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Demystifying the Behind-the-Scenes of Hybrid and Virtual Events

Demystifying the Behind-the-Scenes Header

By: Bruce Landry | Jan 29, 2021

In setting up a virtual or hybrid event, where does one start? What are lower thirds? How do I incorporate PowerPoint slides? My conference needs to be bilingual; how does that work? All these questions are top of mind for planners. Finding answers can be daunting and research often generates more questions.

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Working with in-kind sponsors iSi Live and D.E. Systems, the MPI Ottawa Chapter Education Committee succeeded in shedding light on these issues and so many more during a 90-minute webinar on December 9. The event brought clarity to the behind-the-scenes responsibilities that planners are being forced to learn quickly during the pandemic.

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The demystification started 48 hours prior, when registrants received instructions on how to login to the D.E. Systems platform. A stage-setting welcome message from panel moderator Stephanie Lynch, CMP, Explore Edmonton, and panelist David Dugas, D.E. Systems, awaited on the landing page. This gave a chance to test one’s video and audio on the website, in preparation for the real event. There was also a helpful guide of the various platform components along with a teaser of what to expect during the webinar.

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Next came the event itself, which was a wonderful blend of humour, information-sharing, and capacity building. MPI Ottawa President , Nancy Bradshaw, CMP, Tourism Saskatoon, and Director of Education Programs, Desmond Lomas, CMP, DES, Prosource Digital Events, were first to take the stage for the official welcome and event kick-off—and it looked very different from what we’ve come to expect in 2020. Professionally recorded at the Ottawa Marriott Hotel, Bradshaw and Lomas gave a run-through of the day’s agenda, they thanked the sponsors that made this event possible, and they provided an update on the chapter’s upcoming activities.

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I appreciated seeing the socially distanced filming technique, illustrating an approach that we can take when it comes to virtual and hybrid events, to add to the option of in-studio filming that followed.

We were showered with information from Encores Brian Johnston, National Director, Creative Innovation. Starting with a brief, live interview with Amber Cunningham, Senior Producer, we were in store for a wealth of advice, information, and best practices.

A key point from that conversation was, when transitioning from in-person to virtual “understand that you’re taking the energy of a live event, where someone’s sitting with their colleagues in a room, and you’re putting them in front of a computer by themselves. You have to transition your agenda so that there’s more time for breaks, less time to spend staring at the screen, and know how you can engage them and bring them into your program with no other stimulation outside of that screen.”

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Up next, Johnston provided a dynamic and interactive walkthrough of Encore’s Mississauga offices and studios, including audiovisual rooms and soundboards, broadcast and presentation sharing setups, as well as working areas for guest speakers and language interpreters. This virtual tour provided the A to Z of event production from an AV point of view in a clear and straightforward way.

The session then transitioned to a knowledge-packed panel discussion, moderated by Lynch and featuring Jess Poon, Canadian Cardiovascular Society, Brad Alford, iSi Live, and Dugas and Robert Gordon, of D.E. Systems. Starting with definitions of hybrid and virtual events, the panel then lifted the fog on areas such as production, exhibit hall, sponsor integration, networking, and attendee engagement. As well, it provided concrete tips on platforms, cost-effective approaches, and preparation checklists.

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As Alford stated: “Virtual meetings are a tool for inclusion and accessibility. Even when the world goes back to normal—hopefully soon—lack of time or money, accessibility issues, anxiety, or being away from your family, are all factors that may dissuade someone from attending an event. It’s not that they wouldn’t find value in that event, it’s just that sometimes it’s tough. Given the pandemic and industry changes, now we have options and really good ones. It provides options as to how you want to interact and experience [meetings and events].”

A major takeaway from this session was how, just like during in-person events, problems can arise in virtual events, but the important thing is to prepare, rehearse, have backup plans, and continue to learn and grow. Virtual and hybrid experiences have proven to attract a wider audience due to their ease of access, but they also require time to prepare properly. The panel shared a few great examples of the benefits this brings, and the challenges created by lack of time.

As Jody Stolldorf, CMP, Summit Credit Union, stated after the event, “I’ve watched a lot of webinars on virtual events this year and this one was absolutely one of the most helpful!”

The fluid discussion between experts in various industries demystified multiple challenges through different lenses and left viewers with a clearer picture of what to expect and how to prepare. We received tips on topics such as: knowing when content can be pre-recorded to save time and reduce the risk of poor Internet connectivity; ensuring that if multiple platforms are used, they can speak to each other; and knowing when working with a company that specializes in live streaming will be of benefit.

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As Gordon put is: “Everything that you’re doing, the educational value does not decrease when running these [virtual events]. You’re still bringing everybody in for the knowledge that’s going to be spread. So, this is a great opportunity to showcase what your event can give [by] using a social platform to share content that’s been created, and the ability to bring in other groups who typically wouldn’t be able to attend the conference, giving them the ability to get the educational experience.”

Something that really caught my attention was the openness in sharing real-life experiences, both successful and learned from. There was a discussion on knowing what is necessary and what is being too ambitious, as well as assessing how much time new processes take, compared to the time and staff available. It is important to work holistically and ensure that planners can deliver good value for attendees. The open dialogue created an environment for the viewers to share their experiences in the chat box, adding more value to the session than I could have hoped for. The richness in the chat could have served as a session in itself.

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As we start seeing clear skies at the other end of this pandemic cloud, I’ll end with these great comments from Poon: “The hybrid approach brings diversity in learning. Some people would prefer to learn over a computer screen and some people prefer to learn in person, so diversity in learning and delivery of content for conference delegates [is the future]. And it expands your reach, being able to attract attendees that have never attended your event because they’re from a different part of the world or whatever the reason may be.” There was another motto echoed by Lynch, that we know so well: “plan, plan, plan!”

Registered participants should know that the content is still available and worth a second listen! Simply login using the link distributed with the post-event survey.

Bruce Landry Headshot Article written by Bruce Landry, Colleges and Institutes Canada

Article edited by Melanie Hudson, National Association of Federal Retirees

 

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bruce landry
Bruce Landry

 

 
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