The relationship many organizers have with hybrid conferences seems to be ambivalent. Both our surveys and the conversations we had with customers on the subject tended to reveal a high degree of openness: hybrid events are important and will continue to accompany us in the future. But when it comes to concrete planning, the statements are much more reserved: Should we switch our conference to a hybrid format, too? No, thanks.
The reasons for this attitude are understandable and often the same concerns are raised: Anyone planning a hybrid conference needs, above all, a big budget. Most of it goes into the technology and the personnel who control the technology.
Does this have to be the case for all hybrid events?
That was also a question we kept asking ourselves. Especially for academic conferences, which are often not huge events with a five-digit number of people, shouldn’t it somehow be possible to keep it a bit smaller?
That this is indeed possible is shown by the solution we found almost right on our doorstep, because it is offered by one of our partners, who is also based in Thuringia.
In terms of a possible cooperation, this proved to be a good sign. The question that remained was how the whole thing would look like in practice.
A compact system for a hybrid conference
We wanted to find out more, so the Converia team recently visited the Congress Centrum Weimarhalle for a practical test. The team from our AV partner arrived on site around the same time as we did and was ready to go after about half an hour to demonstrate the live operation of a hybrid conference.
What does that mean? It only took thirty minutes in total to have the full setup including the live streaming technology and the connection to the Virtual Venue, our digital conference platform. Even the test run had been completed by then.
Nothing had to be rearranged to make room for the technical setup either, because the equipment doesn’t take up much space. This is useful if, as in our test scenario, there are tables and chairs in the room because there is an audience. You will also not find any cable clutter on the floor.
Is such a system sufficient for a hybrid event?
This may come as a surprise at first, but yes, it is perfectly adequate for a simple hybrid conference setup. If you want to make it a bit more professional, the on-site team can set up a studio with lighting if desired, for example to stream lectures and talks.
However, the simple setting already comes with quite a bit of functionality. For example, simultaneous streams from several rooms are possible. This was also part of the on-site test, just like the flexible switching between a total of four different settings per stream. For example, speakers and their slides can be shown alternately or simultaneously.
Especially with longer streams, using only one camera angle quickly becomes tiring. But sometimes there’s more going on in a single shot. Presenters don’t necessarily always stay in the same spot but rather keep moving. The AV team told us about a speaker who used the width of the entire room during his presentation by constantly walking back and forth. The person behind the camera was able to react flexibly to this as well, and there was no need for a multi-camera setting – which of course could also be implemented, if necessary.
What does the hybrid conference venue need to provide?
Only electricity is required from the venue.
The system otherwise operates autonomously and with its own LTE network. The in-house network is not needed in order to send the streams in perfect sound and image quality directly to our virtual online platform.
Using the Converia Virtual Venue for the hybrid event
The connection to the Converia Virtual Venue ensures that there is a closed area for the conference live streams and that they are therefore only accessible to the participants who have registered.
In addition, all data is protected and located on our own servers. This applies to both the personal data and the streams.
In combination with our software, access-restricted streams can also be implemented without any problems. Organizers can set up access rights for the Virtual Venue so they’re able to manage and decide which users are allowed to access certain program items. It is therefore possible to stream several workshops simultaneously to the Virtual Venue, but only authorized participants can watch them.
Our partner also automatically creates a professional recording for each stream, which, if necessary, can be edited before uploading it to the Virtual Venue. The virtual platform then functions like a conference media library where the content of the hybrid conference is available on demand.
If desired, elements such as graphic overlays can also be added to the live streams, which can even be adapted to the respective language. This is because live translation and providing content in different languages can also be implemented without using additional cameras. Depending on language preference, the camera image is linked to the corresponding audio track and participants are able to change the language in the Virtual Venue, even while the stream is running.
And what about the costs?
Especially in the case of hybrid conferences, it’s difficult to estimate how many people will actually register in the end, which is why the combined solution with the Virtual Venue works best here. Billing is based, among other factors, on the number of participants, which ensures that the costs don’t skyrocket to dizzying heights.
Since streaming with our partner’s solution is individually scalable and can be implemented without significant personnel efforts, it is ideal for events with a limited budget.
Due to these advantages, this approach is not only suitable for running hybrid conferences, but also for events that are entirely digital.