Although hybrid events have been around for a while, the Coronavirus pandemic has suddenly thrust them centre-stage. And it doesn't look as if that's set to change any time soon. But while we all understand the importance of hybrid events, understanding the practicalities can be another story.
Jason Larcombe, Senior Project Manager at technical solutions specialist White Light, recently took part in a panel discussion, Hybrid Events In Practice, at EventLAB 2021. Now we've asked him to share his thoughts in more detail, in order to answer all your burning questions.
Is the planning side of a hybrid event much the same as for a live event?
To effectively plan and manage a hybrid event, you should ideally be approaching the live and online elements as two separate events.
By their nature, hybrid events come with two different styles of audience with differing agendas for consuming information. By splitting out the elements of a hybrid event, you can establish the best brief and outcome for each audience and concentrate on event design and technologies to maximise the potential of each format.
Even for very basic live events, there's a marked difference between simply adding a static camera to enable both audiences to consume the same content, versus introducing a curated stream. The latter enables the selection of different camera shots, close-up content, extra footage and broadcast techniques to help convey information more clearly. This creates a tailored, unique experience for the remote audience.
What is the best way to manage and maximise my budget?
If you're managing the live and virtual elements separately, the best scenario is to allocate a separate budget to each. The costs for these will vary, based on content creation for different formats, the equipment and technical delivery teams required and additional features to enhance the two experiences.
If setting two budgets is prohibitive, so as not to stretch your budget too thin, it’s best to decide which audience is the most integral to you achieving your objectives.
If the virtual output of your event should feel more like a professional broadcast than a simple stream, your budget should allow for multiple cameras to capture the live presentation. This would require a dedicated Producer, to curate and manage the virtual component independently to the technicians operating the production desks in the room.
What technology is now available to deliver hybrid events?
There is a wealth of technology on the market, as the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of hybrid events and developers have been quick to develop solutions to facilitate this. For example, we have seen a surge in the number of content delivery networks (CDNs) available, so for maximum flexibility, tech should be platform agnostic.
At White Light, we've recently launched our extended SmartStage® portfolio, offering the world’s first turnkey XR product suite for creating immersive presentation, performance and teaching environments. This harnesses the full power of mixed-reality technologies to enable the creation of different virtual worlds which can be integrated into a wide range of live event formats.
Where is this all headed in the future?
With the recent Facebook re-brand to Meta, we are seeing the social media giant investing in an increased workforce to develop the 'metaverse.' This is all changing the ways in which we consume content online and means that virtual experiences can now replicate physical experiences more realistically than ever before.
In the metaverse, you can enter a 3D world to attend a concert using VR and experience this as if you were actually at Wembley. This has huge potential for a diverse range of events and will no doubt be an important feature for many in the strategic approach to events in the near future.
Is hybrid here to stay?
Throughout the pandemic, online and latterly hybrid events have been a reactive means for organisations to maintain relationships with their existing audience and cultivate new ones to extend their reach. While the return of live events has been welcomed by many who have missed the experience of shared in-person interactions, the post-pandemic world has seen many significant changes.
The new flexible approach to home versus office working, as well as the shifting dynamics of the working day and week patterns, mean that hybrid will continue to be a gateway between these in-person and remote audiences. Reduced travel is likely to remain a priority for the foreseeable future, if not forever, as corporate social responsibility is also a factor.
Over the next 6 months and beyond, as the model for events is re-developed, we expect to see most briefs featuring an element of virtual delivery.
About the speaker
Jason Larcombe, Senior Project Manager, White Light
Jason's lighting design work started in theatre, moving from fringe to West End to international productions. He joined White Light as a Design Assistant, before progressing through the company to become a Senior Project Manager. Jason now plays a vital role in developing the company's Managed Venues portfolio, such as Central Hall Westminster and Illuminate at the Science Museum, where he is responsible for designing integrated lighting, video and audio systems across a range of multi-use spaces.
As you can see, successfully hosting a hybrid event requires a whole host of additional considerations and technology on top of what you'd usually put in place for a straightforward in-person event. But by dedicating time and resources to honing the experience for both in-person and remote attendees, you can unlock a whole host of benefits, including extending your reach in ways that were previously unimaginable.
To learn more about the practicalities of hosting a hybrid event, read our ultimate guide to hybrid events. Or to see Jason speaking about hybrid events in more detail, check out our panel discussion on hybrid events in practice from EventLAB 2021.