This past week the Greater Midwest Chapter of PCMA (GMCPCMA) held a hybrid meeting for it’s members.  I was honored to accept an invitation, by chapter leadership to assist, as a technical advisor, and “tech moderator,” for the event.

Hybrid Event Defined

Midori Connoly (Producer) & Sonic Foundry Team

A hybrid event is a meeting containing both “F2F” and “virtual” audiences networking together, using some form of online technology.  For more information please refer to a past article I published, explaining the basics of hybrid events.

GMCPCMA’s  expansive membership is comprised of individuals located across seven states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota). Many of the 1,200 members struggle to attend the educational events in person. (They occur quarterly in the Chicago area)

In 2009, the chapter adopted the hybrid event format to allow online access, for those individuals unable to physically attend GMCPCMA’s events. To date, the chapter has successfully executed five such meetings, (one per year) including the one which occurred this week.

Introducing the Tech Moderator

One of my early “Ah Hah” moments, with hybrid events, was recognizing the value of a webcast “tech moderator.”  In simple terms a tech moderator is a webcast host.  This person serves as the communication bridge between the speaker/facilitator(s), remote (virtual) and F2F participants.

The moderator’s primary mission is to help connect all participants with one another.  Done effectively a higher level of attendee engagement will be achieved, contributing to the success of the event.

“To have a tech moderator in-room at a hybrid meeting is to give the remote audience a physical presence in the room … good event design means you create a participative experience that has meaning for each individual. And in order to do that, they need to use their eyes, ears…and voice. With the live stream of an event, the remote participant has the eyes and ears, but really no voice … Using a tech moderator gives them the voice they need.”  Midori Connolly, AVGirl Productions

Many hybrid events include an interactive back channel, where remote and f2f participants converse with one another.  Most typically Twitter has been the technology platform for those discussions.  While not impossible, many speakers/facilitators have difficulty simultaneously monitoring the conversation occurring in the back channel, while attending to the F2F audience.  The Tech moderator assists  the speaker/facilitator with that process.

Five Valuable Roles of a Tech Moderator

Here are some examples of how a tech moderator will contribute to the success of a hybrid meeting:

Me, in Tech Moderator Mode

Role #1:  Pre-Event Introduction — much like a pre-game show for a sporting event, the tech moderator will “tee up” the experience for remote attendees.  This can be done with an “on camera” live discussion or by an “audio only” briefing.

In addition to making remote participants feel welcome the moderator will recap important webcast information, such as the event Hashtag, or providing instructions for submitting questions and comments.

Role #2:  Virtual Tour of Event — If a mobile camera is available, the moderator can take the remote participants on a tour of the event space.  Alternatively the moderator can post photographs.  Examples of pictures are meeting room, stage, production team, food and beverage displays, event signage, sponsors, and event attendees.

Role #3:  Fielding Questions/Comments — One of the most important aspects of a webcast is acknowledging and fielding questions/comments from the remote audience.  Using “voice of god” concept the moderator will communicate the questions/comments within the live webcast.

This really helps to engage the remote attendees, adding value to their event experience.  An added bonus is the moderator may also channel questions from the F2F audience, eliminating the need for microphone runners in the meeting room.

Role #4:  Event Awareness — Sometimes there may be things occuring in the meeting room that may not be possible to broadcast on the webcast.   The tech moderator can function as a commentator, providing an account of those occurrences, or even posting pictures.

Role #5:  Webcast Troubleshooting – in a well produced webcast there will be technical personnel monitoring the actual webcast to troubleshoot technical challenges.  The tech moderator can also assist with that process by checking in with the remote participants to ensure that their webcast experience is running smoothly.

I am interested in hearing about some of your ideas regarding hybrid events.  What discoveries have you made in your journey experimenting with this event format?  Please share them with us!


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