If you're planning a hybrid event, it's important to engage both in-person and virtual audiences and ensure that everyone gets the same great value from the experience. Live streaming your in-person content to virtual audiences is key to accomplishing this, and a good AV (audio/video) team can be the difference between an inclusive virtual experience and a missed opportunity.
As you're vetting AV teams, there are some basic equipment, software, network, and logistical considerations you should ask about. After contracting a company, take advantage of every opportunity to prepare AV personnel, speakers, emcees, and event staff ahead of time.
This article helps you prepare to vet and work with an AV company, and it offers tips to set you up for success before you go live. 🏍️
Start with a clear plan and vision for presenting your hybrid sessions. Once that's in place, communicate the plan to your AV team. Your AV team should be able to make recommendations and ask specific questions to ensure a smooth event.
You'll be your AV company's favorite client if you come prepared! 🌟 Describe your streaming situation for each session in detail and be ready to answer the following questions:
Will any sessions have a combination of in-person and remote speakers?
If so, how many sessions? What's the distribution of in-person and remote speakers?
Do any sessions have remote speakers exclusively? This is important to ensure a consistent streaming experience across all sessions. In-person attendees will also need a way to view remote speakers at the venue.
Will you need to record any sessions?
If so, how quickly do recordings need to be available after the session ends?
Do you want to incorporate pre-recorded content with the streams?
Do you want to display overlays, logos, or sponsor images in your live stream?
Do you want to give virtual attendees a chance to hear speakers answer their questions live?
If so, do you want questions to appear in the live stream?
What do you want the live stream experience to be like during intermissions or breaks? For example, you might play a sponsor ad, footage from the event so far, a simple countdown timer until the break is over, or a combination of these and more.
Now, let's review key topics and questions you should explore.
An experienced AV company will know what equipment to use for your situation. Ask specific questions about their hybrid event experience, equipment, practices, and overall capabilities before you hire. If there’s something you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to ask them to explain it in a different way. The goal is for your AV team to know exactly what they need, and for you to feel confident in how your event will work from a technical standpoint.
If you’re new to the world of hybrid events and want an example of the behind-the-scenes setup for a real hybrid event hosted by Webex Events, watch the following video!
We recommend having at least two cameras so you can switch between different shots of in-person presenters, a wide angle of the stage, and shots of the audience. This helps the virtual audience feel closer to the in-person experience.
Consider and plan for how the cameras and other AV equipment will impact the layout and design of each room at your in-person venue.
Remember not to leave virtual presenters out of the mix. Combining onsite and remote video streams requires careful planning and setup.
Audio is one of the most challenging parts of any event, and hybrid is no exception. Have conversations with your production company early and often to make sure they have a plan to prevent any audio issues.
Plan to test all audio sources in advance to make sure you don't have any echo or looping audio, and do a lip sync check to make sure you don't end up distracting your audience with out-of-sync audio.
Video encoding makes the video feed accessible to watch online and can be done in capture or streaming software or through hardware encoders such as Blackmagic encoders. Ask your AV company if they use software or hardware encoding and make sure their encoding settings match our streaming best practices.
Before show time, run a full recording and streaming test to ensure optimal video quality without latency or lagging. Any issues like this may require tweaks to the encoding settings or setup.
Confidence monitors are the televisions or displays that show cues and scripts to the speakers. Make sure the AV company can supply confidence monitors that can be positioned next to or in front of your stage camera. That way, when your presenters are reading their notes or script, they'll be facing the camera instead of down at a tablet or sheaf of papers.
Software plays a vital role in capturing, streaming, and recording in-person sessions. As with hardware, AV companies typically have a set of software they tend to use in certain situations, and they can make recommendations. Carefully explore each aspect of what you want to incorporate into your live streams. If you plan to incorporate pre-recorded content, show sponsor overlays or banners, or use feeds from multiple software or hardware sources, the right tools are essential.
Your AV team may be interested in our Webex Events RTMP Player solution, which works with many hardware and software solutions. Refer to our article about the Webex Events RTMP Player for more information and send the article to your AV team, too!
A fast Internet connection is crucial to your hybrid event's success. We recommend 25Mbps upload and download speed at minimum. Your exact needs may be lower or higher, and experienced AV companies should have a good idea of their needs. Discuss this with your AV company before purchasing internet from your venue so you don't overpay or get too little.
Always have a backup internet option ready. If your main internet source fails, your backup source needs to automatically connect to minimize any interruptions.
Read our Internet Best Practices article for more information on event network requirements.
Use physical space creatively at the venue to connect your remote and in-person experiences. For example, use a monitor to display virtual attendees' Q&A and polling results, social media mentions, and wall posts.
Work with your AV company to make sure they have enough space for equipment in each room of your venue. The image below shows an example from a hybrid event we hosted, showing three cameras, confidence monitors, and an encoding technician and kit. Planning and testing with our AV team to determine how best to use the venue space helped us accomplish a stellar hybrid experience. 🚀
Full rehearsals with on-site and remote presenters, AV staff, and event staff are invaluable and should always be a priority before event day. It not only helps identify and resolve any technical issues — it also prepares everyone for cues and transitions so they know exactly what to expect when they're presenting.
A great practice for a tech rehearsal is to prioritize running through your most complex session from beginning to end.
Virtual experience moderating
Assign at least one person from your team to focus solely on your remote audience. They can respond to chats and questions, make announcements, and ensure that attendees have fun and feel included. This person can also watch out for live streaming issues and help catch and report technical problems quickly. Make sure your virtual experience moderator has a direct line to AV personnel so they can report issues right away.
That's a wrap! As you now know, there are a lot of moving parts to producing a live stream for a hybrid session. However, with good planning and the right partner, you'll ensure a seamless and delightful streaming experience for everyone.
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