We’ve assembled this handy hybrid event production checklist to help organizers mitigate potential issues when the event goes live. When it comes to events in general, the further in advance you plan, the better. Figuring out your audio visual (AV) requirements is no exception.
Hybrid events combine elements of traditional in-person and virtual event platforms. And, while the intuition of an experienced virtual event production company will surely help with planning a hybrid event, the ins and outs can be tricky—especially when it comes to the venue.
Creating a successful hybrid event is all about managing the give-and-take between the venue and your video production team. During the planning and booking process, you’ll want to determine which personnel you will be bringing in yourself, and which experts you can expect from the venue.
Make sure to procure multiple quotes to control AV and event production costs that have skyrocketed since before the pandemic. Following has a checklist with 11 questions to ask your hybrid event AV production provider:
- Is having a technician onsite before, during, and after each day of the meeting—who also knows how to troubleshoot and fix network issues—included in the contract?
- If not, what is the cost to have a technician available?
- Are they dedicated to our event, or shared between multiple events?
- Will we have direct communication with this person via mobile phone or similar means, or will we have to go through another person or department to access them?
- Audio Video feeds: Be clear about what you need from AV in advance. Much as this should be standardized, but too often, it isn’t. Ultimately, you are responsible for how the video looks and sounds on the webcast, even if they are the ones providing the feeds. Always ensure that the feed you are get- ting works best with your onsite encoding rig. We like to request an SDI feed from the camera or switcher with audio embedded in the video.
Pro Tip: If audio cannot be embedded, then we typically request a second line level XLR audio feed of the program audio. Now, you may be thinking, XLR? What is this guy 100 years old? Well, I am not 100, but I am wise enough to understand that NDI and virtual inputs can accomplish the same thing without the need for cumbersome cables and capture cards in your rig. Nevertheless, I can assure you that ESPN on Monday nights with a budget 100,000x times larger than yours or ours, is not using NDI to get their signals to the TV broadcast. So, start with what you know is going to work and use these newer options on bad days (more on that later as things of course will go wrong at some point!).
- What are the logistics for load-in and testing? Even if your whole encoding kit fits in a laptop bag or a small road case and you don’t need access to a service elevator, you still want to ensure that you are at the venue with the AV team during a window that will allow you to test what you need to test with their assistance.
This becomes especially challenging when the venue has a labor union, or you are working for a customer that has a very extensive speaker walk-through planned. You want to get into the venue, set up your gear and test your stream with audio and video that does not impact the other testing in the room. You don’t need a lot of time, usually about 20 minutes but you need to ensure it is written into the production schedule.
I remember one specifically challenging event where the customer had a three-hour speaker walk-through leading up to the event. During this time, we were getting terrible audio levels, but the audio tech was not able to assist us while he was handling the in-room sound and microphone levels for the speaker.
Pro Tip: It is not acceptable to simply receive music or some other audio testing source from the AV team. You want the audio from the live microphones that will be used during the live event. By the time they finished, and we began to troubleshoot our issues, the audience was filing into the auditorium, and we could not get a live feed from any of the microphones on the stage. We basically had to troubleshoot when we went live, which meant terrible audio for the first 10 minutes of the broadcast. Believe me when I tell you, we had to answer for this afterwards with the client, even though the rest of the event ran flawlessly.
- What sort of response time can we expect from this process?
- What type of lighting and filming technicians are available to record onsite presenters for an optimal visual experience for our virtual audience?
- Are they included in the contract?
- If not, what is the cost to have them available?
- Are there security and administrative personnel available to enforce social distancing, guide attendees around the venue, and troubleshoot logistical issues throughout the event?
- How do you support having both in-person and remote speakers on the same panel? In many cases, not all the presenters will be able to travel to speak in person. Therefore, the production crew needs to be able to (a) broadcast the remote speakers using webcams onto a screen onsite so that the in-person audience can see both speakers (b) stitch together the in-person speakers (high-end RTMP feed) and the remote webcam speakers into a single stream for the virtual attendees.
- How do you handle taking questions from the in-person audience as well as questions from hybrid event platform attendees? Questions from both audiences need to be fed either to a moderator to read out loud to the speakers to answer or to a large display for the speakers to view directly.
- How do you monitor the virtual portion of your meeting? If there are both physical and virtual aspects to your event, you should have an on-site monitoring “station” where the team can oversee everything that’s happening on the virtual platform.
- How do you manage the hybrid process? Some vendors prefer to set up a physical studio, while others set up a virtual monitoring station in the show management office. It’s important to understand a potential partner’s strategy in the event you hold a hybrid meeting, whether by choice or circumstance. For example, you should clarify whether the vendor can receive a large volume of bandwidth from the facility and control its distribution.
- Can you provide a project-management timeline? Ask about a project-management timeline that outlines roles, responsibilities, deliverables, and dates. This gives you a sense of how the vendor will work with you and if it has a solid process in place.
Want to transport speakers into any recreated physical or never-before-seen environment and create an immersive experience for the audience? One of the biggest innovations is using a stage made of LED panels (referred to as the “volume”). LED volumes are a huge upgrade from old-school “green-screen” technology, where the speaker must imagine the scene in which the action is happening, and the backdrop is inserted in post-production. Rather, the speaker stands in front on an LED wall (and sometimes on an LED floor) with all the background action occurring live on set.
The bottom line is, you don’t have to ditch your old way of approaching AV, especially if you have an in-person element for your next event. But if you decide to add a virtual element and bring in remote attendees in combination with your face-to-face attendees, give yourself some extra time to ensure your transition is seamless, and partner with a vendor and a hybrid event platform that can provide all the bells and whistles to ensure your next event is a success, no matter which format you move forward with.
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