Pros and Cons of Hybrid vs. Digital-First Events

What are some common challenges of engaging remote streaming audiences with hybrid events? Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen, Chair, Streaming Media Conferences, and CMO, id3as, talks with Alex Lindsay, Head of Operations, 090 Media, about this and the advantages of digital-first productions.

Schumacher-Rasmussen points out that the past two years have changed everything regarding people's ability or willingness to travel to conference events. Covid altered the way that many people perceived participation in remote production. Previously, many people did not have high-quality home audio-visual setups for remote participation, and physically attending an event was preferable for both participants and hosts. But he notes that professionals like Alex Lindsay have already been well set up for high-quality remote production from their homes. Now, post-pandemic, Lindsay does everything remotely.

“I admit that I've been doing some version of these events for a decade,” Lindsay says. “So I had tried to persuade people to let me come in virtually because I've had a pretty good setup at home for quite some time, right? I tried to persuade people to do it, but once Covid hit and I got used to it, I became immovable.”

Lindsay says that while people have become more accustomed to remote participation in hybrid events, the major challenge is ensuring that the remote participants are as seen and heard as the in-person participants. “When you're doing an in-person event,” he says, “you're cutting out 99.9% of the world. Your market has been shrunk to just a tiny group of people who can attend the event. The problem with hybrid that we found over the last decade is that if you have people in the room, you're fighting a million years of evolution in the sense that the people speaking are going to talk and look at the people who are in the room, [and] that immediately puts the online audience in the back of the room.”

This is the primary reason Lindsay gives for 090 Media's more recent push towards digital-first productions is that this approach doesn’t create a digital divide between in-person and remote participants. “What's interesting is that we found over the last decade doing these events – not so much in the last two years, but in the last decade – was that people wouldn't complain. In fact, they even give us good marks, but they wouldn't come again.”

He emphasizes that when people feel like they are in “the back of the room,” they easily fall into passive listening instead of active listening. “Now, a lot of us are passive listening even when we're in the room, but it really moves very quickly for the online audience…and they don't even see it, but the event becomes less and less important to them, less and less of a push for them to go. So that's why we really started pushing more towards digital-first events, where they really feel like they're in the front. What we want to do is give them a front-row experience, both to the speakers as well as for the audience.”

Learn more about hybrid and digital-first productions at Streaming Media East 2023.

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