We have seen a recent shift towards hybrid events, but what do the experts have to say about them? In part 3 of our hybrid event series, Meet in Ireland asked an expert: Graham Lowen, Commercial Director at Creative Technology Ireland, an audio-visual events and systems integration business based in Dublin and part of the global NEP Media group.
Graham has worked in audio-visual live events and media services since the 1990s. Having watched trends crest and fall, he is well placed to share his opinions on the developments we can expect around hybrid events in Ireland.
Graham Lowen, Commercial Director at Creative Technology Ireland
What does the current landscape look like?
Graham: With challenges comes innovation, and, as in many sectors, the pandemic has sped up changes that were already on the horizon. The good news is that green shoots are starting to sprout — where live-streamed events were in their infancy prior to COVID-19, extended restrictions and the need for businesses to communicate with their customers has seen a rapid rise in this form of event. Virtual events are becoming more sought after, with a growing number of companies now using television studio-type environments to bring customers more sophisticated video conferencing.
What lies ahead for the sector?
Graham: The feedback we’ve gathered from corporate customers has been positive and negative; while they like this new form of communication, it is not a business meeting in the traditional sense. We need to keep in mind the scope for networking — which is such a vital part of business gatherings, particularly in Ireland.
Even so, there have been fundamental changes that customers are keen to continue. With delegates happy to participate in virtual meetings, COVID-19 brought global opportunities from a wider audience. The business community will want to continue its engagement with this larger audience mixed with a local audience too. Welcome to the birth of the hybrid event.
What exactly is a hybrid event?
Graham: Hybrid, in its simplest form, is the meeting of the physical and the virtual, a traditional business meeting taking place at a venue that is simultaneously streamed to an internet audience. The difference now however (compared to pre-COVID), is that we will see business meetings structured to equally cater for both audiences in terms of content and participation. This new form of meeting is likely to become extremely common for medium to large business meetings in our post-COVID world.
And hybrid events might just show the best of the MICE world, as our industry has consistently shown itself to be resilient at times of crisis; this occasion will prove to be no different. Face-to-face meetings and events are not dead — only entering the next exciting stage of their evolution.
Ensure plenty of time for technical set-up. Photo by Frederick Medina on Unsplash
How can I make my hybrid event a technical success?
Graham: As with any evolution, organisers must now shift their mindsets to consider the different elements that venues can now offer hybrid events. The top five technical and logistical considerations to bear in mind are as follows.
- The most important item is your internet connection
A live-streamed event will require a dedicated connection (uncontested), meaning a connection that is not shared with any other venue facilities. I recommend a 50MB up and down connection, which will cover events where two-way interaction with the virtual audience is involved. I suggest having an internet champion on your team; this role is not necessarily technical but rather someone who knows exactly what services you can provide and where.
- Ensure your venue can achieve a reasonable level of blackout
Production for live streams gives the best results where artificial or controlled lighting is utilised. Rigging points in the ceiling for event lighting fixtures would be an advantage. It is also a plus to be able to offer pre-function and dinner spaces with lots of daylight to counter the darkness within the meeting space.
- Find ceiling heights of 4 metres or more for backdrops
This height will facilitate taller backdrops, LED displays and lighting installation, which are all required for high-quality television pictures. Remember, hybrid is more than just a camera at the back of the room recording an event — it is providing a television production experience to the virtual audience.
- Make sure the venue has soundproofing
Try to ensure the event space is located in a quieter part of the venue, and certainly not on the other side of a partition wall where another event is taking place concurrently.
- Factor in more time for setting up
Preparation for these projects can take longer than a live event; depending on the complexity, speakers will require more time for rehearsals and technical set-up.
The hybrid model is here to stay; to find out more about skilled partners that can help you organise a successful digital conference here in Ireland, contact Meet in Ireland today.