When it comes to creating hybrid events are organisers asking the right questions?

Let’s start with the importance of ‘why’. I contend that it is more important to establish and clarify your objectives for a hybrid or virtual event, than for one that is purely face to face.

“Start with Why”, is the title of a book by Simon Sinek in which he argues that the greatest success comes to those who know and can communicate why they are doing something, rather than what they do.  As a result they are able to inspire people to action. He cites examples as broad ranging as the Wright Brothers, Martin Luther King and Apple. If you haven’t read the book, I urge you to get hold of a copy. Alternatively you could save yourself a few hours and simply watch his TED-X film on the subject (below).

Sinek’s mantra is “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” I believe he has it dead right and that the very same argument applies to the business of creating events – physical, virtual and hybrid – just as much as it does to inventors, activists and corporations.  And the power of being driven by a genuine purpose, or belief, will outgun any amount of resources.

Think of your event in this way.  If you can start with a clear understanding of ‘why’ you are creating it, what it’s true purpose is and you can express that effectively you will have a much better chance of getting your target audience to show up than if you don’t and can’t.

When it comes to virtual or hybrid events, where by definition you are trying to build a remote audience, it is even more crucial to know, understand, integrate and communicate ‘why’ you are organising your particular event. The effect is amplified for two main reasons:

First, you are likely to have to inspire people to attend from a distance without the advantage of physical human interaction to aid persuasion and gain commitment.

Second, even if you get them to sign up, as a remote participant, it is extremely easy and painless for people to just not show up. There isn’t the embarrassment factor of failing to attend a physical event for one thing; not the same feeling of letting people down. The problem is compounded because with remote participation there is much more likelihood of getting distracted by email, phone calls, visitors or the thousand and one other demands on our time. Furthermore, with no prepaid travel commitments and very often little or no cost to register, there is little to lose. In this context, the remote audience simply must be inspired by the event if they are to turn up at all.

It is for all these reasons that the very first questions we ask our new or prospective clients are, “why are you creating this event?” and “how will it help you to achieve your objectives?”

Once these fundamental questions are answered (and only then) is it sensible to move forward to the more detailed planning phase of hybrid event production.  At this stage there are a multitude of questions that need to be considered, too many and varied to address within the confines of this article, so I’m going to focus on the next key question – who will attend?

The question is phrased very deliberately as a successful hybrid event should involve much more than passive watching and listening on the part of remote participants. To be truly successful the remote audience must engage, interact, participate. This can only be achieved when there is clarity in the following key areas:

  • Knowing who your key target audience(s) is/are
  • Establishing how and where they are most likely to access the content
  • Understanding what their expectations are of what they will get out of their participation

Only then can the hybrid event organiser make correct decisions in crafting the content.

Having explored why and who, a third essential question that has to be answered is whether the online content should be available live or on demand? Very often the correct answer turns out to be a combination of the two.

This is perhaps one of the most contentious questions in planning a hybrid event and one where there can be two opposing views. Some organisers seem set on going live just because they can; because it’s the latest bright and shiny thing to do with a conference. At the other extreme are the supporters of the “cannibalisation theory”; a view that streaming a conference or event will reduce physical attendance. As with all the fundamental questions the hybrid event organiser needs to ask, there is no one size fits all answer. There is a multitude of strategic, practical, commercial and cultural considerations to take into account in determining whether a particular event should be available live or not.

We always advise our clients that there needs to be valid and compelling reasons to ‘go live’.  Live streaming should not be undertaken lightly and can create additional stress for the organiser, but on the other hand it is becoming increasingly accessible, reliable and affordable and not something to view with trepidation. And when it comes to that cannibalisation theory, we have seen anecdotal evidence that suggests the reverse may often be the case; that having participated remotely people get an indication of what they are missing and resolve to physically attend next time.

If those compelling reasons exist and the decision is taken to go live, then we always recommend there is the opportunity for remote participants to become actively involved with the event. At the simplest level this might take the form of the facility to make a comment or ask questions, respond to polls or interact via social media. Well used, the addition of these feedback loops can transform passive viewing into a genuinely interactive and engaging experience. More importantly, it opens up the possibility for the organisation to exploit their conference content assets in a way that just hasn’t been possible until now.

Coming back to where I started, having the correct answers to these and the multitude of other questions organisers need to ask in order to create successful hybrid events is dependent on knowing the answer to that very first question; the need to start with ‘why?’

[This article was originally published in Conference News]

When you look back, everything is different

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different?”

This quote from C.S Lewis seems very apt regarding the huge variation there has been in the web casting projects we have been involved in over the past few years, because at the time they somehow didn’t seem that dissimilar. They all involved a certain amount of preparation and development work. They all involved an assessment of client objectives, technical requirements, connectivity, audience sizes and so on. They all involved more or less equipment and personnel and they all involved delivering the recorded files either as live streams or as video on demand.

I guess part of it comes down to the diversity of our clients, who seem to cover most of the possible sectors; from medical and technological associations to global financial institutions; from small not-for-profits to even smaller businesses; from strapped-for-cash local authorities to cash-rich individuals; from cutting edge technology companies to organisations running traditional political debates. It seems there is no limit to the variety of organisation that has the need to spread their particular word and rightly sees streaming their events as the way to do it quickly and effectively.

Over the next few weeks I plan to tell the stories of just some of those events. I can’t promise anything to rival the Chronicles of Narnia, but then this is real life; not fantasy!

BeThere Global Danish website

Mick Jelsdal Jørgensen and Sebastian Schröder

Following the news in February that we were establishing our first foothold in continental Europe with the appointment of Mick Jelsdal Jørgensen and Sebastian Schröder (both pictured above) of Northern Equity Partners, based in Copenhagen, as Sales Agents operating in Scandinavia and Germany, we are delighed to announce the launch of a dedicated Danish website to further support this growth.

Fremad og opad! (That’s ‘onwards and upwards’ – I hope!)

7 reasons to web broadcast your conference

BeThere Global live webcast

For those involved in organizing workshops, seminars, conferences and congresses… in fact pretty much any kind of face to face event, here are seven compelling reasons why you might want to web broadcast your event.

  1. You are frustrated at the amount of time and effort that goes into putting the presentations together, for them only to be seen and heard once by an audience limited to the number of seats you can squeeze in the room.
  2. You want to engage a remote audience who cannot or will not physically attend your event.
  3. You believe that there is inherent value in the knowledge and expertise contained in your presentation content that would benefit a wider audience.
  4. You need to reduce the cost of your event; financial and/or environmental.
  5. You want to enhance the experience for delegates by giving them access to recordings of the sessions to view afterwards and share with colleagues.
  6. You would like to generate additional revenue for your organization through selling access to your web broadcasts or through sponsorship.
  7. You see an opportunity to build a library of assets to benefit your staff / customers/ members.

Which of these apply to your organization?

Challenge or opportunity?

Face to face versus virtual

There’s an almost palpable tension in the conference and events industry between face to face events and the ‘virtual’ or ‘online’ experience.

There seems to be a certain reticence from some traditional conference production companies, experiential agencies, PCOs and event owners with an established and vested interest in face to face events.. a feeling of “hang on, if we put all this on the web, if we make it available online, if we go down the route of virtual events, people are not going to come to our events anymore. Isn’t it going to kill our industry doing that?”

But actually the reverse is true because the whole principle of virtual, or on line events, web casting or web broadcasting (choose your appropriate terminology), is that it actually enhances face to face events.

People will always come to face to face events because they want to meet people, they want to bump into old friends and make new ones in the bar afterwards. People who want to attend are always going to attend and the idea that putting the conference content online will cannibalise physical attendance is quite simply misguided.

The flip side is that a significant percentage of people will never go to a particular event; people who just don’t want to turn up for whatever reason.
Isn’t it great that you could actually open up and engage with these people by putting your conference content online?

Of course the arguments are different for different types of organisation;

  • For the corporate event organiser, as well as efficiency and speed of communication – particularly for those operating internationally –  it’s about reducing cost and environmental impact.
    Isn’t it great that actually you don’t need to get every person travelling every time,  to every event; you can pick and choose. Let individuals go to the events where it is vital for them to be there in person, but if its not crucial they attend you can save money, be more sustainable.
  • For the trade association, the sector-specific body or other membership based organisation a similar argument applies. Most of these organisations only attract a small percentage of their total membership to their events. Those that do attend are not just there for the conference sessions; the reasons they attend are multiple. Similarly to their corporate counterparts this audience craves human interaction and relishes those chance conversations that open doors. But there are other drivers such as kudos, self-esteem and sometimes it is as prosaic as getting those extra air miles or hotel group loyalty points. So you will not ‘put-off’ people who have strong personal reasons for attending; what you can do is open up new wide or targeted audiences who cannot or will not attend. You can also enhance the experience of those physically attending by giving them the added value of being able to access, revisit and share sessions after the event. If this is included as an extra benefit within their registration fee, it’s a sure fire method of increasing rather than depleting physical attendance at future events!

Companies and organisations that run conferences and congresses need to face up to this current challenge and see it for the opportunity it represents. They have to adapt to benefit from the new order of things enabled by web broadcasting.

It is my belief that adaptation is not an option if an organisation intends to be around for the long term. Michael Anderson, the President and CEO of the Canadian Society of Association Executives put the situation for associations very succinctly in a speech at Association Congress 2011, when he said,

Michael Anderson

“An Association has to remain relevant; if you aren’t adapting to your member needs, if you are not looking down the road in terms of what is going to impact them, and preparing them, the organisation is going to become irrelevant fairly quickly.”

Virtual and online events are already impacting companies and organisations in the conference world because people are starting to expect that the content will be published on the web. The organisations that embrace this development as a positive force are the ones that will remain relevant and prosper.

It’s a matter of space and time

4th Dimension

No I’m not going on about relativity or quantum physics, not even about Star Trek or Doctor Who. What I’m referring to is one of the first things a conference organiser must  consider when deliberating over webcasting their event is the question;

“Will it be ‘live’… or ‘on demand’… or both?”

The correct answer depends on the nature of the event and the objectives for considering webcasting in the first place.
So, it’s a matter of space and time? Well yes; first of all consider Space.

SPACE

Live web broadcasting a conference is a way to take your (or your clients) message and deliver it to an audience beyond the four walls of the conference venue. For the remote viewer the experience is the next best thing to ‘being there’ and clearly they get to see and hear the event at exactly the same time as the audience in the room.

TIME

Recording and making the conference available as an ‘on demand’ web broadcast is a way to maximise the value of the content by allowing a wider audience to access and benefit from the content over an extended period of time.

Below is a 5 minute diversion from the world of webcasting, to a Doctor Who take on the subject of space and time from this year’s Red Nose Day.

Recovering Waste

recycling bin

Time was that if you suggested someone had ‘recycled’ a presentation you might be seen to be suggesting plagiarism or laziness. But in this contemporary world where reducing cost and increasing sustainability are so important, recycling presentations by recording and publishing makes sense.

On the BeThere Global homepage We talk about “Unlocking the full value”, but really what we do goes further than that; it is also about “recovering waste”. Clearly not the stuff of landfill sites, but waste none the less. The kind of waste that sees an organisation expend many man hours and sometimes large amounts of hard earned cash on external resources to create a presentation around their expertise that will only ever be performed once, to a single audience limited in size by the number of seats in the room. In most cases all that will exist afterwards will be a Word document containing the speaker notes or script and the PowerPoint slides (or whatever presentation aids are used).

Now in any other marketing application – and surely all speeches or presentations in the commercial, public sector, medical and educational worlds are to varying degrees an exercise in marketing – the organisation investing in the activity would want to see ways to improve their return on investment through repeat use, adaptation and extension. Why should presentations be any different? Smart organisations are realising that recycling a presentation by recording and publishing on the web as a – choose your terminology – video stream, webcast, web broadcast, webinar or on demand archive is a valuable investment in knowledge and expertise that can have long term value in many different and sometimes unexpected ways.

This subject is particularly relevant right now as BeThere Global are sponsoring the Sustainable Events Summit 2011 taking place in London on 13 June. As well as recycling (recording and webcasting) the sessions we will also be facilitating a round table discussion on how web casting and social media can help the sustainable agenda.

Check out the Sustainable Events Summit 2011 website.

BeThere Global… going Global one step at a time

With bases on both sides of the Atlantic from the start, BeThere Global is quite an unusual company. While our equipment is extremely portable and our operators regularly fly the world to webcast conferences, it has always been our intention to improve our offer to the global market by building relationships with agents and operators in countries other than the UK and USA. Not that we have any megalomaniacal desire for ‘world domination’; it’s just a wish to reduce the travel and shipping costs for our customers at the same time as building a more sustainable operation.
We are now delighted to announce our first foothold in continental Europe with the appointment of Northern Equity Partners, based in Copenhagen, as Sales Agents operating in Scandinavia and Germany.

Northern Equity Partners is run by Mick Jelsdal Jørgensen and Sebastian Schröder.

“When we first got in touch with BeThere Global we were fascinated by the concept of the company and its ability to capture and share knowledge.”

said Sebastian.

Both he and Mick saw a great opportunity to become a part of the team and build a BeThere Global division in Germany and Scandinavia.

“There is no doubt that it is a great opportunity to put years of academic training into practice. BeThere is able to record and broadcast any conference, anytime, anywhere in the world but our real strength is the personal relationships we have with our customers. We want to build on these relationships in Scandinavia and Germany.”

Mick was born and raised in Copenhagen and has a background in the financial sector. He holds a BSc in Business Administration from Roskilde University and is currently taking his MSc in Management of Innovation and Business Development at Copenhagen Business School.
Born in Berlin, Sebastian holds a BSc in Business Administration and Economics from the University of Passau in Germany and will graduate with an MSc from Copenhagen Business School this summer. His previous work experience includes movie production and financial services. Said Schröder…

“Our dream is to expand the business but keep the entrepreneurial spirit and high-level of innovation alive.”