“The line between disorder and order lies in logistics…” – Sun Tzu
The skill sets needed and the logistics involved are a lot more complex than many organisations realise and often traditional audio-visual (AV) companies won't necessarily have those capabilities.
Logistically, a hybrid event is not dissimilar to a news broadcast, where you have a studio and reporters on site sharing information about something happening in another location and sending that content into the main studio. In hybrid events, we would typically have a studio or conference hall where content is produced and then separate locations where that information is prepared for virtual presentation.
The logistics of that, however, are that you need two teams with different skillsets – one experienced in AV for the physical event and another with expertise in virtual for the remote presenters and audience. Those teams need to be aligned, working collaboratively, but each leveraging their own expertise. I think the experience of the past year has taught us why this is so important.
Unfortunately, economic necessity forced many people to repurpose their skills for virtual events, but many of these events were, at best, sub-optimal, largely because it’s a completely different way of working, with its own unique set of hurdles and quirks.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is getting companies to realise that if their hybrid events are going to be successful, they need to invest in them, with the same level of budget that they would set aside for a physical event, as well as the same amount of planning and booking.
Companies think nothing of hiring a celebrity host and paying for conference rooms, hotels, caterers and travel for a live event. We need to have that same mindset for virtual, so it doesn’t end up being an afterthought.
This will require a change in mindset, and for companies to recognise that at least a portion of the money they have saved in airfares and hotels expenses will need to go back into bringing in virtual experts and investing in technology to ensure hybrid events are successful.
What we have seen over the past year is that someone will buy a Zoom license and think they now have all the bells and whistles they need to run an event, but a lot more goes into successful corporate events. The challenge is how to demonstrate to companies why the look and feel of a hybrid event is so important, and what goes into creating a successful virtual experience.
Over the past year, we have worked with clients that have perhaps been reluctant to invest in a more seamless experience, but after seeing how they turn out, they understand why the cost of a professional virtual team makes such a difference. Suddenly, they have an engaged, enthusiastic audience attending interactive, productive and fun sessions.
The acid test for a great virtual or hybrid event is, does your audience see what is happening in the background? The less they can see, the more successful your event is.
All events are likely to be hybrid in the long run. Having teams that know what they are doing in both the physical and virtual realms will be vital if companies are going to keep attracting audiences to their events.
James Templeman is the Technical Event Director for Open Audience, with an extensive background in the live event streaming and production industry. His expertise spans production management, vision mixing, post-production as well as broadcast camera operation skills. His industry experience includes BBC Worldwide, HSBC and CapGemini, as well as central government departments and broadcasters. His live event experience includes productions at the Royal Albert Hall, Excel London and Earl’s Court.