Albert Einstein once said “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Technology can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be if you can remember this rule of thumb and keep it simple. Social technology is constantly evolving and it’s easy to get tempted by innovative features and cutting-edge capabilities, but the learning curve can be more than you bargain for.
Meeting planners who are beginners in hybrid events can follow these simple steps for a smooth transition into the virtual world.
1. Attend one or more virtual or hybrid events (a webinar, videoconference, simulcast, etc.) – preferably one that resembles the one you will be planning. Take note of what you felt worked well and what could be improved about the experience and apply those insights when planning your own.
2. Plan the live, in-person components of your hybrid event as intently as you would any other. Remember, this is the thing that your virtual attendees are tuning in for, so it has to be of quality. Secure space and technical equipment, build an agenda, prepare speakers; do everything your live attendees have come to expect from your brilliantly-planned events.
3. Decide exactly what minimum features are required of your virtual component and make a list. Consider if you will need just audio or live two-way video, document sharing, screen sharing, the ability to record, live stream over the web, etc. Once you have a list of what your meeting absolutely must have, you can search for and compare compatible software.
4. Choose tools that meet your requirements, then from there you can narrow it down by bells and whistles. Google+ Hangouts is a great option with a familiar interface offers great features for collaboration and sharing among teams. Spreecast makes public-facing events – like press interviews, panels, and broadcasts – a breeze with cool production and social-integration features. GoToMeeting and WebEx are staples for virtual meetings, presentations and webinars in traditional corporate environments.
5. Do an abridged, technical run-through before sending invitations to participants to make sure you know what you’re doing. If you’re lost technically or find that your setup isn’t right for what you are trying to achieve, try something else – you’ve done your research and should have options at this point. Once you’ve finalized your setup, you can send out invitations and links with confidence. Then, troubleshoot some scenarios in advance (what will you do if the audio is glitchy? what if a presenter loses Internet?) and have a contingency plan.
6. Make sure attendees have everything they need to successfully attend online – links, software requirements, instructions etc. Consider it your responsibility as the planner to make the experience of attending your event seamless from registration to content to follow-up.
7. Conduct an honest, straightforward post-event assessment of your hybrid event. What worked well? What could be improved on? Save these notes and refer back to them the next time you’re involved in planning an event with a virtual component. You can use these steps over and over again, each time building more powerful features and ideas into your hybrid events. You’ll be a pro before you know it!