Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hitting a Virtual Bullseye: Strategic Best Practices 4 Hybrid Events?

There seems to be a lot of conversation lately about the best approach for producing Hybrid Events.  Many event professionals want to know what the magic formula is for budgeting them.  Truth is there is no one specific answer.  There are just too many variables.

Organizations hold meetings and conferences for different reasons.  Some choose to add hybrid events, with specific objectives in mind.  Adding to the dynamic are customer needs and expectations which vary, from event to event, and funding sources, which can be distinctly different as well.  The real key to identifying the best approach for a hybrid event is to become strategic about planning it.

Strategic Best Practices for Hybrid Events

Here are some issues to consider:

Strategic Issue 1:  What is the desired hybrid event experience you wish to provide to your customers? Looking at it another way, why are you holding this/these event(s)?

  • to provide an alternative for customers unable to attend face2face, due to expense or time constraints?
  • to demonstrate your organization’s technology prowess and thought leadership?
  • to showcase (new and existing) products and services to potential buyers and/or existing customers?
  • to grow your attendee-base by introducing hybrid components to prospects, extending your market reach and stimulating interest in the face2face event?

Strategic Issue 2:  What are you funding resources?

  • How much capital do you have available to spend?
  • Can event registration fees be increased to offset hybrid event production expenses?
  • Are there potential sponsors available, either financial, or in-kind, to help offset costs?

Strategic Issue 3:  How important is production quality and which pieces matter most? Answering these questions will help you identify your equipment and labor requirements.

  • Does Video need to be ‘HD’ quality or will a less expensive feed from a Flip camera suffice?  (or somewhere in between) This helps to identify camera and lighting requirements.
  • Is it important for audience interaction to be captured on video?  Or will audio support only be acceptable? Enables you to identify # of camera’s, camera operators and related hardware support.
  • Will sound be broadcast only from presenter(s) or will there be audience interaction, such as Q&A?  Determines number and type of microphones needed, soundboard, operator, microphone runners, etc.
  • Is multi-directional webcasting required?  If so, will both audio and video be delivered in that manner, or in what combination? identifies scope and complexity of broadcast, off-site coordination support, additional equipment/labor, and Internet Connections.
  • Do  you want to keep customers engaged during breaks and between sessions?   Drives a decision on whether to engage the services of a “virtual emcee” (Suggested!) or not.

Credible Business Partners Make a Difference

I highly recommend engaging the assistance of a reputable audio visual company to help you identify what is needed and at what cost.  One critical element to a positive Hybrid event experience is to retain the services of a professional hybrid event producer, if you do not have that expertise available in-house.  A show producer will ensure that you don’t forget about any of the important planning pieces for a successful event.  They will also help you shape the strategic direction of the event.

Addressing these strategic issues with your events team, will lead to a more focused plan for budgeting and implementation of the hybrid event.  Should you find you are not able to generate the financial resources to accommodate your desired event experience outcome, you may need to re-evaluate the scope of the event or find alternative funding sources.

Question:  What have I missed here?  In your hybrid event planning experience, what strategic challenges have you faced and how did you adjust to improve the next planning cycle?  Please share!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff Hurt October 1, 2010 at 7:14 am

Mike:

Thanks for continuing this conversation about the costs of hybrid events.

Today, there are an overabundance of hybrid and virtual event providers. There are economical choices and there are the high-end Hollywood types. Regardless, this is still a relatively new field and everyone is learning together.

I like to tell people that it is the same thing as thinking about your hotel lodging for a night. There are inexpensive budget options and there are expensive, luxury five-star resorts. Luxury does not necessarily translate into customer service or active engagement.

One thing that is important to remember in the conversation, that high-end production does not equate into active participation on the part of the remote attendee. I’ve seen speakers livestream their presentation from their web camera successfully. I am reminded of Jeff De Cagna’s ASAE 2009 presentation where he engaged the F2F audience and the remote audience beautifully–all from his webcamera! The participation level from the remote audience was very high. The quality of his presentation was beautiful–great lighting, great audio and his added pieces of private conversations for remote attendees, and answering remote attendees’ texted & tweeted questions were beautiful. His costs? Costs for the internet line at the venue–which I suspect the hosting organizatin covered. He used Ustream with their Twitter interface for $0.

So, I’m one that says part of the strategic thinking must be about getting the remote audience engaged and providing ways for them to participate besides just consuming (watching & listening) to the content. For me, the strategic question about remote attendee active engagement is very important and high on my list.

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Michael M McCurry CMP October 1, 2010 at 9:04 am

Hi Jeff,

What a terrific addition to the conversation … thanks so much for your comments.

I add a word of caution regarding providers for event professionals to beware of ineffective service providers. While they are mostly good there are some out there that are not very good.

I remember Jeff DeCagna’s presentation from last year well. I was so impressed with how he engaged the remote audience. And… yes, he did it inexpensively. That is a great lesson to all of us that it does not necessarily have to be a High end production.

I could do a whole series of articles on remote audience engagement, so you are absolutely right about its importance. Without engagement you will lose your remote audience, or at least some of them.

Thanks for contributing to the conversation.

Mike

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