It’s perhaps strange but Hybrid Events Ignited - Glisser’s recent dual location conference blended with an engaging online audience experience - only felt real to me once I saw delegates arrive in London and have their temperatures taken.
The act of taking someone’s temperature as they arrive at a venue (whether it be a restaurant, stadium or office block) has become so normalized that it’s now almost synonymous with the promise of a safe visitor experience.
If someone had pointed a hand-held temperature gun at my forehead at any time prior to March 2020, I’m sure I would have backed away slowly and tried a different restaurant.
This is however, the world we now live in.
For conferences and business events to happen safely, we not only need to have measures in place to provide reassurance that the live environment is a ‘safe space’ to be in, we also need to provide an online ‘safe space’ for a much broader reach and an alternative attendee experience.
Exactly what this blend of in-person and online will look like has been the subject of much discussion, editorials and webinars for a while now. So it was fascinating to see Glisser drive the narrative by acting brave and staging its own version of what a hybrid event could look and act like.
The decision to stage Hybrid Events Ignited at etc.venues on both sides of the Atlantic and online through the Glisser platform appeared even braver when I saw the complex, high-spec set-up of cameras and production desk at the back of the London room, primed to transmit and receive between New York, the UK capital and the virtual events platform.
It’s one thing to be a conduit for online presentations and on-demand content but when you add television production values into the staging mix, the evolution of events may well appear quite daunting.
It’s reassuring to know therefore that the events industry is resolute and prepared, with production suppliers, speakers and moderators having up-skilled themselves to embrace this new way of working.
Samme Allen, Glisser’s London emcee did a superb job of marshalling virtual speakers and her New York counterpart, while keeping energy levels high in London, the live audience engaged, questions from the virtual viewer flowing and the auto-cue rolling.
Audience engagement tricks ranged from surprising a New York in-person delegate with a Tiffany necklace hidden under their chair, to encouraging poll interactions and virtual participation.
When the in-person audiences in New York and London paused for coffee and networking, the virtual audience was treated to online exercise classes. While in between sessions, everyone got to have a play with the virtual / physical photo-booth tool from Noonah, which when the faces appeared on the stage screens, helped as an added reminder of how broad the audience was outside the London conference room.
The secret sauce to successful hybrid events will certainly be in venue infrastructure and their ability to cope with the bandwidth and technical requirements of planners serving multiple audiences. At Hybrid Events Ignited in London, etc.venues certainly delivered on that front and I’m sure a plethora of conference rooms have already been rigorously testing their connectivity so that they don’t fall short when faced with a similar brief.
As for the London attendees - they arrived at Hybrid Events Ignited and had a temperature gun pointed at their forehead but they each left with a bottle of Champagne, having witnessed not only the thoughts and opinions of global event industry leaders on the potential for this evolved format, but also having experienced it for themselves for the first time.
As one delegate told me on the way out, “it doesn’t matter anymore how you engage with an event, if everyone is given that level of personalized experience to suit their preferred environment, venue walls will disappear, time zones will dissolve and content will emerge as the overall winner.”
Watch this short video for a round up of all the action from the day.