Are hybrid events the future? (written in 2012 – not 2021)
If the future of our industry lies with hybrid events then I am glad I had the opportunity to peek over the horizon as a presenter last month during Event Camp Down Under.
There was no better place to be involved in a hybrid event than at the Event Camp held live in Sydney and broadcast worldwide.
One of the principles of Event Camps was the need to have an environment in which we were able to make mistakes.
Owing to the many challenges that running hybrid events would bring there was an identified need for laboratory like conditions.
The sagacious #eventprofs must have had my presentation somewhere in the back of their minds when they suggested this environment.
My session was on my evolving Value Chain for Events and it was surrounded by some really great sessions from some of the leading lights of the #eventprofs world.
I was happy to be in the starting line up alongside such stars but with the hurdles that were placed in front of me it’s a surprise that I even managed to be online on time.
ECDU came towards the end of my first week in the wonderful city that is now my home: Barcelona.
Now I am a sociable chap.
So the week hadn’t been exactly a quiet on.
Moving to this vibrant city towards the end of a Spanish winter (which roughly equates to an above average Scottish summer) it was very easy to be distracted.
It was hard to dedicate the prep that is so vital, when one now has a bar opposite, a bar underneath and a bar next door.
To complete the full picture of my street, and perhaps not coincidentally, the other corner has a health centre.
If things go wrong there is no point looking around your empty remote location for support
Normally when I take to a stage I always build in a 3 – 5mins “pause” in a 20 minute session.
This gap allows me to feel the atmosphere: to gauge the engagement and to judge which points perhaps hadn’t made the impact that I wished.
This bit of white space was impossible when presenting remotely.
As a virgin remote presenter I learned that the prep when one presents remotely is even more crucial.
My session then had to be like a well-oiled machine: and there was one problem with that, my neighbouring hostelries had played a part in helping me be ‘well-oiled’ the previous night.
At times during my session, which started at 11pm on a Sunday evening, I heard the vocal feed from the next speaker; the Kiwi twang of the technician helping the etouches CEO and the facilitator assuring me that “we are working on it”.
Presenting in this environment was like trying to juggle with someone tickling you in several places.
And then my mum appeared beside me on screen.
Not behind me, walking past or interrupting me by offering me a cup of tea, but on screen.
On her own feed next to her rather perplexed son.
There was a slight irony to this in that my mum was only a few hundred miles away as she had emigrated to Australia a few years ago.
This was very surreal in the head of a sleepy and still slightly fuzzy headed presenter.
Surreal to me but incredibly amusing to the audience (remote included) while at the same time inducing a state of terror in the technicians.
#williamsmum cropped up on Twitter and an informal invite for her to attend next year was delivered.
Greg Ruby questioned if she would be counted as a bonafide remote attendee?
I had forwarded the wrong link.
The technicians coped.
My mum bid a slightly baffled ‘oh, ok, bye’.
While all this was going on I experienced a feeling of helplessness that as an event organiser myself I have never felt before.
Having people involved in your event that you can’t put an arm round, or leap to their aid made me feel quite uneasy: with the hybrid experience comes the bedfellow of a lack of control.
As a hapless presenter I felt like a castaway, able to see land, but not able to direct myself towards it.
And without a trusty organiser in sight who was able to tackle the problem head on I was without a lighthouse.
The experience was if nothing else memorable and the feedback for ECDU has been particularly good.
Perhaps hybrid events do have a role in the future of our industry. If they do, just make sure you order enough tickets for friends and family.