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Do Hybrid Events Work for the Online Audience?

090 Media Head of Operations discusses the value of the viewing experience for remote viewers of hybrid live events, the challenges of serving both in-person and off-site live audiences effectively, and what it means for the future of hybrid live events as currently constituted in this clip from Streaming Media West Connect 2021.

Learn more about hybrid event streaming at Streaming Media East 2022.

Read the complete transcript of this clip:

Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen: I don't think hybrid events are going away, because there's all sorts of business and other motivations for them. But do they actually work, Alex? I know you have some thoughts on this.

Alex Lindsay: Well, they largely work for the in-room audience. We've had the opportunity to spend have all kinds of budgets from everything from $5,000 to $500,000 for a hybrid event over the last decade, and we've really got to all these permutations of how to build it and how to make it work. And what I will say is that it is extremely challenging to have a hybrid event work for the online audience. That can be the livestream doesn't work. Putting cameras in the back does not work for the online audience. When I say it doesn't work, we're measuring average view time. Average view time is all that matters. When we look at these things, how long did someone stay when they got there?

Marketing can fix the number of people that are there, but our job as event producers is to keep them in the room. And if you look at if you look at hybrid events, you're talking sometimes in small, low minutes. For your all-day event, you might see an average view time of 10 minutes or 15 minutes. People just leave because they feel like they're outside of it.

Fundamentally, the problem is that when you put one person in the room, you are fighting a million years of evolution. The speaker is going to look at that person. They're gonna play to that person. They're gonna play to that audience. Essentially, they're gonna put the online audience in the kiddie table--that kiddie table that we used to sit at at Thanksgiving. That's where we all sit.

Now, people are not gonna complain. They're not gonna send you emails, but they just don't feel like they're connected. And that is a devastating thing to do to your event. And it's a devastating thing to do to your audience because you don't see it. You don't see people being upset. They just don't wanna come back the next time or they don't come back the next day. That's what we see for instance, in a lot of two or three days of hybrid events. You see a drop-off in attendance that is generally between 60 and 80% because people just stop coming. They think they're gonna watch the VOD later, but they won't. Part of that is the whole function, the whole structure of events.

I think also what didn't really work before was watching all those slide decks with tons of text and everything else. We really just came for the coffee and cookies. And so the reality is that they haven't been that great before and now it's just really clear.

So I think that it's really, really challenging to have hybrid events work. Personally, I think that they're the transitionary format that we're gonna use until we figure out how to really take advantage of digital events. I think that physical events will continue to exist, but I think that hybrid events are something that event teams and event companies are desperate to hang onto because they're trying to stay relevant. But I don't think that they have legs to last for very, for very long because they just don't pencil out most of the time. And if you actually look at that data, it becomes very challenging.


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