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How to Serve Your Digital Audience Better in Hybrid Events

What are some optimal approaches to fully including online/digital audiences in hybrid events rather than sidelining them in favor of the in-person attendees? Chris Pfaff, CEO, Chris Pfaff Tech Media, Producers Guild of America (PGA), VR AR Association (VRARA) discusses this topic with Alex Lindsay, Head of Operations, 090 Media, and John Porterfield, Webcast Producer, Social180Group, in this clip from Streaming Media Connect 2023.

Lindsay breaks down the three major types of events: digital-first, hybrid, and physical in-person. He says that 090 Media takes as much of an inclusive approach as possible with their digital-first events. “The digital audience is as least as important as the physical audience,” he says. “When we do that, we take the speakers off the stage when we put them on either a screen or an LED wall, because now the speakers can be present with all of the audiences they have. We can put eight screens in front of them. We can have, ‘This is Cape Town, this is L.A., this is New York.’ We can also bring other speakers in from anywhere in the world. And they're all on an even footing with the current speakers, so they all look equal. We can still have return cameras, we can still talk to the people in the main plenary, but that main plenary can be in eight cities and all of them have a front row experience.”

“That’s a great production decision,” Pfaff says. He says to John Porterfield, “You were talking about what you do in breakout rooms. What's your experience there? Because I tend to agree with Alex about multiple rooms and events. But that's from a producer's point of view. I think [with] breakout rooms and the level of interactivity…I'll be honest, I think that most people haven't evolved to a point where they're really comfortable interacting digitally. But tell us what you've experienced with that.”

Porterfield says, “So I kind of come at it from two different fronts. [When] I was in the house of worship, the technologies progressed where we did a major broadcast [where] everybody was connecting through different broker devices, [such as] Apple TV, and things. The way of connecting that and having some kind of local event…it's one direction. I think the challenge to everybody we're talking about here is…how do you get them to engage and communicate? And I think that goes back to like trying to look at ways to create unique value.”

Porterfield mentions current projects he’s working on that take a “build-out” approach from physical events to digital. That approach, he says, “Builds some momentum a bit. And then you build out the framework by which [you] produce the event and maybe want to bring some other elements in that make it unique and tell the story for a nonprofit that has a very unique message to their audience, but at the same time, they want to build awareness. So I think the challenge is getting them to engage in that one. And I think on the corporate event side in breakout rooms, that's still a bit of a challenge. How do we create the right message or value that gains interest?”

He mentions the way that these events have evolved. “If I went to an AWS event years ago, or one of the Summit Events, and I sat in the main platform, there were three different venues, and each one had different headphones for different presentations that were occurring. That's great if you're physically there. But how do we take that? And I think that's one of the things we need to work on, really trying to help make sure that we support the clients in doing that. We need to really understand the value because the technology, from my perspective, is there. It's a matter of planning and doing it…we have to really make sure that it brings the right value.”

Learn more about hybrid events at Streaming Media East 2023.

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