We’ve been fortunate enough to have worked on multiple hybrid conferences this autumn and it’s been really interesting to watch the evolution of these events in the wake of the pandemic. The hybrid environment has shown to be successful from a technical, customer, and delegate point of view and the main take-aways are that hybrid conferences really do work, possibly even more so than physical conferences!
DO HYBRID CONFERENCES REALLY WORK?
In short, Yes!
Hybrid is still an event format that is met with some hesitation due to the relative novelty it comes with, so we don’t expect you to just take our word for it. Below is an account of a recent event we took on that proved to be enormously successful and highlights the rewards of hybrid conferencing.
We worked alongside an agency tasked with managing a multi-location conference event for a global top 10 law firm. The customer wanted to run four days of content combining both pre-recorded and live audio-visual content across 7 locations throughout the UK and Europe. For physical attendants, 6 of the firm’s UK and European offices were utilised, with a hotel venue making up the additional seventh location. The feed was also streamed and made accessible to an audience of remote attendants who were unable to, or elected not to, attend in person.
The London office served as the main studio and hosted the largest number of attendants, approximately 75 people. Across other locations, numbers ranged between 20-50 people per venue, accumulating to around 300 live attendants with up to a further 1000 attendants tuning in remotely. The hybrid component of the event was necessitated for this remote audience, consisting of employees working from home along with a remainder of employees watching from their office monitors due to the limited physical spaces available in light of social distancing and safety measures. It also enabled the entire firm to participate, rather than a select few in the pre-covid days.
Each venue comprised of staging, backdrop, lights, PA Systems and cameras which were utilized to create a continual studio set up across the 7 locations. The London office served as the main studio and consisted of a second, more casual set-up, including comfy couches and relaxed seating. We were able to broadcast from each location into the central London production hub and then feed the output to an online platform where delegates could login and watch.
From a production perspective, this format felt much more like a TV broadcast event than a traditional physical (in-person) conference, but this showed real benefits. The first three days consisted of a 2 hour session from 10:00 until 12:00, each day covering its own topic, with the final day being a full day of coverage. The benefit to this was that only a proportion of the working day was taken, thus, not impinging on either productivity or interest.
As ever, the major challenge with the production was to adhere to the strict time schedule. This required real discipline and was successfully achieved by means of tightly scripted rehearsals running the event cue-to-cue to ensure a smooth live day production. A professional show caller introduced a mix of live presentations, animations, video strings, and up to 10 hours of pre-recorded content.
The lectern based presentations and the more relaxed couch-based discussions worked admirably and provided a nice contrast of dialog. Interaction was achieved among both remote and live audiences using Slido polls and questions. Arguably, the relaxed couch conversations provided a more inclusive feel (from a recipients point of view) on account of the more natural and easy to digest nature that they came with. On top of all this, a recording of the event was also made available for On-Demand viewing at a later date.
Why The Hybrid Event Worked – Key Takeaways
The key to success in this hybrid event was the mix! With live audio mixing, we were able to swiftly cut to different people, locations, and mediums with ease, continually maintaining the dynamic feel of the event. This is where the hybrid nature of the event worked better than the traditional physical format. Numerous people were able to contribute to the conversation without it seeming like an endless stream of counterparts jumping up and down from the stage. Instead, a streamlined transition of seamless conversation was assembled (much like a TV broadcast) with the show-callers communications running in real time over the internet to technicians at each of the various locations.
From an observers point of view, you could see that everyone was engaged. The content was kept short and absorbing, with no one individual speaking for much more than 5 to 10 minutes at a time. In a physical environment, this short sharp delivery is significantly more difficult to execute due to various factors such as transition times on and off stage and natural human factors. Consequently, having a rolling turnover of speakers presenting for as little as 2 minutes becomes too fast for a physical set-up and results in a clunky and disjointed event. Alternatively, the hybrid format meant that the production was able to cut people in efficiently and effectively across multiple locations. The end result… 2 hours of content that flowed effortlessly and for once left attendants looking at their watches in disbelief, wondering where the time had gone.
Despite being tasked with a huge logistical delivery package, the event was a resounding success. Not only was the live event effectively executed, a total of 225,900 minutes of content was viewed by a remote audience. That’s 3765 hours or just under 157 days, that’s almost half a years-worth of view time! Although the clients move to the hybrid format was largely facilitated by the limitations and restrictions triggered by the pandemic, this event has opened many eyes to the capabilities of hybrid conferencing and hybrid events more generally. These hybrid style events can be so much more than simply streaming a live event to a remote audience who couldn’t attend in person. As we’ve seen, the multi-location set up can result in a more dynamic, engaging, and informative conference event and offers additional scope for contribution and collaboration.
It’s a brave new world out there and here at DB we recognise the changing face of events and we’re ready for it! If you want to broaden your conference offering by running a Hybrid or Omnichannel event, then contact us today!