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Going Hybrid: Adding a Virtual Option to Your Traditional Event

By Freeman®

The content shared in this article was presented as part of the PCMA/Virtual Edge Institute Digital Event Strategist certification.

Hybrid events that offer both on-site and virtual attendance options can increase your reach on a potentially global scale. Not only can you connect with interested audiences who are unable to physically attend your event, you provide a completely new way for people to engage with your brand. Virtual attendance opens up new avenues for social sharing of content, new sponsorship opportunities, and new ways to build powerful online communities.

Here are our key tips to make your first — or next — hybrid event an overwhelming success.

Get Creative to Find Your Audience

To start, identify which of your core audiences are not already attending the event. If you have their email addresses, launch a campaign to drive them to a registration landing page on your website.

Next, think about where else you can find these people. Do they keep up with friends and family on Facebook? Share business updates on LinkedIn? Read specific publications? Share creative content to spark their interest: video clips from previous events, speaker bios, audience testimonials and so on.

Deliver High Production Value

There’s more to a great virtual broadcast than just training a camera on a speaker. Your audience has big expectations, and the rules of high-quality production still apply.

  • The internet is your biggest potential obstacle to smooth streaming. Make sure your broadcast connection is hardline (not wireless) and dedicated (not shared with any other user). You don’t want things to hiccup because someone in another room is downloading a 20GB email.
  • Use more than one camera — high-definition, preferably — for both wide and close-up shots as well as audience footage. Place cameras on risers so they’re eye level with the speakers, and raise the stage enough to keep heads out of the shot.
  • Meeting rooms are often dark, so proper lighting is crucial. Point directional lighting at the speaker from both the right and left, with smaller lights angled down toward the speaker’s back shoulders for backlight. For the best look, make sure the stage has a backdrop.
  • Wireless microphones eliminate snaking cords and look better on screen. An audio engineer can manage lapel mic placement, ambient noise, and other issues that might arise.
Give Virtual Guests a Real Experience

They may be lounging on their couch, but your virtual audience still wants to feel included. Help them by giving them a sense that they are there in the session room.

Shoot from a range of angles so viewers can see the whole space, and mix applause and audience reaction along with the stage noise. You can also drive engagement with an online chat room where attendees can virtually “raise their hands” with questions for the speaker or panel.

Before You Hit Record…

Prepare as you would for any other session. Provide scripts for everyone, so that everyone knows the order of events. And take the time to perform a complete dry run to catch potential technical issues. Better to blow an electrical breaker during a test than at go time.

And finally, begin with the end in mind. Stay focused on the goals you want to achieve; everything else will fall into place.

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