Is live or recorded sessions best for virtual/hybrid event experiences?

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All event organizers face a choice between doing live or recorded sessions at their hybrid event, the simplicity of live at higher risk, and the quality and precise session timing recorded offers. Let’s look into the virtual learnings gained as a base for your hybrid event strategy. 

The pandemic dropped us in a virtual live session landscape 

At the beginning of the pandemic, we were all taken off guard. All in-person events and customer interactions moved to zoom/teams overnight. Essentially capturing what we would have done well on stage for an audience behind 24″ screens at home. 

The future with hybrid events changes the game. Your live audience might see remote speakers at the event venue on a big screen, and your remote audience will see a mix of speakers recorded or live at home and in-person speakers presenting live at the venue. Managing these different combinations represents a new challenge for speakers and event organizers: a world that is neither in-person nor virtual but a hybrid. Both live and recorded sessions play a role in this environment. 

The nature of virtual live sessions during the pandemic

The virtual realities for speakers and event organizers with live deliveries during the last two years were:

  • close to heritage of in-person deliveries
  • late changes and updates possible up until the go-live moment 
  • low project and low production management efforts
  • opportunity to address questions in person during the session
  • delivering a theatrical user experience 
  • limited by technology in speaker homes
  • low excitement level and adding to customer’s zoom fatigue 

All of us had access to this form of virtual live deliveries during the pandemic, where improvements are required to stay relevant. 

The future of live delivery for virtual and hybrid events 

Live has always been a premium option and something to target. Expect a part of the hybrid program to be a live portion. There are two options of virtual live deliveries to consider: the speaker/s are present at the event for a virtual audience or remote in a home, studio, or office for in-person and virtual audiences. 

The portion of the speakers traveling to the event venue to participate in person will speak to both physical and virtual audiences. The live speaker line-up will is essential in attracting both audiences. The formats can vary between keynotes, fireside chats, and panels. The critical success factors in pulling this off well are: 

  • Find the right length of each session – closer to virtual than the length of pre-pandemic in-person sessions. But long enough to make the trip worth it for the speakers. 
  • Exciting camera angles – multiple angles are required for exciting virtual experiences. One single camera angle throughout a session brings down the excitement.
  • Strict time management discipline – high risk of live speakers running over or coming in short. 

The professional production involves a local capturing crew and local or remote mixing before streaming out to the virtual audience. 

Remote live deliveries to in-person and virtual audiences 

A portion of your speaker line-up might not be able to travel but willing and able to deliver their session live from a remote location. Here the audience is not limited to individuals at home in front of a screen. Aim for a high-quality ambition for this portion. The session goes up on a big screen for the in-person audience at the venue. The live speakers are most likely in the premium part of the program, where you face the highest quality expectations.

Critical success factors here are :

  • great video, audio, and light quality in a professional setting
  • speakers that are savvy in virtual deliveries 
  • robust broadband connectivity to the remote speaker location
  • remote live video production and troubleshooting 

Consider providing a uniform technology kit to all remote live speakers at your hybrid event. That is an excellent way to secure great quality and enable remote configuration and troubleshooting. If all speakers use a kit of their choice you can expect a variety of technologies that are hard to troubleshoot remotely. 

Recorded sessions for all audiences

Recorded sessions remain a relevant option for virtual and hybrid events. 

A great recorded session at a virtual or hybrid event should feel like a live session, like the in-person and virtual live deliveries. The term “Live on tape” summarizes well what to target. 

The advantages of recorded sessions are:

  • predictable length and quality of each session
  • production risks eliminated for audio, video, lights, and broadband connection issues 
  • retakes and post-production possible to optimize the end-result 
  • easy to customize backgrounds and add captioning 
  • speakers are free during delivery and can answer questions in the chat throughout go-live moments 
  • remotely operated camera/s set-up

The most significant drawback is that all recorded sessions must run on a different timetable, with more activities earlier in the project than for the live parts. You will gain at delivery what you pay in terms of efforts upfront, and these will be your high-quality and predictable sessions. 

A possible baseline for the exclusive/premium portion of hybrid events

A final consideration is how to deliver the premium portion of your program best, covering the best speakers and the most exciting topics. Since live and premium have a solid joint association, you can target a live delivery for in-person and virtual speakers at your hybrid event. 

This approach adds production and time management risks to manage. Count down screens for the in-person speakers are mandatory. For the remote speakers, you might want to limit them to fireside chats. Panels with multiple speakers and keynotes where the speaker is in total control, or lack thereof, for time management, add unnecessary production risks. 

Possible questions for you and your team 

  1. What is the production quality bar that matches your event profile? 
  2. Do you have access to the project management capabilities required to record program parts? 
  3. Does your speaker line up grok what it will to commit to a recorded schedule? 
  4. Do you have access to recorded video technology and production capabilities?

Additional reading suggestions 

One thought on “Is live or recorded sessions best for virtual/hybrid event experiences?

  1. Pingback: 24 key insights from two years of virtual speech deliveries | Tweeter Linder

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