Though the technology required to produce a hybrid event can be daunting, it’s important to remember that new tools do not change the basics of effective meeting planning.
As with any event, it’s essential to focus on your goals first. Then, consider how participants will need to communicate to accomplish them.
Will it be one to many? Many to many? One to geographically separated groups? Group to group? These are the components of a quality hybrid event.
Last year, I was part of a research team that produced a hybrid events toolkit for Meeting Professionals International (MPI). In the course of our research, we identified the following building blocks that can be combined in a wide variety of ways to meet nearly any event objective.
Planners know the face-to-face event backward and forward. But how is it changed when combined with one or more of the components listed below? Will the face-to-face experience suffer or be enhanced? How can we keep the onsite audience engaged while we attend to the virtual audience? As noted in our Hybrid Event How-To Guide, it’s important to consider that, often, face-to-face participants pay more to attend.
A virtual event is experienced from a remote location via computer. Too often, this experience is tacked on via an online streaming camera, posted at the back of a face-to-face event. Distractions are a constant concern for virtual events that are often experienced via a computer at home. Remote attendees are often not engaged. Consider: What is the virtual audience experiencing at all times? How can remote participants be engaged? Are text Q&A opportunities enough? Are there ways to enable interaction between remote attendees?
The combination of a virtual event with a face-to-face meeting should spur many questions such as: Are the goals of both events the same or different? Will there be communication between the two audiences? How can the face-to-face event enhance the virtual event, and vice versa?
A pod event is a gathering of individuals in one location, linked to one or more events located elsewhere. These participants experience both the face-to-face pod meeting and the remote experience that they watch streamed online.
Pods are often an option when a face-to-face event exceeds its room capacity, or for connecting groups of participants who can’t travel. The pod can experience the main event via live streaming, or through a delayed presentation conveniently scheduled to match the pod’s time zone.
When individuals have taken the time and trouble to travel to a pod event location, the expectations are often higher than if they were attending from home. These expectations, combined with the sometimes glitchy technology required, can present a perfect environment for breeding dissatisfaction, so rehearsals and testing are highly advised.
In addition, consider what the pod participant is experiencing at all times. Often meeting planners meet the needs of pod participants with a combination of in-person activities interspersed with viewing of and interaction with linked presentations.
Much like a webinar, a studio event takes place at one location and is streamed to individuals or groups of viewers in other locations. It offers the possibility of greater cost savings, but is even more dependent on smooth-running technology.
Issues to consider would be the same as for any virtual event: What is the audience experiencing? How can the audience be effectively engaged? Consider online tools that allow for more interaction with the speaker and with other participants.
Once you understand what the building blocks are, imagine the different ways they can be combined to meet your objectives.
A large, live event can be combined with one or several pods at different locations. Online participation by individuals watching at home can also be part of this experience. Or consider creating an event that consists entirely of linked pods that take turns sharing focused presentations. Some restaurant chains offer facilities for linked pods that alleviate the need to procure separate audio-visual and food and beverage vendors.
For many participants, two-way communication between the different hybrid event components or building blocks heightens the experience. Recent technology has made this more affordable.
However, it’s important to note that two-way communication increases the level of complexity and the coordination necessary. Glitches are more likely, so again, rehearsals and testing are even more important.
While it’s never a bad idea to brush up on what technology has to offer and what potential pitfalls it presents, there’s much more to producing quality hybrid events. Rather than seeing these new options as daunting, consider the new opportunities they provide for enhanced networking, learning and entertaining, and for reaching ever wider audiences.
Another version of this blog post was first posted on the Cvent blog.