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The Three Tiers of Virtual Events

So, whether it's a quarterly meeting, an annual marketing show, or an industry event like CES or the International Auto Show, we still need in-person events. But how these events recognize and incorporate remote pre­senters and remote audiences will have to change from what was done pre-COVID. The future of events is hybrid, although these hybrid events will take different forms, depending on the event size, budget, and nature and complexity of the off-site elements. There are what I call "Three Tiers of Hybrid," which represent three different ways to bring local and remote presenters and attendees together.

Low-Level Hybrid Events

Let me be clear that I’m not disparaging this level of hybrid event: By “low” I’m referring to the resources required to make it happen. Generally, the low-level hybrid lev­er­a­ges a business chat application, like Zoom or Mi­crosoft Teams, and the entire event happens in this platform.

Streaming Media’s own Connect events (streamingmedia.com/Connect2022) are an example of how this can be used very effectively to run weeklong events with dozens and dozens of presenters and huge worldwide audiences—and with just a few producers clicking the buttons.

streaming media connect

The most basic type of virtual event is exemplified by Streaming Media’s own Connect events, with speakers brought in via Zoom (or a similar platform), minimal speaker production value, and audience participation limited to chat and Q&A.

These events do not have the same onscreen effects as the mid- or high-level hybrid productions, but at the same time, they can be produced faster, and the information delivered is essentially very much the same as you would have received at an in-person event with a single person standing on stage.

While they may be low-level, these events can still be very successful in reaching audiences that might not have attended the in-person event due to time, cost, location, or other reasons. Moreover, these events can still leverage top talent to speak live and to interact with the audience in ways they couldn’t do just on stage. And again, the cost to bring in such high-level speakers is greatly reduced.

Seldom do these low-level events try to integrate both local and remote presenters or audiences, but instead work within the functions of the platform for everyone involved—producer, presenter, or audience. The “level” of the show does not determine the value that an attendee will receive. In fact, the inverse can be true. The potential is that through reduced production costs of “putting it all on the screen,” as it were, reallocated hotel and event space costs can be used to bring in top-caliber speakers. This can give the biggest value back to the attendee compared to a splashy hotel lobby with a decadent food spread.

Upgrades Over Time

When I started producing hybrid events in the spring of 2020 after every in-person event was canceled, I had to use production tools to make these shows look good because there was little or no other way to effectively produce the shows we wanted to present. This meant creating and delivering composite images with picture-in-picture, side by side with a presentation, multiple people on-screen in various views, etc.

Technology evolves fast when there is a demand, and there’s a planet filled with people with money who are all stuck at home and looking for more—more capability, more features, more functionality, more panache. I can safely say that every online tool is very different in the spring of 2022 than it was 2 years ago. Even basic business chat apps now can pin multiple people side by side, share long videos from the desktop with audio, and better handle audiences and breakout rooms, all while managing who comes on stage when and with what privileges.

Things that simply were not possible with Microsoft Teams in the spring of 2020 are now being done regularly in Teams in 2022. The low-level platforms have elevated their game because their customers have demanded it. Companies are well aware that their paying customers can switch to a competing platform if they don’t improve their products, fix bugs, and start giving customers what they clamor for. The platforms are investing and evolving rapidly.

Similarly, the high-end event tools have also improved, providing more interactivity, more functionality, and more user-demanded features that have helped to elevate these products. The entire hybrid event platform industry is making huge strides right now, trying to leapfrog each other by adding features and services that will pull back customers who have left. Event platform Hopin bought StreamYard to add integrated production. Business chat app Zoom and streaming platform Vimeo have both added new events layers to their offerings to reconnect with customers who went to event platforms that provide a wider scope of services.

In addition, new solutions are appearing every month. Some are nipping at the heels of established platforms, and others, like evmux, are jumping in with expansive feature sets that immediately set themselves apart from what is currently out there.

evmux

New hybrid event platforms like evmux are responding to growing demand with expansive feature sets.

I hope my overview of the three tiers of hybrid events has helped you understand the scope of what is currently being done and what can be done. As you have seen, a “hybrid event” is a wide-open description. With this understanding, we can better communicate what we are looking to do when we work together.

understanding, we can better communicate what we are looking to do when we work together.

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