Last week, Event Camp Europe took place in London – and in parallel at a number of remote PODs as well as a virtual event. As much as I would have loved to attend in person, because I know some of the organizers and I was convinced this would be a great learning experience, I could not be there due to other commitments.
However, I logged in to the live stream from my office desk. Let me share with you my experiences and learnings from that “hybrid” event:
- Technology: I was fascincated by the experience that the streaming technology (Silverlight) provided. Switching to full screen, you could follow quite well what happened on site. They used Twitter as the backchannel for the virtual attendees to comment, ask questions, or just do a virtual “La ola”! Bottomline: Technology-wise, this works.
- Intensity: Does a virtual event jeopardize your face-2-face meeting: Clearly, no! Maybe it’s just that I am no good at multi-tasking (being male…), but it is very difficult to focus on such an event, with all the distractions you have going on in the office. You pick up bits and pieces of the program – actually more than I expected. But it’s not the same as taking part in a well organized live experience, with a great speaker, where every event element falls in place and creates your experience (lighting, sound, visuals, speaker, the possibility to discuss what you heard directly etc.).
- Importance of a virtual Master-of-Ceremony (emcee): Emilie Barta did a fantastic job at involving the virtual audience. So, one of the key learnings I had: You need someone like her to make that work. It is a totally different job to facilitate an event on site, and to facilitate the virtual equivalent. Obviously, Emilie has done that many times before, so her performance was professional, engaging, and entertaining at the same time. The attention span of the virtual audience is quite narrow – lose them, they’ll never come back, I guess. So her role was an important one, and I guess she must have been really exhausted by the end of that day…
- Some technicalities: There were breaks, too, but there was a countdown showing the time remaining until the next session started. Very helpful. The event Twitter hashtag #eceu was communicated many, many times, along with encouragements to join in the discussion, present yourself, give comments – You have to do that, in order to get the audience involved. Discussion on Twitter was extended, when the #engage365 chat discussed the outcome and experience after the event. Quite interesting.
All-in-all, I found the event useful in the sense that it provided an idea of what you can accomplish technically, it provided some information about the cost of a “hybrid” event, about what works and what doesn’t. I cannot evaluate how it went on site, though. There seemed to be some connectivity issues for the delegates on site, but that did not affect the virtual bit of Event Camp Europe, obviously.