What to Consider When Planning A Hybrid Event
For the LAI Live team, 2021 was a year of experimenting with ways to best incorporate hybrid meeting elements into a live setting. We recently worked with an organization that decided to go all in with a fully hybrid event by incorporating virtual elements into their daily general sessions, awards, committee meetings, and up to 25 breakout sessions per day. Along the way, we encountered elements to consider that didn't necessarily exist in the past, and learned some lessons as well. Here are some of the insights we're sharing with our clients.
Internet: Currently, internet is one of the biggest expenses an event can incur. Additionally, there’s no industry standard to pricing. We’ve seen quotes ranging anywhere from $1,000 per line per day to over $7,000. As we've shared with clients, internet is the new rigging. That's why it's important to get the quotes as early as possible. If they come back astronomically high, push back or see if you can get a package deal. For this event, almost every room required some sort of internet connection, excluding the wireless for attendees. The venue dragged their feet on providing a quote, which caused a scramble at the end to determine the most efficient way to utilize the internet lines within budget. While this depends on the needs of the individual session, here’s a head start on the common internet mbps up/down needs:
- 50 to 75 mbps for streaming from general sessions to a virtual platform
- 25 mbps for breakout camera streaming to a meeting platform
- Minimum of 10 mbps for one individual computer streaming to a meeting platform (standard Zoom or GoToMeeting)
Breakout Rooms: When creating a fully hybrid event, as this client did, cameras and additional audio mixers are required in the breakout rooms. Many people have decided to purchase an owl to capture the room and feed it to remote attendees, but owls do have certain limitations. This includes accurately pinpointing who is speaking, especially if a room incorporates social distancing or has tall ceilings. With this in mind, our LAI Live team chose to use a stationary robotic camera in this high-level committee meeting, with the operator located at the tech table in the back of the room. Using a remote controller, the operator was able to scan the room, zoom into those speaking, and catch two people having conversations. Additionally, we had to use a new wireless push-to-talk system in order to not only accommodate the size of the layout, but to compensate for the equipment shortages the industry is experiencing.
Here are some things to keep in mind when planning a hybrid breakout:
- Leave yourself additional time for set up and testing
- Once set, do not remove or adjust the equipment unless absolutely necessary
- Make sure security is located in the room if the set up needs to remain over night
- Be sure to log in early and run one final test on the account that will be used
- Ask your A/V team to provide a quick training to the room monitor
- Be sure to secure more equipment than you need in advance
Staging/Scenic: In this event, we faced a series of challenges outside of streaming, including ceilings over 8 feet tall, a lack of power to support the LED walls, old connections requiring adapters, and little to no labor available (welcome back to live events!). What this led to was having to get creative in the scenic design process while keeping the virtual audience in mind. Prior to the pandemic, some events would stream out general sessions and award galas to platforms such as Facebook live for extra visibility or event promotion. Now, the streaming experience is a focal point to ensure your virtual attendees get the content they need from the sessions in the best possible manner. With all of this in mind, we had to design the scenic and graphics to accommodate a camera switch feed (alternating close and wide camera shots). Presentations, videos, and other content were placed at the center of the wall to ensure the remote attendees were able to view the content without affecting the live attendees in the space.
Some additional things to consider when it comes to staging include:
- Stage design – 16:9 vs. custom feeds
- Additional power and internet needs in the room
- A dedicated person to monitor the stream to the platform
- Positioning of the cameras to ensure stage coverage
- Custom graphics to accommodate all parties
Live and Streaming Labor: Labor shortages are becoming a more common problem nationwide and, unfortunately, hybrid events require more labor to accommodate additional equipment, longer hours, and added room monitoring. One thing we learned is there needs to be a dedicated streaming coordinator that monitors the event, especially with multiple streams happening concurrently. For this event, we brought in a live stream coordinator that familiarized themselves with the virtual platform used for this event, worked with the client on setting up and monitoring the stream, troubleshooted with the A/V crew when connection issues arose, and remained in contact with the venue in case of an internet drop. Without this position, it would fall on an A/V person that may not be trained on how to troubleshoot a specific platform issue, or on the client who may not have the resources to dedicate a person to managing that process.
Some elements to keep in mind when it comes to live and streaming labor:
- Hire or assign a streaming coordinator
- Make sure the streaming coordinator has admin access well in advance
- Know in advance which sessions will need to be streamed and who will be the room monitor
- Determine who will be providing laptops and ensure all ports and software are included
Everyone is ready for live events to be back as they were, but we also know that hybrid will be around for some time. While these tips and tricks are based on a single event, LAI Live has been working with clients through 2021 who have incorporated virtual elements into their shows in one way or another. We’ve learned there are endless small details that must be considered not only onsite, but in the pre-production process as well. Each event requires different considerations.
LAI Live Can Help You Plan Your Next Hybrid Event
Working on a hybrid event? The LAI Live team can help. Contact us to get started.