As the novel coronavirus spreads, meeting and event planners have been faced with tough decisions. Travel restrictions for international attendees, concerns about transmission among large crowds, and general anxiety amongst the public have made for a particularly stressful few weeks for event professionals.
Public health officials have stressed the importance of social distancing and postponing any activity that brings more than 50 people together, though many say this number is still too high.
That’s why many organizers are choosing a hybrid (or glocal – global + local) meeting format that allows for small gatherings of local groups, broadcast to remote attendees or remote sites to allow for more attendees without the need for travel.
Hybrid or glocal meetings are not the same as face-to-face meetings and shouldn’t be approached as such. A virtual experience must be orchestrated differently and can actually be more demanding. From tech glitches, distracting noises, and the challenge of keeping remote attendees engaged, planners have a plethora of hurdles to overcome.
Gear Needed for Event Livestreams
Vimeo’s livestream product is best known for offering software tools and technology for organizations to host, distribute, and livestream their videos. Dennis O’Brien, former senior project manager with Vimeo, runs the live production team and says that to get started with livestreaming, all you need is a quality camera, sometimes even just a webcam. Of course, that’s only half the story; the other half is the microphone. “You’d be surprised how often people forget about paying attention to audio,” he says. “Invest in a proper microphone. Make sure you’re paying as much attention to the audio as you are video because they go hand-in-hand.”
O’Brien urges planners to also pay close attention to power requirements. “You need a venue with adequate power, enough to power all the cameras, lights, and audio,” he says. “We might plug in a few things, and all of a sudden, it trips the circuit board, and now we’re pulling our hair out,” he adds.
To avoid this angst, he reminds organizers to communicate fully with the venue ahead of time, ensuring they understand what equipment you’re using and can answer the critical question: Do we have adequate power? He urges planners to have that conversation. “Even if it sounds silly, just have the conversation to get it out of the way.”
Another reminder from Vimeo’s O’Brien is that you can’t have a livestream without an internet connection and adequate bandwidth. “There are a lot of moving pieces that go into any live event; don’t let the internet fall to the side.” O’Brien says there are many instances where, 15 minutes before going live, he discovers the event is not going to happen due to insufficient power.
Choosing the Right Professional Partner
Choosing an event partner (like Convene) that is experienced with livestreaming can help alleviate the stress that may come with working with new tech. “Convene was ahead of the curve in anticipating the need for video conferencing and livestreaming technologies to better serve remote meeting attendees,” says Michael Judeh, senior director of AV technology at Convene. “Our experience with these technologies has given us the ability to ask the right questions to make sure we craft the right solution for client needs. We understand what it takes to deliver an experience that makes the remote user feel like they are in the room.”
Another benefit of using an experienced partner is the reduced startup costs. Buying equipment and licensing livestreaming software can come at a high price, especially for companies that may not make this a regular part of their meeting strategy.
Test Your Livestream
Vimeo’s first rule of livestreaming is simple: “Test. EVERYTHING.”
The best thing you can do to prevent mishaps during your online event is test everything, but most importantly, your stream. Test primary equipment workflows, backup equipment workflows, audio quality, video quality, internet connection, and any and all redundancies. Perhaps most importantly, confirm your upload speed by testing your connection at a website like Speedtest.net. You should schedule time to test all of your video production equipment both off-site and on-site.Robyn Showers, Head of B2B Content for Vimeo
Remember, you don’t just need enough bandwidth to support the livestream, but also support your in-person attendees who will be using their devices throughout.
Keeping Remote Attendees Engaged
During meetings, it can be a challenge to keep remote team members, lone contributors, and home office staff synchronized and productive, writes Patrick Gray in Tech Republic. Gray suggests avoiding basic gaffes such as starting calls late or filling the first dozen minutes with banter that remote attendees can’t relate to or share.
Steve Hamaday, live virtual training manager from Axalta Coating Systems, takes classroom content and delivers it online more as a TV show than a webinar. “We wanted to bring a television approach to the training classroom and make it as much like a TV show as possible,” he says. Axalta provides traditional presentation materials, videos, and such, but also presents from something like an anchor desk. “We really try to make it an entertaining experience, something that you would equate to the news or SportsCenter,” he adds.
To this end, Hamaday uses a few different tools, including polling and live Q&A, enabling attendees to talk to the instructor.
Follow-Up with Attendees
After each gathering, check in with some of your remote attendees. Don’t simply ask if the session was acceptable; ask for three tips on how you can improve their experience the next time. Try to implement these tips and publicly acknowledge those who contributed.
An added benefit of livestreaming an event is the ability to record the stream and use it for extra content later, as well. This is great for following up with attendees, but is also helpful for extending the reach of your events (without extending your budget).
When Disruption Hits, Be Flexible
For 43 years, Las Vegas-based Jaki Baskow has been booking celebrity talent and corporate speakers for meetings and conventions. “Never, in my wildest imagination, did I expect to see a virus cause so many groups to cancel. But it is important to remember, many are still gathering,” she explains. Not only is Baskow, founder and CEO of Baskow Talent and Las Vegas Speakers Bureau, still booking speakers for face-to-face meetings, but for virtual gatherings as well.
Thankfully, new tech tools make hybrid meetings easier than ever to conduct, taking a major strain off of meeting planners during a global disruption like the novel coronavirus. But even with all the new technology, basic manners like sticking to the agenda and allowing people to speak in a specific order will make your hybrid event run smoothly for all participants.
- Communicate early and often with attendees to put them at ease during global disruptions.
- Work closely with your event venue to ensure that power and internet bandwidth is sufficient for a livestream.
- Incorporate participatory elements like live polling that help keep remote attendees as engaged as your in-person audience.
- Take advantage of the recording of your livestream to give your event even further reach.
- Be flexible—global disruptions are far from ideal, but great events are still possible thanks to new technology that make hybrid meetings easier than ever.
With locations in key markets and seamless technology offerings, including livestreaming capabilities at all of our locations, Convene is ready to host your hybrid event. Learn more about our locations and offerings here.