the ability to register the virtual attendees along with the in-person attendees and collect the data of who was watching live versus in-person.”

— Sheryl McFadden
Event Coordinator

Leveraging the Bizzabo Mobile App to Enhance the On-Site Experience & Promote Sustainability

Sheryl also used the Bizzabo mobile app to further enhance the experience for the in-person attendees. The native app integrates directly with the event website and can be easily customized to fit the needs of each event.

For Empower 21, the team encouraged all of the on-site attendees to use the floor locator so they could easily navigate the large conference hall and find their sessions with ease. “I used the floor locator which connected with the map inside the app and I added a venue map because we had 4 floor levels.”

Sheryl used QR codes on the branded signage throughout the
venue to guide attendees through the space and create a personalized, effortless on-site experience.

One of the other benefits of the native app is that it eliminates the need for print collateral. Sheryl was passionate about promoting sustainability in her events and saw the Bizzabo app as a great way to do so. The app also helped make Empower a contactless on-site experience, creating even more ways to make their in-person attendees feel safe and comfortable.

Empower Mobile App - Empower 21 Case Study

“We encouraged everyone to download the Bizzabo app and so we had banners with
QR codes that helped attendees find their breakout sessions and the code took them directly to the agenda to find their room. We didn’t need to have a programs which was sustainable & contactless.”

— Sheryl McFadden
Event Coordinator


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