Are Hybrid Meetings The Future of Events?

 

Will hybrid meetings become the new normal for the meetings and events industry?

 

 

Yes, our prediction for the reopening of live events includes many companies learning about and implementing hybrid meetings. A hybrid meeting is a tradeshow, conference, seminar, workshop, or other meetings where some of the audience are in-person together and other participants are virtual for the same event. The MB4 Productions team has been producing hybrid meetings for quite some time now, but to many event planners, this will be a new concept. This article will explain why we think hybrid meetings are the next tool to put in the arsenal of event planning skills. 

With the fog of Covid-19 starting to lift and stay-at-home orders lightening up, live events will no doubt be scheduled. There will be some audiences who are ready to get out of the house and back into the face-to-face game. There will also be those who will not travel to conferences for a myriad of reasons from safety concerns to company policies or spending freezes. With the correct planning, equipment, and support event content can be near-simultaneously shared with both live and online audiences. Depending on the set-up and cost, virtual participants can not only view a presenter’s slides but hear the presenter, and see the presenter in real-time via live streaming video.

Oftentimes, in-person and virtual attendees participate in the same session concurrently. Hybrid Meetings do offer a series of complex scenarios however and can allow entire audiences to participate in one session in-person and another session virtually as hybrid meeting speakers can be remotely streamed in as well. For the purposes of this article, we will keep it simple and stick to the first example mentioned.

What are the Advantages of Hybrid Meetings?

1. Reach a Larger Audience 

Hybrid events can expand an event reach allowing attendees to choose how they participate. It is common for busy professionals to opt for virtual participation but enjoy the content enough to commit to future in-person attendance. 

2. Combat Poor Registration Numbers 

This is a very real possibility in the current event climate. The risk-takers who decided to press on with live events may see low registration numbers. Adding a hybrid component can capture attendees that weren’t able to attend due to a scheduling conflict, travel time, costs, or other reasons.

3. Meeting Space Limitations

In a standard year, this is a more likely problem to have as an event planner. If an event sells out, don’t turn potential attendees away, give them the alternate option by adding a hybrid component.

4. Mitigate Costs 

Not only can hybrid meetings decrease travel expenses and logistical costs, but they can also increase the event reach while decreasing the overall cost-per-head of the event.

5. Increase Revenue

Virtual meeting elements can absolutely be a revenue source. If the live conference has a registration fee, the virtual ticket should also be considered as a value. Charging a small fee or selling virtual tickets as an add-on for executives to include their teams back at the office is a fantastic way to boost show proceeds. Virtual viewing also provides a new space for sponsor exposure, even sponsor messages during breaks.

6. Enduring Content

Hybrid events by the nature of the technical set-up required will likely be well-positioned for video recording providing a host of recorded content that can be made available post-event. The recorded content can be free to incentivize future events or provide brand exposure. The content can also be gated, provided to viewers for a small fee, or with lead registration.

We see technology as a great resource for event planners. It can be used to bring wonderful ideas to life. Event technology in particular is the most effective if it is used to solve tangible business problems. As the world reopens from this global pandemic, we think hybrid meetings will be a solid choice to bring audiences together no matter where they are in geography or social comforts. Let’s discuss future programs. Our team is here to help. Check out our other useful articles and webinars here on MB4 LIVE. 

  

Virtual Meeting Best Practices

Tips and Tricks to Look and Sound Best on Any Virtual Meetings. 

COVID-19 has made us all change the way we meet. What used to be face-to-face in events is now all virtual meetings. Just when us humans had the whole in-person interaction thing down, we are forced to pivot even further to make our brands shine online. Sure, Zoom is free currently and it is easy to jump on a virtual meeting in an instant without further thought. We can all do better with even just a little preparation. In this article, we have listed our top advice to enhance virtual presence for any online function.

1. What to Wear

One rule remains the same, client-facing virtual meetings still warrant a look that is pulled together with appropriate dress attire and well-groomed hair. There are some rules to be aware of that may be a little different for virtual programs: 

  • Keep it Simple
    • Clothing with structure, like a nice blazer or button-down top, is perfect.
    • We hate to say this but stay away from too much texture, shine or bling. It’s okay to show personality, but harness Coco Channel and go for effortless sophistication over garish glam!
    • Unsure about a selection, turn on the webcam, or snap a photo to see how it looks.
  • Select a Complimentary Color 
    • Find clothing that works with natural skin tone, the lighting in use, and the background. Ideal choices are items that are not too bright and not too dark.
  • Avoid Busy Patterns
    • Steer away from clothing with complicated patterns, shapes, and lines as they can be hard to see, blending into the background or in some cases distorting when viewed online.

2. Lighting

Think through lighting before jumping into a webinar. Natural lighting is nice but its fault is that it is in constant change. It is not necessary to spend a lot of money on a good lighting set-up, but it may be worth it for the control. A few things to consider with lights:

  • Light Sources
    • Natural Lighting
      • Nice, but will continually change with outdoor conditions.
      • Natural lighting can also wash out skin tones, highlight fine lines, blemishes, facial hair, and wrinkles.
    • Built-in Lighting
      • Placement is key, sometimes lamps will need to be moved or the laptop placement to find the perfect fit.
      • Use the same bulb type across the board; Soft white or cool white.
    • Supplemental Lighting
      • A small mountable light that attaches to the back of the computer monitor is a great way to ensure a well-lit look.
      • If a diffuser or filter is available, try it out to see if alternate shades of light work better.

3. Audio

If people cannot hear a virtual presentation, they are the most likely to tune out or turn off the program. So, when it comes to audio try out a few things and listen to how they sound. It doesn’t hurt to test different set-ups out with a coworker or family member.

  • Computer Audio Versus Mobile
    • When participating in a webcast or virtual meeting the basic option is between built-in computer audio versus using a mobile phone. Our team almost all prefers the built-in audio for turn-key team check-ins, social chats, and casual client calls, etc. 
    • For more professional webcasts and demonstrations we recommend implementing an external tabletop microphone or wireless lavalier.
  • Microphones and Audio Accessories
    • Headphones are okay, wireless earbuds are better and an external microphone is best.
    • Volume
      • Go to computer preferences. Talk out loud to check the volume and observe how high the input level is, it should never peak.
      • If using an interface, turn the gain or level up until the meters are yellow, never red.
    • Microphones 
      • Cardioid condensers are best for sound and sturdiness. A few sample recommendations would be:
          • Blue Yeti 
          • Audio Technica AT2035PK 
          • Rode Wireless Lavalier
    • The microphone should be placed below the camera, ideally outside the picture, but angled upwards. Be sure to test the microphone and setup before going live.
    • With any microphone being used be sure to become familiar with the mute and unmute functionalities. 
    • Background Noise
      • Find a quiet place free of distractions
      • A “live broadcast in progress” sign for entry doors is an excellent way to decrease unwanted interruptions
      • A carpeted room will produce better sound with less echo
    • A boom arm can be helpful
      •  Heil PL-2T 
      • Rode PSA1

4. Camera

The camera used in any virtual environment can make a big difference in the visual experience and perception of the audience. While most online events can be tackled with a built-in computer camera, a web camera or even an external 4K external camera can boost the optics.

  • Built-in computer camera
    • For a built-in camera, the angle should be level or faced slightly downwards
  • External camera 
    • A few simple external camera recommendations are:
      • Logitech C922 
      • Logitech Brio 4K 
  • Position 
    • Similar to a headshot ratio, Leave a little space between the top of the head and the top of the screen. 
    • Be sure to test the camera with the lights, seating arrangement, and backdrop to find the best distance from the setup. 
    • Once live remember to sit up straight, limit fidgets and downsize body movements accordingly. 
    • The camera position should be a 16:9 setting, if possible
      • Zoom is automatically 16:9
      • GotoWebinar defaults to 4:3, so it has to be manually switched to 16:9
      • GoToMeeting defaults to 4:3. For non-presenters, It is fine to keep it there. Those presenting full-screen will want to adjust the setting to 16:9

5. Background

A professional backdrop is not necessary for most day-to-day virtual meetings. It is a good idea to sweep the background for anything that should not be shared, anything embarrassing, company secrets, or even notes about other clients on a whiteboard. A background set gives the other virtual event participants a look into the world on the other end. So think about the view, it should be:

  • A professional setting
  • Work appropriate
  • Not Distracting 
  • Complimentary

6. Internet

It is difficult to control the wireless availability for every online meeting joined. When presenting a formal program online it is a good idea to give some advance thought to the quality of the internet connection. Preparation and testing can go a long way toward preventing robot voice, breakups, or drop-offs. 

  • We recommend an internet speed of 10mbps or more duplex 
  • Easily test the internet speed at www.speedtest.net
  • A wired connection may sound old school, but it is the best for stability
  • Decrease the probability of interference by removing other devices from the network or clearing temporary files, closing open tabs, applications, and programs. It may be necessary to tell others on the same network to limit downloads, streaming, or gaming during a broadcast program.

7. Miscellaneous

A few other small things to consider For virtual meetings:

  • People get thirsty when they present, but good policy is no open food or drink on any tech table. A water spill can put a damper on things.
  • No unnecessary distractions, multi-tasking, looking at a mobile phone, especially typing which people can often hear on the other end.
  • Turn any mobile devices on silent and mute computer notifications.
  • Will there be any audience engagement tools, surveys or documents to be shared?
  • Schedule a pre-event rehearsal 2-5 days in advance of the event. This rehearsal should be at the same time, place, and set up as the program will be. This will ensure there is time to procure new equipment if needed and test the exact equipment and environment.
  • Join any formal online program 10-15 minutes early for an attendee, 20-30 minutes early for presenters.

There are even more layers to a broadcast quality virtual meeting or presentation, but these tips are a great start toward making a digital splash. Contact our team to discuss other ways to take virtual meeting programs to the next level. Also, give a quick read to our other articles and webinars here on MB4 Live for other useful technology tips.              

Coronavirus Concerns, Don’t Cancel, Go Virtual

When Face-to-Face Events are no Longer a Good Choice, Going Virtual is a Solid Alternative.  

As events cancel by the handful amidst Coronavirus concerns, our team advocates for meetings to go virtual. A webcast may be the best way for the show to go on as the Coronavirus pandemic spreads around the world. Our savviest clients are ready to adapt to this climate of concern over face-to-face meetings and pivot toward virtual learning. So, firstly how to decide if your event should go online?

1. Events That Have an International Audience

Event planners with programs that host a large percentage of international attendees need to consider the cancel thoughtfully as airlines limit flights, travel bans are issues and even border closures go into effect.

2. Programs With Target Demographics Over Age 60 

Due to the nature of the Coronavirus outbreak and the increased mortality rate in people over the age of sixty, it may be irresponsible to proceed with programs that entice more mature audiences. 

3. Large Gatherings Within The Most Affected Major Metropolitan Spaces

Certain counties, like Santa Clara are beginning to ban gatherings of more than 1000. Regions hit hard by the Coronavirus outbreak are seeing major events like Emerald City Comic Con cancel or delay. There is a tremendous amount of pressure put on event organizers to do the right thing to both keep attendees safe and avoid taking part in further spread of the virus. 

 

Meet the criteria listed above, then it may be a good time to consider how to take the entire program that was meant to be live and make it dynamic and digital. As easy as one, two, three, here are a few tips for how to successfully make the transition online.

1. How Much Lead Time is There

First, take into account how much lead time there is for this pivot from a live event to a virtual program. For planners whose shows are two weeks out, for example, the conversation should be around procuring a webcast partner to broadcast keynotes and sessions, as the primary program offering, or simply as backup to accommodate attendees who are unable to travel.

If a show is six weeks out or more, there is more time to think about how to distribute the full program digitally and develop a more interactive online experience.

 2. Program Goals Drive Platform Choice

Next, it is important to keep program goals in mind when selecting a digital platform. What should the experience be? Is it a straightforward live stream? Should there be one-way or two-way interaction? Does there need to be accommodation for multiple languages? What does the registration platform need to look like? What type of data needs to be collected, for example, event survey, broadcast view reports etc. There are many platforms to choose from, and new consumers to this event technology should think about their functional needs before they sign a vendor contract.

3. Seize The Opportunity With a Clear Message

Going from a live event to a virtual event on a dime is a major pivot, but it does not need to look like a last minute add-on. When sourcing a broadcast partner, look for a partner that allows platform customization to match core messages and company branding. Cohesive branding will ensure seamless integration as organizers begin to promote the digital program in place of the live event. 

 

Event planners are masters of adaptation and decision making. The current circumstances of the Coronavirus will certainly test those skills, but we are confident savvy organizers will prevail by seeking alternative ways to meet. Contact our team to discuss how to easily take a program from live on-site to online and virtual.

 

Livestream Types and Definitions

Webcast, hybrid and multisite solutions all differ slightly to bring content to key audiences. 

In today’s modern world filled with technology, new solutions are coming out at an alarming pace. It can be hard to keep up with all the jargon, the expanse of features and know best how to apply the correct solutions to yield core event goals. This brief post aims to clarify the subtle differences between webcast, hybrid and multisite events. Stripped down to their most basic, these solutions are all different types of livestream implementations.  

Livestream – A broadcast of an event transmitted across the internet.

 

Webcast – A broadcast on the web.

 

Hybrid – A live event with onsite attendees streamed online to remote attendees.

 

Multisite – A connection of multiple live events operating in separate locations.

 

At MB4 Productions, we know it is our job to help share technology education. Our team is here to help, get in touch to discuss technology needs with us today! Prefer to go it alone now that the basic terminology is in place, read our other articles about how to make these technology solutions sing. MB4 LIVE

Top Benefits of Live Stream for Events

Learn the Top Three Key Reasons to Live Stream Events. 

Many clients approach MB4 Productions with the question “Why live stream an event?” As live stream technology continues to pick-up in adoption, many event organizers find themselves curious about the technology but initially intimidated. This article will shed light on the top three key benefits of live streaming for events.

1. Extend the Event Reach 

When an event offers a virtual option, it is a gateway to entry for those who could not attend the event due to cost, schedule conflict or other. A virtual option removes the need to travel or take time away from the family. Employers like it because their team can tune in from their desks and it saves them from shelling out lofty travel reimbursements. A virtual option is good for work teams in another way as well, as it opens the door for multiple staff to attend. Small business, small event, small venue, no problem. Putting content out online allows events to transcend space and time. Extend the olive branch of a virtual registration and it is likely attendance will increase online year over year. It may also increase onsite attendance as the education has the chance to reach a larger and more widespread audience.

2. Environmentally Friendly Option

Whether or not a business is currently eco-conscious, holding virtual meetings is better for the environment offering an eco-friendly option for attendees. By reducing travel and printing less paper, there is a lesser carbon footprint. Customers nowadays respect a lean green business, and it could result in a boost in street credibility and sales.

3. Enduring Education

Live stream content can be stored, recycled, and shared online far into the future extending the lifecycle of an event. Add the virtual packet to a page on the website and gate the content for an additional revenue stream. Even offering the live stream content free is useful when promoting future events through online ads, email campaigns or social media. According to Unruly, enjoyment of recorded video still increases purchase intent by 97% and brand association by 139%. A snippet of a powerful or famous speaker can go a long way to boost event registration. The live stream record also provides an instant archive of the event for company history. 

An event live stream is a valuable way to take an event to the next level. Connect with our team to learn even more benefits or to further discuss how to best integrate this technology. Read other articles about webcasting best practices, audience response benefits, and audiovisual trends here

 

Tips to an Engaging Webinar

There Is a True Art to a Webinar That Fully Engages Attendees. 

Webinars can be quite dry, even boring. The human attention span continues to shrink as we are all pressed to our limits with television, social media, and email vying for our attention. It is important to take special care to select webinar vendors, features and components that will elevate webinar content and actively engage the target audience. Key elements to consider revolve around the camera angles, content, speaker interaction, and audience interaction.

1. Camera Angles

A common mistake made by many when it comes to webinars is the choice to employ a single camera. This set-up is certainly affordable and it will get the job done in a pinch. It does not provide the most interesting experience to the webinar viewer. A multi-camera setup is a better choice. This setup allows for different shot types and the dynamic switch from shot to shot. Variations provide the audience with a more exciting experience similar to what they may find when they watch television.

2. Content

Many think the content is the content, and audience engagement does not come to mind until later…wrong! Content is king. Think of the target audience as the content is being created. Ever heard the phrase a picture is worth a thousand words? The human mind is set to record memories in the form of pictures, so mimic this concept when the presentation is being built. Use graphs, images, icons, charts, and to demonstrate primary messages. Build brand recognition by including brand assets throughout the presentation template. Keep the copy on each slide short and to the point. Also, be sure to select a font type and color that will be easy for the webinar audience to read.

3. Speaker Interaction

The creation of an engaging webinar goes beyond the need for consumable content. The selection of savvy presenters and how they are presented will also be important considerations. Set aside time for speaker rehearsal. Encourage presenters to implement vocal inflection and use hand gestures to prevent monotony. Consider a program format that allows for multiple personalities, speakers or even an on-screen host. Webinars that go beyond a single-presenter format to provide Q&A interview with a guest expert or several panelists are considerably more memorable.

4. Audience Interaction

Most live events offer a chance for attendees to network, ask the presenters questions, submit questions to a moderator and submit survey feedback. Deploy these same interaction concepts to a webinar. Many web platforms offer a chat feature where attendees can connect or submit questions to a presenter, administrator or moderator. Allowing attendees to interact with others takes a webinar from bland to engaged. Letting attendees connect with similar minds around the world in real-time is powerful. Seek out a webinar platform that offers the ability to polls or quiz the audience. This feature can dramatically increase engagement as it is a call to action that can be used to keep attendees at the ready. These tools can benefit event planners as well, as they offer a way to measure content reception, aggregation and traction.

A little thought can go a long way when planning a webinar. Remember to plan with the audience in mind. Seek out speakers, recording setup and a webinar platform that will help the content shine. Contact us to discuss our custom webinar platform with the most up to date features and branding capabilities.