Setting up a hybrid event can be a daunting task especially if you haven’t organised one previously – we spoke to our in-house AV technician, Alex Springer from A Star Studios, for his expert tips and guidance through the process.
What is the first thing an organiser needs to do if they want to set up a livestream event?
Lots of the considerations for hybrid events are the same as a live event but you really need to make sure that you are considering both the live audience and the digital audience in your planning process. You should always start by working out exactly what you are trying to achieve with an event – what are the main messages that you want to deliver, what are you looking for from your speakers, how much audience engagement are you after? This will help you plan out your programme and format.
As usual, the venue is an important decision to get right early in the planning process – ask potential venues about what they can offer, what equipment they have in house and whether they have their own tech team. A venue like No.4 is perfect for virtual events as the Bill Boeing Room has the equipment (such as lighting, sound) all set up and ready to go. It also has excellent Wi-Fi which should be a question you ask before you even visit a venue!
Think about the look and feel of your event too – lots of venues have brilliant 3D tours which can help to transport your digital audience to your live setting. There are plenty of opportunities for branding both live and digitally too so consider both aspects. Don’t forget that you can pre-record some sections of the day and have some video content which helps to take the pressure off the day itself.
If an organiser has no real tech know-how – how do they know what they need?
A good tech team will guide an organiser through the whole process, explaining any variables or aspects that need to be decided in advance and the knock-on impact of that – for example, if you choose table top microphones instead of lapel mics then your speakers can’t move around the stage which might not be the style of event that they are looking for. Working with the in-house tech team at a venue makes the process much easier as they know the venue inside out and can provide recommendations that are specific to the capabilities of the room and worked particularly well in the past. Plus, they are on hand on the day to make sure it all runs smoothly.
On which platform should I host my event?
There are lots of different options available with varying functions, so it really depends on what you need from the platform and how you want it to integrate with your live event. It’s really key to think about your audience and what you think might appeal to them the most and give you the level of interaction that you are after. Lots of platforms can work together too which helps if there’s an element missing from one that you want to cover.
If an event has several different elements (talks, round table discussions etc.) which mics are best for each one?
This really depends on how you want your event to feel – a panel with tabletop mics tends to be best for a more formal event but lapel mics and softer seating is better if you want to keep it more casual. It also depends on what your speakers prefer – some like to stand behind a lectern with a fixed mic and others like to roam around the stage so its worth checking with them in advance. At No.4, we have several different types of mics in-house so we can cater for varying combinations and preferences and are always happy to advise.
How many technicians or other staff members do we need to think about hiring for the day?
This is a good question for your tech team once you have a bit of a plan in place for your event – we have had events before with a relatively small audience but lots of different technical elements taking place so a larger tech team than you might expect is needed (although you would be surprised how much one technician can cover!). We always work closely with the event organisers at No.4 so that we can really concentrate on the technical aspects and they can cover things like the set up and catering. It works really well when the client has divided their team up in a similar way, so we have one contact for the tech and another for the other elements of the events. You need at least one person interacting with the live audience too, helping with any technical queries and fielding comments and questions.
What is the most common mistake organisers make when livestreaming their events?
- Jam packing the schedule too much which makes it unnecessarily complicated
- Making sessions too long
- Not varying the format enough
- Letting sessions overrun – your audience still has things to do outside of the conference even if they are watching from the comfort of their own home
- Not briefing the speakers properly
- Worrying too much about the technical side of things and not the content – leave the tech to the experts, it’s what we are here for!
- Know your platform and what its capable of (and what it’s not!)
Is there a limit to the number of people who can access my livestreamed event?
This depends on the platform that you choose, some have higher limits than others. The beauty of virtual events is that you can record it all and make it available afterwards which means that your audience just keeps growing and can go international!
If I’m running a hybrid event, how do I make the livestream audience feel included and not just like viewers?
This is a key factor to consider throughout your planning but there is plenty that you can offer the livestream audience to keep them engaged and actually some aspects like polls and surveys are almost easier to do with the virtual audience than live. Think about shortening the sessions or mixing things up more than usual to keep the digital audience engaged – staring at a screen for hours on end is never enjoyable. Speakers should be fully briefed so they know to mention them and things like taking questions from the live audience helps too – a bit like getting a shout out on the radio! You can also use elements from your live venue to bring the event to life for them. No.4 Hamilton Place is a beautiful Edwardian townhouse with features like a grand staircase and roof terrace so offering a quirky historical tour or something along those lines can be a fun addition to your programme.
What do I need to consider in terms of background for my speakers when I’m live streaming my event?
The background is obviously a great opportunity for branding but I wouldn’t recommend anything too busy as this can distract from the speakers. Some static backdrops like the London skyline are really effective too – again this can be a nice signpost for your live audience as to where the event is taking place. A room like the Bill Boeing Room at No.4 is a great option for live events as it’s a blank canvas so there is lots you can do with the space.
What sort of interaction can I introduce to a virtual audience?
Q&As, polls and surveys are very effective with virtual audiences and there are fun ways of doing it with the live group too with voting cards or even digital handheld devices where you can submit your choice. You also have a great chance to engage with virtual audience before the event too so you can ask them what kind of topics they are interested in and what they want from the day which means you can deliver really tailored content.
What’s the best way to ensure there are no hiccups on the day?
Detailed planning and communication between all parties is really important so that you know what everyone is expecting. I would highly recommend a tech rehearsal too so that you can run through everything and iron out any challenges beforehand. And ask as many questions as you need to – that is what your tech expert is there for!
What would you say to someone who’s worried about losing in-the-flesh attendees by evolving their event into a hybrid?
There is always going to be a need for in-person interaction despite advancements in things like the networking and exhibition elements of virtual platforms. This is why it’s important to make sure both audiences are considered though and not just focus on the virtual because this is what you are less accustomed to. Choosing an interesting venue like the hidden gem at No.4 definitely helps, as well as the tasty catering provided by Blue Strawberry as both are added bonuses for attendees. Hybrid events should be seen as a great opportunity to expand your audience rather than jeopardise the live event.
And finally, what’s the best livestreaming event you’ve ever hosted and what made it so good?
It would have to be the live stream of Tim Peake from the ESA Space station because not many people can say they’ve done that! He gave us a tour of the space station including a view from the window and answered some questions from the audience. As you can imagine, the Bill Boeing Room was packed full of people and it was an exciting event to work on as I got to discuss the logistics with ESA and NASA beforehand too.
No.4 Hamilton Place is home to the Royal Aeronautical Society who have transformed the way they deliver their events using a virtual platform. If you’re looking to organise a hybrid event, contact the Venue Hire Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was originally published on No. 4 Hamilton Place.