Thursday, September 16, 2010

4 Reasons Why EventCamp Twin Cities Hit a Hybrid Events HomeRun!

Have you heard about “EventCamp”?  If you are an event professional, and you aren’t familiar with this series of conferences,  you need to check them out.  In short, EventCamp is a “BarCamp style” conference.

It’s premise is to bring together like-minded event professionals, with an interest in social technology and innovative conferences, to share best practices, learn new strategies and experiment with new ideas and concepts.  It is clearly a learning lab.  More important, it is an amazing community!

Some EventCamp History

The Start-up 2010 EventCamp National Conference, of which I was a co-creator, along with Christina Coster, Jessica Levin, Jeff Hurt and Mike McAllen,  took place this past February, in New York City, at the Roger Smith Hotel.  To view details of that event please read my recap blog post. Inspired by the wild success of the NYC event, the above team formed EventCamp Headquarters.

One of our goals with adding structure to the EventCamp community was to provide support for other folks in the events community to hold their own local and regional EventCamp conferences, while we continue to sustain an Annual EventCamp Conference, year to year.

EventCamp Twin Cities Leads the Charge!

The first of these regional/local conferences, EventCamp Twin Cities, (#ECTC10 on Twitter) was held last week in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.  Unfortunately I was not able to attend ECTC10 face2face, but instead participated remotely, by webcast and Twitter.  As it turns out being a remote attendee was a very effective and enjoyable experience.

I was really excited about this event, to see what new paths it would explore.  I wasn’t disappointed.  The organizing team for ECTC10, led by Samuel J. Smith and Ray Hansen, created a fabulous conference.  During the pre-event marketing process, Sam and Ray skillfully managed to build significant excitement and interest in the conference.  Their value proposition to attendees, and sponsors alike, was ambitious and “outside the box” in its scope. And, in my opinion (and many others) … the event delivered exactly what it promised, and more.

Hybrid Event HomeRun

While there were many highlights to ECTC10 I am most impressed with how the organizing team embraced and engaged the remote audience.  Arguably the most challenging aspect of hybrid events is keeping the remote audience focused and engaged in the activities taking place.  Here are 4 reasons why the hybrid component of this event worked so effectively:

Reason #1:  Virtual Studio with Emcee — the concept of utilizing a virtual emcee with hybrid events is one of my favorites.  In particular Emilie Barta does an “off the chart” excellent job of handling this important work.  Please check out the conference archives for examples of her work.  She would be a great addition to any Hybrid program.

Emilie Barta, Virtual Emcee

ECTC10 Organizer Sam Smith w. Emilie Barta

In addition to teeing up the individual sessions with a “preview show” for remote attendees, Emilie featured interviews with presenters, sponsors and face2face attendees during the breaks.  She also assisted remote attendees with some of the small group exercises (see below) by being the virtual point of contact for those sessions.

An enhancement to the virtual emcee process was the creation of the virtual studio, which enriched the quality of the interactions.  Using professional lighting and decor strategically ECTC10 created an optimal studio environment for Emilie to heighten the virtual emcee experience.

Reason #2:  Google Moderatorthe ECTC10 team cleverly used this online collaboration tool as a bridge for remote and face2face attendees to brainstorm ideas and solutions to hot events business topics.  It really was a terrific value-add and made the whole process seamless.

Reason #3:  Remote Pods Multi-Directional (audio and video) webcast — ECTC10 partnered with Intefy and Sonic Foundry to provide Two (2) remote pods of attendees in Dallas, TX and in Basel, Switzerland.  Remote participants at these locations could be seen as well as heard on screen with all attendees via live webcast.  This concept was terrific and although it was not perfect in actual operation, it still added significant value, and an additional dimension, to the event.

Reason #4:  Speakers Connected with Remote Audience — Across the board, Presenters all engaged the remote participants as much as they engaged the face2face attendees.  It made a large positive difference in the event experience for remote attendees.

The bottom line, folks, is EventCamp Conferences are as much about people and real connections, as they are the technology.  The significant impact of these events is facilitated by the one-two punch of the already-established personal connections within the EventCamp community combined with the delivery of a well thought out event.

Congratulations to the ECTC10 team for a great effort.  We are all proud of you!

I am really excited about the next chapter in the EventCamp series, the EventCamp East Coast, taking place in November, in Philadelphia, PA.  Hope to see you there, either virtually or face2face!

Follow Michael McCurry on Twitter

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Daphne Bousquet, CMP September 17, 2010 at 9:42 am

Hi Mike,

I was a remote attendee as well and I was very impressed with the way the remote audience was involved. Emilie Barta did an amazing job and I think that without her expertise the experience wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable. You are right, the Event Camp Team definitely hit a home run!


Michael M McCurry CMP September 17, 2010 at 10:30 am

Hi Daphne,

I couldn’t agree with your comments more!

Emilie is a superstar in the making and her work just gets better all the time.

Hope you can make it to Philly in November and/or Chicago in February for EventCamp National Conference.

Thanks for adding to the conversation.



mike mcallen September 17, 2010 at 11:54 am

Great post.
I agree totally. This was the best virtual experience I have ever had. Living in California it was cost and time prohibitive for me to attend live.
All techie stuff aside, the energy and community of Event Camp was given a steroid shot boost with this event. I was thoroughly engaged and really enjoyed attending virtually.

It sure made me want to attend the next one in person.


Michael M McCurry CMP September 17, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Hi Mike,

I have to agree with you, I can think of no events featuring hybrid components that were more effective than this one at keeping the remote audience engaged.

I too am excited to see what the next event brings.

Thanks for weighing in on the experience.



Midori Connolly September 17, 2010 at 5:57 pm

It WAS wonderful, and being there was like existing in some dream Meeting World.
I often talk about the Montessori experience and compare that educational experience to how we should transform meetings and conferences.
When you walk into a Montessori classroom, you will hear a quiet hum of discussion and learning as the children work in small groups, mentors leading younger children. It is a self-directed learning experience and you can see the children fall in love with learning!
Well, that lovely room at ECTC was like being in a Montessori classroom. There was an underlying current of energy as excited attendees shared ideas and had fun while absorbing new concepts – all while comfortably seated on chairs or balls at oval tables or groupings of couches. It was SO remarkable!!

Just to clarify – because I wouldn’t be the AVGirl if I didn’t 😉 – the two-way communication between the pod locations was actually via Skype. Sonic Foundry is a uni-directional broadcast, the communication is two-way with the help of the backchannel.

I’m so glad you were there to support us. You have many, many fans out there and I’m certainly one of them!!!!!!!!!!
Midori Connolly


Michael M McCurry CMP September 17, 2010 at 6:03 pm

Hi Midori,

I love your comparison of the ECTC event with a Montesorri school. How cool!

I wish I could have been there face2face, but I don’t feel like I lost a ton by being there only remotely. That is a testament to how good the hybrid experience was.

Thanks for pointing out my error regarding the pods. Not sure how I messed that one up but appreciate your straightening me out.

Thanks for contributing,



Lindsey Rosenthal (@eventsforgood) September 20, 2010 at 7:57 pm

Hi Mike,

What a great writeup! I really agree with all of your points. Being a F2F attendee, I felt less of a connection with Google Moderator. I thought it was an interesting tool, but I’m not sure that I would be interested in using it until I explore it a bit more. However, it was awesome to try a new tool that can be used for events and meetings.

Even though I attended in person, I definitely felt a real connection with the virtual audience. That could have been because I already had relationships with many of those participating, but I think ECTC did a wonderful job combining the two.

Lastly, thank you for the lovely shout out for EventCamp East Coast! Although it’s going to be a very different event, it will also be a great experiment and a fantastic place to share our experiences with others in the industry. We are very much looking forward to another chance to meet more of our peers.

Great post!


Michael M McCurry CMP September 21, 2010 at 11:45 am

Hi Lindsey,

Google Moderator was a bit confusing to me at first but eventually I figured it out and as a remote participant it really was engaging, with Emilie leading us on. The idea pool was very healthy in our group.

I felt a real connection with the entire audience, both f2f and remote. Probably was the most engaging hybrid event I have participated in.

I look forward to seeing what you guys come up with for the East coast event.

Thanks for contributing,



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