I attended a great event last week. I listened to speakers, answered their questions, shared my aha’s and participated in group activities. All while sitting at my desk in the comfort of my home. And no, it wasn’t a virtual event, teleseminar or webinar. It was a full-fledged hybrid event, which means they had 2 audiences, a face to face audience (in 3 locations) and a virtual audience. The event was Event Camp Twin Cities 2010 and it is an event for event professionals, by event professionals.
When you attend and event that is put together for event professionals by event professionals you have high expectations. After all, these people know what they are doing, right? And Event Camp goes a little further. You see, they are not afraid to experiment. And so I was not disappointed. Let me share some of the lessons of being a virtual attendee of Event Camp with you.
Hybrid Events Can Work!
The organizers and speakers went to great lengths to involve the virtual audience. There was a Twitter moderator and also a Virtual Event Emcee, who addressed the virtual crowd and interviewed speakers during breaks. She also moderated the group activities for us virtual attendees and encouraged everyone to participate by tweeting our contributions or adding our thoughts into Google moderator.
She was also our voice when it came to presenting our thoughts on the issues as well as our solutions to the problems the speakers gave to the audience groups to solve. Having a strong and engaging personality to pull this all together is a must and I thought that Emilie Barta was tops.
It Is Hard To Be A Virtual Attendee!
I am the first to admit: although I enjoyed the sessions, I was somewhat distracted by my environment. Multi tasking and bright shiny object syndrome are still problems for me. When you are in the office, business goes on and I had conference calls, emails, general work and kids to keep me not as focused on the sessions as I could have been. And also, there were no break stations for me to enjoy. As Lara McCullough-Carter (@ready2spark) tweeted about the chocolate cake, I definitely felt I was missing out.
Hybrid Events Can Turn Virtual Attendees Into Actual Ones
There is a lot of fear that adding a hybrid component to your event cannibalizes your event, since virtual attendees get the same content without paying. Although there is not any hard, scientific evidence to the contrary, anecdotal evidence seems to suggest quite the opposite. It seems that most people, (like me), who attend conferences and events virtually are more likely to attend the event in person the following year. When you watch the event online, you see what you are missing. One of the big reasons I love going to events is the people you meet and the connections you make. That is something you just can’t get behind a computer, no matter how fast you can type your tweets. Quite a few of the attendees at Event Camp Twin Cities attended virtually the year before.
Bottom line is that there is tremendous value into adding a virtual component to your event. It gives you a chance to spread your message beyond the seminar room and entice those people to sign up for the event for the next time. It takes more resources, for sure. But you have to do it well in order for it to add value to both your virtual and face to face audiences. Go the extra mile so that your virtual attendees feel included, chocolate cake and networking notwithstanding. I think Event Camp Twin Cities 2010 did an outstanding job of that, and I will definitely use it as a model for my own events.