How to do blended and hybrid events at the office
This may shock some readers, but video calls were once science fiction. Popularized in the 1960s and 1970s, exceptional characters like spies, supervillains and spacemen would share top-secret orders using video calls via boxy monitors or wristwatches.
Today, they’re so commonplace as to be boring. Worse perhaps, many video calls (and webinars) are of a truly shocking quality. If we were still in the 1990s, we would be content with pixelated speakers, patchy audio, and dodgy lighting. But it isn’t the 1990s anymore – or even the early 2000s. The standard required today for our digital communications is much higher. Your clients expect a professional appearance throughout – and this includes your webinars and video content too.
Perhaps the greatest challenge in this area is the blending of online and in-person events. These so-called hybrid events are incredibly effective ways to maximize results with limited resources. Hybrid events combine the strengths of both online and physical experiences. Despite these advantages, many companies struggle to do hybrid events well, or don’t even try. In this article, we’re going to see exactly how businesses can do hybrid events successfully, and reap the rewards.
What are the strengths of Hybrid events?
Hybrid events have the following advantages:
- They can reach a wider (online) audience
- You can create intimate, in-person experiences for a small audience
- The in-person excitement carries over to the online audience
- You have a lot of control
- Online audiences can interact with the in-person event and other attendees
- Budget from a large in-person event can be redeployed to greater effect
Today, webinars are the default option for many marketing and sales events. This is partly because hybrid events can seem too tricky and complex to manage. However, there is a strong demand for hybrid events, and they have incredible positive effects.
Hybrid events can include similar elements to ‘reality TV,’ in which the real-life audience are followed through their experience. This is enjoyed and mirrored by the online audience, who project themselves into the experience. This can be seen when an audience is brought into an immersive experience room as part of the hybrid event. This can be done as an interactive game-like element to the hybrid event (which is easier with a smaller audience), or to directly interact with online participants via the immersive experience screens. Despite being miles away, this can add engagement and excitement for the online viewers who get to join-in with the experience despite not being immersed in it themselves.
Hybrid events can cover all the bases. You can answer questions directly from a live audience (no waiting for online surveys), and you can use digital storytelling to deepen the emotional impact of your messaging. In fact, any digital media asset can be easily incorporated, and you can create differentiated and optimized experiences for both audiences. But you need the right technology, and the right software to power it.
How to deploy Hybrid Events
There are several best practices to observe with a Hybrid event. These include having a carefully chosen audience, a well-planned sequence, and creating opportunities for cross-modal interaction between the different audiences. You should spend time thinking about each ‘half’ of the experience, the online and in-person, and optimize each separately before looking for ways to cross-over.
It’s also important to capture and share the reactions of the real-life participants, so that the online viewers have ‘cues’ that their brains can use to mirror their own reactions. Think of the ‘canned laughter’ effect that is used on sitcoms – would Seinfeld be funny without someone telling you when to laugh? The same principle holds true for hybrid events too – you need to show your viewers how they should be reacting.
On top of the perfect technique, you also need the perfect tech. There is no shortage of cameras, screens, and other AV technology out there – but how can they be used to host a hybrid event? In short, you need an all-inclusive solution. To host something as complex as a hybrid event or blended experience, you need the ability to switch between media assets, live and pre-recorded content, superimpose remote speakers on the screen, and use a variety of backgrounds. What we’re describing is essentially a TV studio.
Thinking back to the beloved 1990s again, having your own studio used to mean a vast space and a lot of equipment, engineers, and crew. Today, it can fit in the corner of your office, and be operated by just one or two people. You don’t need extensive training either.
A compact virtual studio like this is the StreamIX, which is designed specifically as a professional streaming solution for business. This is an entry-level studio with almost all the functionality of a full-size virtual studio. Despite the compact layout, it’s a powerful piece of kit with all the capabilities needed for the complexity of hybrid events. The only downside of this option is that the in-person audience needs to be smaller too.
On the other end of the scale, you can also install a dedicated Virtual Studio. These are larger setups with more space for a physical audience. The full Virtual Studio solution from Purple can do pretty much anything you can imagine a studio can do, yet it only needs one or two people to operate it.
Reimagining your office space
Many companies are planning to redesign their office space with a new purpose. Your office can transform into a place where people yearn to visit – an exciting hub of creativity and collaboration. Clients and strategic partners can be shown what your company can offer with a combination of digital tools, including Immersive Experiences, interactive displays, and digital storytelling that pervades every touchpoint.
When it comes to your digital offering, you can provide a constant stream of updated content, customized videos, ads, and product information. With your own studio this becomes much easier, and any department can get in on the action.
Your studio can be used for other purposes too, like conference calls, online events, and webinars. But most of all, with your own studio, you gain the instant ability to host incredible, industry-leading hybrid events. This will give you the leading edge, with the highest possible standard of interactive digital content. Need help? Purple can help you to build te perfect studio.