Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

July 17 2014

Guest Column: 4 Key Considerations to Build Your Hybrid Event

Emilie Barta
Assuming that you already realize that content is king…the best way to build a hybrid event is to start at the beginning of the planning process and design your hybrid event as one event with two audiences as opposed to two separate events. This ensures that it will be a seamless process and will present a unified event to all audience members no matter where they are located.

With that being said, there are four key areas that require attention as you start building your hybrid event from the ground up:

1. Strategy – Rule #1 is “know your audience.” So it only makes sense that rule #2 is to “give your audience what they want.” A hybrid event takes it one step further since you have two audiences to think about…one onsite and one online. You must start with figuring out the who and the why. Then you can start thinking about what to give them based on their personality, their needs, their learning styles, their attention spans, their technology aptitude, and so much more. How are you going to build your session topics, your industry experts, and your schedule to appeal to both audiences? What methods and tools are you going to use to unite your online and onsite audience into one cohesive group? How are you going to ensure that neither audience feels slighted? What are you going to do to ensure that both audiences have an interactive experience? All the money and planning in the world cannot save a hybrid event that didn’t start with a clear strategy and purpose for your two audiences…because it is these two audiences who are going to determine if your hybrid event is a success based on how much they paid attention, what they get out of it, and how it made them feel.

2. Logistics - Since you are creating an event that has two audiences, there are more things that you need to take into consideration within your physical space than you are traditionally used to. Yes, you need to have an appropriate geographic location and a stimulating venue. You must handle transportation, lodging, F&B, industry speakers, AV, seating arrangements, registration, name badges, and all of the other details necessary for a successful in-person event. But you also have to think about the space from the virtual audience’s viewpoint. Is the background going to make the camera iris jump?* Is there floor space for all of the equipment and personnel necessary for the live stream and how many tables and chairs are required? Is there a dedicated internet feed? Is there free Wi-Fi so that the onsite audience can interact and communicate with the online audience? Is there space for a studio to provide the virtual audience dedicated content while the onsite audience is on break? Is there enough electricity or do power distros** need to be brought in? Where are the electrical outlets? What are the fire codes in the building? Is there empty crate storage nearby? On top of everything else, you need to ensure that all of this additional equipment looks neat and tidy since it will be on display for the onsite audience to see.

Author’s notes:

*Make the camera iris jump = A busy/distracting print on the background or clothing can make it seem like the camera is jumping around or can't focus. See these Google images that illustrate the point.

**Distro = It is the (possibly) big box you see from A/V that has lots of electrical cords of (possibly) varying shapes + sizes plugged into it. See examples here.

3. Equipment - The amount and type of production equipment necessary for your hybrid event ties back into your strategy and is dependent on your virtual audience. Chances are they are expecting a visually stimulating experience…but do they prefer sports, news, or movies? Questions like this will determine the type of production they are expecting from you. How many camera angles will keep them interested? Will a lot of visual movement appeal to them or do they prefer more static shots? Do they like images that are lighter or darker in color? Are you live streaming one session track or several all at once? Is your event closed to the industry or open to the public? Do you have a virtual emcee? Will your two audiences want to step away from the action and be able to network virtually? All of these need to be taken into consideration when selecting your cameras, tripods/dollies/booms, switcher mainframes, lights, light boards, microphones, sound boards, audio speakers, recorders, monitors, risers, headsets, cables, accessories, laptops, streaming equipment, and virtual event platform.

4. Personnel – The personnel required to execute a successful hybrid event is determined by your strategy and the equipment you will be using. But the most important factor is that everyone involved knows their role and works together as a team to achieve the goals set forth prior to your hybrid event. Do you know everything involved in producing a hybrid event or should you hire a hybrid event consultant or producer who can pull everything together for you? Do you know individual crew members who all have similar work ethics or should you choose a production company that shares your vision and trust them to hire the necessary personnel? There is a different personality type and skill set necessary for a fast-paced show with lots of movement than for a more static show with less movement. Can the crew communicate with each other without yelling or blowing their top? Do they know how to do their job and know how to do it well? Can they stay awake in a dark room for hours on end? Do they reflect the image of your two audiences and your company? Everyone needs to pay rapt attention to what is going on in the room to ensure that all the action is captured and there is no time lag for the virtual audience. Technical skills and soft skills are paramount to selecting the best hybrid event consultant or producer, director, cameramen, sound pros, lighting pros, switchers, production assistants, virtual emcee, Twitter/chat moderator, virtual event platform provider, streaming provider, and any other personnel necessary to ensure your hybrid event is a huge success.

Once you have all of these in place, you can start concentrating on marketing your hybrid event to build your two audiences; creating sponsorship opportunities for revenue generation; figuring out your engagement strategies for your virtual audience and how to unite your two audiences into one cohesive group; training your speakers on how to engage with two audiences at the same time; creating a plan for re-purposing the footage for additional education and promotion strategies; and measuring your hybrid event’s success. Whichever way you turn just remember two things: “do not waste your time, your money, or your personnel” and “fewer players equals less margin of error.”

Long live the hybrid event!

About the Author

Emilie Barta is a Host / Spokesperson / Presenter / Virtual Emcee / Consultant at Emilie Barta Presentations. This article was originally published at www.virtualeventhostemcee.com.

Copyright 2011-2014. This article may be shared or referenced as long as the source is cited and linked. No portion of this article may be copied or reproduced without express written permission by the author.

Greater Midwest Chapter