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]

Experiencing YouTube LIVE!

Artists perform at the Global Truce 2012 Concert in Derry
PHOTO: Newton Faulkner at the Global Truce 2012 Concert in Derry. Inset (clockwise) Imelda May, Pixie Lott, Jude Law
Backstage at Peace One Day Concert in Derry

A couple of weeks ago we had our first experience of streaming an event using YouTube live streaming… from this portacabin in Northern Ireland!

Now you may or may not be aware that this is something that is not generally available to your average Joe webcaster! They only launched the beta platform in April last year and as they said in their blog at the time;

“Today, we’ll also start gradually rolling out our live streaming beta platform, which will allow certain YouTube partners with accounts in good standing to stream live content on YouTube. The goal is to provide thousands of partners with the capability to live stream from their channels in the months ahead.”

And they are moving towards that goal with a growing number of accounts with access to the YouTube live platform, but the perception is that to date it has been presidential addresses, state visits, major news and sporting events and the like that have benefited from live streaming on YouTube – until now that is. Such is the power of a ‘good cause’ to get things done. In this case the ‘good cause’ was Peace One Day and its founder Jeremy Gilley simply phoned up a heavy hitter he had met at Google and asked if we could use the YouTube platform to live stream the Global Truce 2012 concert from Derry. The answer (after a modestly short delay) was “yes” and so our adventure into live streaming the YouTube way began.

All in all it was a very positive experience. We were supported every step of the way by our contact David Thorpe, Senior Sales Engineer at YouTube Partnerships who introduced us to the platform and held our hand through testing, both before and during our time in Derry.

To cut a not very long story short, everything went incredibly smoothly – both at the recording end of things in the Derry drizzle and at the YouTube bits and bytes streaming end. Given the 4+ billion streams a day YouTube delivers you probably won’t be surprised at that.

The Peace Bridge, Derry

(As an aside, despite the drizzle, Derry was a real pleasure to visit; a very friendly city with an immense amount of civic pride in the on-going regeneration, a very welcoming pub in the Park Bar and a striking Peace Bridge linking the two halves of the city – well we were only there for two days so it’s not a very comprehensive list.)

I’m hoping that BeThere Global CTO Mark Buckland will be writing a more technical appraisal, but in essence The YouTube interface was reasonably straightforward to navigate and the live statistics were very satisfactory, providing a clear and constant update as to the number of viewers connected, the peak viewing numbers and the average time viewed. Particularly interesting was a graphical depiction over a timeline of how many people were connected to the different bitrates we were streaming. If anecdotal eveidence is worth anything, the viewer experience seemed to be excellent, as I received many “wow it looks/sounds good” type messages of support from friends and family. Funny how they don’t seem to show as much interest in the corporate, scientific and financial events that we normally stream as they do when it’s Pixie Lott and crew! (Another aside; if you saw the concert weren’t the Wonder Villains great?)

Performers at the Global Truce 2012 Concert in Derry
PHOTO: Derry band The Wonder Villains. Inset Jeremy Gilley, The Guillemots

Overall the concert seemed to be a great success, both for the physical and the virtual audience.

The stream was viewed in 88 different countries and in total over 6000 hours of video was streamed to an audience that peaked at 2,529. Given there were only a matter of days to promote the live stream; a pretty good result in anyone’s book.

Now YouTube, how about making your excellent service available to us permanently?

Embedding webcasts into Facebook

Live stream embedded in Facebook

As I write this, we are working with our friends at George P Johnson to live webcast the IBM Smarter Business 2011 conference taking place in Oslo. Their clients at IBM have embedded our stream into their Facebook page.

I must admit to thinking it was only possible to embed a live video stream in Facebook using the Livestream plug in. Very encouraging to see this is plainly not the case. I think we will be shamelessly borrowing this technique in the future! Good work IBM!

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.

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.”

Unlock the full value of your live event or presentation

Unlock the full value of your live event or presentation was chosen as our headline for the new homepage, because we enable our clients to get greater value from the time effort and resources they put into creating their conferences; value that would otherwise be largely lost the moment the event closes.

In some cases, a much larger and wider audience than can physically attend a conference have benefited from remotely accessing the content via a web broadcast – without the cost or inconvenience of travel. In others we have generated new revenue streams for clients who are now selling access to their recordings.
get a quote,
Our new website has a much sharper focus on the benefits our service brings to conference producers and organisers and through our “Get a quote” page provides an easy way for anyone considering recording and web broadcasting an event to get a realistic estimate as to the costs involved.

We are planning to add many “how to” articles, videos and of course webcasts in the coming months, which will further help organisations understand how to make the most of this now highly affordable and accessible technology.

The people did not believe it was live

The question of whether an event should be webcast live or on-demand is often raised. In many cases the merits of ‘live’ are outweighed by the comfort of being sure all is as everyone concerned would like it to be before uploading.

This month we delivered a live webcast for Stryker, a global leader in medical technology, through our friends Jigzaw Live Event Solutions, where the client was adamant it had to be live. So live it was!

Steve MacMillan, the CEO and President of the Company, was touring Stryker offices around the globe, but physically couldn’t get everywhere. It was decided therefore that some of the European offices would log into a live web cast of his presentation at the UK headquarters in Newbury, England.

All went well and we were delighted to receive an email from a Senior Manager in the Stryker European IT function based at one of the receiving countries stating;

“The people did not believe it was live. There was no delay and it was well synched with motion and sound. There was even no fading with rapid hand movements. All together, it was a big success. Also the bandwidth graphs looked well.”

The fact is, when it really does have to be live, it is great to be operating a system that can deliver the goods at bandwidths that won’t negatively affect the client’s network. The whole purpose of BeThere is to make web casting easy and accessible; be it live or otherwise. For Stryker that is exactly what we did.