Hybrid events are really a mixed bag of experiences these days as demand for online participation options is high, yet budgets for in-person events, in general, are lower than ever for most event marketers. Therefore, hybrid event experiences are perhaps more of a continuum than ever with some organizers checking off the box with a live stream from one room (usually the keynote or general session room). Other events are streaming multiple rooms, capturing the content in others, and have chosen to provide a more compelling experience for remote participants.
No matter what your hybrid strategy is and where it fits on the continuum if you are live streaming from at least one session location, you can, with low incremental cost, greatly enhance the results and ROI of the hybrid investment.
In my experience, regardless of the size of your budget, you can achieve major returns for your event, this post will take a look at the top six benefits in my book (but there are plenty more)
- Promote the upcoming sessions so people stay for them
- Give onsite attendees some additional content opportunities
- Engage your onsite attendees as well as your remote participants
- Give the exhibiting partners some additional exposure benefits
- Promote remote audience to visit the online partner’s space
- Promote on-demand viewing of what on-site attendees missed
First Things First:
Set Up an Easy, Low-Cost Remote Participant Engagement Studio That Benefits All
Even with a very small budget, you can take advantage of your existing investment in live streaming from a session room (Internet, camera, audio, encoder, and staff person) by creating a virtual studio on one side in the back of the room.
During the breaks, if your streaming operator is using a PTZ (pan, zoom tilt) remote controlled camera on a tripod, they can point the camera to the right, zoom in and continue broadcasting (and recording). You’ll need a couple of wireless microphones for the host and guest(s) and even with the hustle and bustle of the room-clearing out, you’ll still have a good camera shot and mic that is turned in to pick up just the studio speakers. The only additional cost would be the backdrop, perhaps a light if needed, and perhaps a couple of director’s chairs if the venue doesn’t have some you can borrow. A thousand dollars should cover everything and less if you cut out the backdrop! Figure 1 below is a simple graphic depiction of what your setup can look like within a session room.
Figure 1: Diagram of engagement studio within a session room
With More Budget, You Can Go First Class with Your Virtual Studio
With a more robust budget and venues that present more locations or space, you aren’t just limited to the session rooms for your engagement studio, in fact, you can pop up a studio anywhere you can get power and good Internet (expo hall, hallway, registration area, even outdoors!) You will need any of the equipment we previously discussed, but you may also choose to have a more branded studio with signage, a broadcast desk or table or even a talk show vibe with a comfy chair (whichever suits your event best) Figure 2 does a good job of depicting an event where we set up the studio and theater to live stream programs and interviews and to provide a hands-on lab to demonstrate how event organizers could use the technology to engage with remote and onsite audiences. As you see with a larger budget, we were able to offer a bit more in our engagement studio, that attendees LOVED!
Figure 2: Engagement studio, theater, and hands on lab
Let’s Look at the Top 6 Benefits in More Detail
1. Promote the upcoming sessions so people stay for them
Having a host for the various programs running in the studio is important, someone who is comfortable on camera and can keep the conversation going during transitions from session stream to interviews and between interviewee swap-outs. One of the messages they can use to keep the conversation going is promoting the upcoming sessions and why people should check them out.
2. Give onsite attendees some additional content opportunities
If you can make it work, people onsite will listen to interesting interviews or watch relevant product demos, special sponsored sessions, or take part in an event game!
3. Engage your onsite attendees as well as your remote participants
Having a space where onsite attendees can sit and watch the interviews and ask questions, and show approval by raising hands or making comments adds energy and asking for the same kind of inputs from the remote audience and challenging them to outvote or comment the onsite audience adds some excitement. It is truly a space where your on-site attendees can engage with your virtual attendees in a fun way!
4. Give the exhibiting partners some additional exposure benefits
One thing partners, sponsors, and exhibitors love is getting a chance to be in the spotlight and getting to show how relevant their company is in a particular area. If they can bring in a client of theirs as well, that’s a great opportunity to get a third-party endorsement of their solution as well as give people watching another reason to stay tuned. Sometimes the value of these interview sessions is even greater when they are reused on websites and social media.
5. Promote remote audience to visit the online partner’s space
Many times, the partners have a digital booth or meeting space where they have much more than additional resources available for people to view and download. Within your virtual platform, meeting rooms can be set up where, for certain time slots, subject matter experts can be available to dive deeper into topics—the onsite interview could help promote those opportunities to meet with execs or engineers that are not always accessible.
6. Promote on-demand viewing of what on-site attendees missed
Attendees rarely see every session they would like to, onsite or online. Using the studio to highlight highly rated, controversial, or just super timely content helps remind people to come back to watch after the event. Also, these segments can be used in multiple channels to promote the event and content after the live event is over…registration doesn’t need to close because the event is not live anymore.
We have previously talked about leveling up your event, you can continue that momentum of creating an engaging, exciting, and memorable experience for your attendees by investing a small portion of your event budget in an engagement studio. It will give your event an added perk for both in-person and virtual attendees.