Chris Elmitt, Livve managing director and former MD of Crystal Interactive, owner of the JAM platform, offers three hybrid formats to consider. We then look at how Dassault Systèmes used the Studio hybrid set-up on JAM for maximum effect.
I want to talk about three hybrid formats to consider: Studio, Match of the Day and Ted Talk. Each one approaches the hybrid opportunities and challenges in different ways.
Studio delivers the four Cs – camaraderie, commitment, creativity and coffee.
First – camaraderie. For those of you who have had sleepless nights and stressful days delivering virtual events from an empty office or a kitchen table, I cannot over-emphasise the difference it makes to have crew, client and speakers together. We are social animals and most of us benefit from dealing with challenges collectively.
Second, is commitment. We find that speakers in studios try harder and achieve better results. We have seen countless times the wonder on a speaker’s face when they come into our studio and how it inspires them to raise their game. Combine that with the additional support our speakers have – like having a professional coach able to guide them through a rehearsal or the opportunity to practice with auto cue in a rehearsal room – and the results are obvious.
Third, creativity – there is only so much anyone can do with a speaker who has a fridge door full of magnets behind them. It may sound harsh but speakers at home tend to make a professional webcast look untidy. But get them into a studio and the whole thing becomes more harmonious and the production team can help your speaker to lift their slot creatively.
Fourth, and most importantly, coffee. A good studio will always have a lovely member of the team on-hand to make you a delicious coffee, grab you some food or rebook your taxi. On these long days, small comforts can make the biggest difference.
In this new hybrid era, Crystal’s JAM platform can tell when participants are drifting away from the event – because we can tell when they bring another app, or another browser tab in front of Jam.
This data is anonymised but what it tells us is what causes people to drift. The number one reason is when an event overruns its published end time – particularly with external audiences.
The second reason is when speakers exceed a nine-minute monologue. Don’t ask us why, but nine minutes seems to be the cut off in most circumstances.
But for our in room audiences – who may have travelled a long way to hear from one eminent speaker, nine minutes may seem like short change…hence our dilemma.
This is where the Match of the Day format fits so well. For those who want the full match day experience including the travel, tickets, the pies, the singing the elation or disappointment, they will commit a Saturday or Sunday to a single game. Those are our in person attendees.
But for others, they are just interested to see what happened in all of the games so they invest 60 minutes in a highlights package with commentary.
The quicker, more high level event content does well for both audiences, while the more technically detailed, possibly workshop-style content would work better for your in room audience. So there is your virtual two-hour and in person seven-hour flavour of the same event.
The remote audience can watch some of this content as pre-record, with a live commentary team, possibly with guests speakers from the in-person event providing additional insights.
Now, the question is: does the fact that the online audience sees pre-recorded content cause them to feel less valued? Well – we would say that depends on how you pre-record the content – but of course only you really know the minds of your audience.
Match of the Day does eaves unanswered the challenge of how do you make a connection between the in-room and online audience? In Match of the Day, quite simply, you don’t even try. But in the Ted Talk format, this is exactly what we aim to achieve.
Ted Talk is all about people experiencing as close to the same thing wherever they join from. Our first step is to create a parity between the in-room and online audience.
For example, you can use our JAM platform via desktop remotely or via mobile when attending in-person. This covers voting, chat, Q&A and discussion. It means that when it comes to asking questions, we don’t only use those from the in-room audience. Everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute.
Second, within JAM one of the unique techniques is our ability to take an audience member and mix them into the webcast.
We can get hold of any camera of any participant that has granted us access and bring them into direct conversation with the studio – no need for special Zoom or Vmix links, it’s all handled by the JAM software. Think how powerful it is to be able to bring any one of your participants onto stage to speak with the presenter, wherever they are in the world.
Finally, we need to make a connection between the speaker and the audience and for this we focus on eye-line. For virtual events, we recommend using a teleprompter to keep speakers on message and to keep looking at the camera.
We do this by putting everything a speaker needs (slides, script etc) as a reflection in ‘beam splitter glass’ in front of the camera.
Now with a live audience, where do speakers go for their content?
Most look at comfort monitors. But we think this is the very worst angle for the remote audience – especially if the speakers are on a stage. Raked seating is better, because it lifts the speakers’ eyesight, and as for comfort monitors, you guessed it – we have taken these off the floor, and put them in front of the camera – so anytime the speaker needs to refer to the countdown clock, the slides or see a remote participant or speaker, we can beam it to the glass in front of them, helping them to keep eye contact with both the remote and in-person audiences.
Like everyone else, we believe hybrid is here to stay, but to succeed it needs to be so much more than a live meeting with a single camera feed streaming to an invisible remote audience. It requires a root and branch re-assessment of how we connect with our participants.
Leaders in business sustainability
Dassault Systèmes is the largest software company most people have never heard of. Its 3D Experience platform brings together a wide range of technologies for design, development, simulation, manufacturing planning and project management.
Working across sectors such as automotive, healthcare and pharmaceutical, Dassault Systèmes enables the development of virtual twin experiences to provide, not only a static digital representation of a product, but also simulations of how that product may behave in the real world, how it is assembled, delivered and how a customer can interact with it.
For three days in June, Dassault Systèmes staged a Leaders in Business Sustainability conference for 664 attendees, using Crystal Interactive’s JAM platform in a Studio hybrid format.
The green-screen studio was set up in Dassault’s Godalming-based offices and the event, moderated by professional emcee, Siân Jones, featured 55 speakers over 33 sessions, which were divided into seven different acts so that attendees could build their own personalised agendas over the three days.
Dassault Systèmes senior event manager, Liz Sargent says: “With such a high calibre of client speakers from brands such as Jaguar Land Rover, Airbus, Honda Motor Europe and Ericsson, we needed it to feel more like a TV production than one of those back-bedroom broadcasts we’re all getting a little tired of.
“The hybrid model of mixing a live studio with broadcast feeds not only gave us greater flexibility with how we managed our speakers, it also enabled us to add green-screen creativity to the presentations and create impact via Siân in the studio.”
Each speaker was given the choice of joining the event live from the studio or via remote access using a home studio kit, supplied by Crystal Interactive. They all went through rehearsals, technical checks and a full briefing.
“Managing 55 speakers through this process was complex to say the least,” continues Sargent. “But by having the studio on-site, it encouraged even our most senior board members to make the time to rehearse when given the option, and that was vital for the success of the event.
“After the complications of having to run purely virtual events for the previous 18 months, it was amazing to be back on site and working with a team again directly. Our communications experts were there moderating all the questions as they came in and Siân had the support around her to keep the flow and energy going. Having the core people live in the studio made the whole production feel more grounded and it enabled us to deal more effectively with any problems that arose.”
For Sargent, a key takeaway from the studio hybrid format was having all the footage and content from each session in professionally packaged videos, which could then be used and re-used by the company’s sales teams to showcase Dassault’s business sustainability credentials and how the company’s digital transformation solutions can help clients reach their sustainability goals.
“It was beyond doubt the most sophisticated event we have ever delivered but importantly, it gave our business leaders the tools and credentials to engage with their target audiences for the rest of the year. Considering what happens next and how you use and reuse event content as core sales and marketing assets is an important part of the hybrid or virtual event strategy,” Sargent concludes.