Saturday, September 25, 2010

Raising the Bar for Hybrid Events: Perfecting the Attendee Experience?

In the Meetings and Conferences business 2010 has been touted by many as the year of Hybrid Events.  Most event professionals now understand the value of providing remote participation alternatives to their customers.  A tough economy, increased competition, and affordable, yet sophisticated technology has driven that point home.

In the future it will not be sufficient to just offer hybrid components at meetings and conferences, as many organizations are already doing that.  The next challenge, for event organizers,  is to refine the quality of their hybrid events.    Organizers will need to find ways to distinguish their events, from others,  in order to rise above their competitors.  Here are some thoughts on how to accomplish that:

Perfecting the Attendee Experience

Professionalize  Video Webcasts — Pointing a camera at a speaker and then letting the webcast flow is not very engaging, by itself, for most remote attendees.  Unless the presenter is really skilled at capturing an audience’s attention, they will eventually lose their attention.  A well thought out video production can help to prevent that challenge.

  • A skilled camera operator offering Pan shots across the audience will mix things up a bit for remote attendees.   Often they will recognize at least some of the face2face attendees, which adds an element of excitement.  This type of camera coverage also captures audience reaction to the presentation, which adds dramatic appeal to the event.
  • Enhanced lighting significantly improves the quality of the video experience.  Even the best meeting rooms do not provide optimal lighting for camera work.  Even a couple of light trees, at minimal expense, will do the trick.

The Pre Event Show — Utilizing a virtual emcee, organizations can treat their remote attendees to a pre-event show, teeing up the event, just for them.  This added touch will make them feel special, and connected to the event.  A perfect example of this was the recent EventCamp Twin Cities Conference, which featured this type of activity.  It added a lot of flavor to the experience.  Click here to access the free replay of the program webcast.

Emilie Barta, Virtual Emcee

Post Event Interviews — At the Event’s conclusion, it is really effective to interview the presenter and/or the face2face attendees, on camera, using the already-referenced virtual emcee.  Integrating Twitter (using a Hashtag reference), or the webcast  chat platform  attendees can ask questions of the presenter.  Interviewed attendees may offer their insights and reactions to the event experience as well.

Select the Right Webcast Provider — Event professionals must research and select a webcast supplier that provides a highly functional and pleasant webcast experience, for remote attendees.  A platform containing side-by side live camera and a/v support (i.e slides) with adjustable window sizes, is optimal.

One thing is for certain … Hybrid components have become much more than bolt-on features to today’s meetings and conferences.  They have become essential.  A professionally managed technology plan will ensure  interactivity between remote and face2face attendees is seamless, adding significant excitement to most events.

After all human beings like to network with one another and when you give them an event that easily supports interaction, whether it is virtual or face2face, or both, they will embrace it.

Question:  What enhancements have you added to your organization’s hybrid events?  What difference did it make to the impact on your attendees?  What do you see changing in the future?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sam Smith September 26, 2010 at 10:48 am

Hi Mike,

This is a great writeup and great ideas. Thanks for mentioning Event Camp Twin Cities and for sharing the pictures from the event. I published the recipe with the people (roles), process and technology that went into creating the Event Camp Twin Cities Hybrid Experience here: http://ow.ly/199ND9

I encourage everyone to take this recipe and adapt it to their own events.

Also, Mike, thanks for being an active member of the virtual audience at Event Camp Twin Cities and writing so many blog posts about the event. We tried a lot of things that were new and different for most people. All of us should benefit from these experiences. Your blog has been a great help in converting those ideas into practical application.

Reply

Michael M McCurry CMP September 27, 2010 at 8:29 am

Hi Sam,

How could I not mention EventCamp Twin Cities, as at least part of the learning I shared in this article came from that experience.

The experience, as a virtual, or remote attendee at ECTC was outstanding, for so many reasons, and we look forward to bringing all of those experiences forward into the next National EventCamp in Chicago.

Thanks for contributing Sam!

Mike

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