Attendee Of The Future or Hybrid Events?
Today’s post was supposed to be about “The Attendee of the Future,” an insightful events wrangling post I read yesterday.
That post starts out with a timely question that is worth thoughtful consideration.
“The needs of your event attendees have changed. Are you keeping up with their demands?”
I suspect many events wranglers struggle with meeting the widely varying needs and demands of today’s attendees. In a world of partial continuous attention, blurred lines between work and personal time, and an increasingly connected society with smartphones and tablets, it’s almost impossible to know what the needs of the attendees are and even more difficult to keep up with their (apparent) demands.
So I was going to highlight a few particularly poignant points in that blog post. But then I got thinking about the excerpt below from the post:
“…Consider meeting different learning styles of your digitally enabled participants. This may include…an active hybrid event, with facilitators who encourage conversation within your live audience, answer questions and invite comments from your your virtual audience, plus a moderator who facilitates discussion in a virtual chat room and where these two hosts can work to bring the viewpoints of both audiences together…”
[Wikipedia defines a hybrid event as one “that combines a “live” in-person event with a “virtual” online component.”]
Hybrid events are a topic that hits four hot buttons for me.
- Events wrangling.
- Community building.
- Relationship building.
- Emerging technologies.
After I read the “hybrid events” post linked in the excerpt above and started thinking about all the opportunities and challenges that hybrid events offer, I decided today’s post on Events Wrangling just had to be about hybrid events.
My goals for today’s post are:
- Highlight the concept of hybrid events, encouraging you to make your events hybrid ones when possible.
- Discuss six issues related to hybrid events.
- Invite anyone highly interested in discussing hybrid events to contact me.
Goal 1: Highlight Hybrid Events
I’ve been working to incorporate virtual, or remote, participation in my events for over ten years. In the early days it was IRC (internet relay chat) or other chat tools. At our weekly tech meetups, we would also regularly test new video and audio tools as they were released. When tech enthusiasts in our region couldn’t attend the weekly meeting in-person due to weather or personal obligations, we’d experiment with different ways to make remote participants a valuable part of the meetup.
If you don’t already make your events hybrid in some way, consider deciding right now to figure out at least one way to make your next event a hybrid one. If you already have ways for remote participants to benefit from and contribute to your events, look for how you can take those hybrid components to the next level. Come up with a way to make the hybrid benefits of your event a competitive differentiator. Remote participants can’t experience everything that in-person participants can, but there may be hundreds or thousands of people who want to be involved with your event because of the value you provide to remote participants.
Goal 2: Discuss Six Issues For Hybrid Events
Issue 1, Building A Community — In “10 Things I Would Change About The Event Industry,” Kevin Jackson says:
“…I think we create experiences…the difference between an event and an experience for me is an event is a one-off moment in time and an experience is a whole campaign that really builds a community of interest around the subject or topic we’re promoting…
‘People’ don’t love events. They don’t sit at home and think ‘gosh I really want to go to an event tonight’ like you would the movie theatre or restaurant. People want to go and attend the event for the content…And we have to get more serious around developing great stories and great content that brings people into our events…
We have to try and encourage a community to [grow] up around our events. Because that’s really what we’re doing, growing communities of interest…”
Although not every event has enough value, scope, or impact to support an ongoing community, some of them do. When there is sufficient reason for an event, or series of events, to support or coalesce a community, there’s no need to limit that community to people who are able to physically be at the event. Your community can be much larger if it’s open and welcoming to remote participants. Facilitating the hybrid component may also result in new community members who couldn’t participate in person because of schedule conflicts, cost, mobility issues, or other reasons. Some of your remote participants may turn out to be key members of the community that gets built around a series of events.
Issue 2, Storytelling and Video — I’m convinced we don’t put enough emphasis on storytelling and video for events. These two event components can be impact multipliers which lead to higher visibility for events, more post-event collaborations and interactions, and more participants for future events. Storytelling and audio/video components of hybrid events will be critical items to make the event worthwhile and engaging for remote participants. So deciding to deliver a high quality hybrid event means focusing on storytelling and providing good video capture and (eventually) editing. Taking storytelling and video to the next level will provide amazing benefits to both remote and in-person participants.
The next two issues are discussed by Communiqué Conferencing in “What is a Hybrid Event?”
Issue 3, Content and Format — Concise, compelling and engaging material that tells a relevant story via remote technology is crucial for keeping the interest of virtual event goers. Shorter sessions are generally necessary because the virtual participant isn’t a captive audience and because it’s harder for them to feel like an active participant in the event. Here’s how Communiqué addresses that:
“…Not all the content presented at a live event is suitable for remote audience. Meeting professionals with experience creating hybrid events say that they are adapting the content of their face-to-face events to the needs of the remote audience by, for example, offering shorter sessions. Hybrid event organizers often seek to reduce production costs by live-streaming only the most popular sessions. Others seek to limit what is offered to a remote audience as a way of encouraging more people to attend the face-to-face event. Anecdotal data from survey responses and e-learning experts suggest that broadcast sessions shouldn’t be longer than 30 minutes…”
Issue 4, Speakers or Session Leaders — It’s challenging to have every session leader or speaker be a charismatic and polished presenter for an in-person audience. Bringing in the online audience just makes it that much harder for a speaker to do everything right. As Communiqué says in their blog post:
“…It’s even more important to train speakers for hybrid events than for face-to-face because the attention span of remote attendees is shorter, speakers must be more engaging. They must acknowledge remote attendees and look at the camera. The loss of physical connection requires speakers to develop new skills to engage. The camera is your friend. So, you’ve got to attend to that camera, and remember there are people with interest in your event on the other side of it…”
Issue 5, Facilitating Post-Event Interaction — In my mind, part of the job of an events wrangler is to facilitate post-event interaction. I feel that the biggest benefits of events are connecting like-minded and complementary-minded people, building new relationships and strengthening existing ones. The value of an event can be multiplied many times over if those relationships continue to grow and lead to collaboration on work or personal projects and ventures.
Building hybrid components into your event can facilitate post-event interaction in many ways. People participating remotely can connect with in-person participants, whereas those connections would previously only been possible between in-person participants. In-person participants who get excited about a session topic at the event can later review videos of the session and be motivated to reconnect with others who were likewise passionate about that topic.
Issue 6, Overhyped-But-It’s-Coming VR — I’m not going to discuss specific details of how VR / AR / MR and the tangentially-related holographic technologies will impact hybrid events. If you’re a fan of VR, you can easily imagine ten or fifteen cool or interesting ways you’d want to remotely participate in hybrid events. Ten or twenty years from now, VR is likely to play a huge role in most events, both real-time and post-event. For events held this year and next, think about connecting with VR tech partners. Research companies developing VR software and hardware, as well as a variety of marketing, video, storytelling, and promotional companies, may be willing to collaborate with you. Your events may be a perfect opportunity for them to experiment with new technology, to develop their VR skills and services, or to create marketing materials in a real-world situation.
Goal 3: Invite Discussion
From my perspective, almost all events five years from now will have a significant hybrid aspect. If you want to keep up, you’ll need to stay informed on developments in this area. If you want to keep ahead, or at least be one of the people riding the wave of emerging technologies and societal trends, you should be experimenting now with ways to make your events hybrid ones.
If you want to discuss hybrid events, ask questions, or share your ideas and experiences, please contact me at bwaldron (at) gmail [dott] com. I’d love to collaborate with fellow events wranglers to make events more valuable and engaging for both remote and in-person participants.