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Hybrid Event – October, 2016

(This is from an article that published on MeetingsNet)

Planning a daylong hybrid meeting that includes live interaction with more than 600 participants in 80 countries is not for the faint of heart. But Pat Ahaesy, CMP, CSEP, president and partner of Manhattan-based P&V Enterprises, a certified woman-owned business that offers event planning, production, and management, says she jumped at the opportunity when a global non-governmental organization came calling with just that request.

“We had handled several meetings and webcasts for this client in the past, but never anything on this scale,” she says. “It took over two months of planning, and we drew up a lot of contingency plans.”

Alleviating Worldwide Webcast Worries

The event took place this fall with an in-house audience of around 50 people at the Scandinavia House in New York City. It was simultaneously broadcast to NGO executives, NGO field workers, government health ministers and staff, and university faculty and students in countries as far-flung as Kenya, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Mongolia. Some speakers gave on-site presentations in New York, while others presented remotely from their home countries. And to top it all off, viewers from around the world engaged with each other via social media and a custom chat feature that was built into the webcast page, and could question speakers during post-session Q&As.

While they did have to do the usual time-zone juggling involved in many multi-country hybrid meetings, Ahaesy says that bandwidth size and reliability were the biggest logistical challenges. She also had to worry about power outages in the speakers’ locations. “This happened during rehearsal with two speakers,” she said.

They created a WebEx videoconference with the remote speakers that was hosted and managed by P&V’s WebEx on-site producer. Due to the accessibility and broadcast-quality concerns, P&V pre-recorded the presentations of all of the event’s remote speakers as a backup. The WebEx videoconference was then incorporated into the Wirecast streaming software as a camera shot, and run on the 1Beyond StreamMachine multi-camera “TV studio in a box” video system. This enabled P&V staffers to handle speakers as they came online, and to switch to a recording in case of Internet problems with a remote speaker (this happened with two of them live), as well as to serve the on-site and online audience. “The system made for a seamless transition between the local presenters and the live and pre-recorded remote speakers as the program progressed,” says Ahaesy, adding that everyone could see and hear the presentations in real time.

The pre-recorded sessions came in handy when two of the speakers were unable to present live due to fieldwork commitments, Ahaesy says. “An Internet outage for a third speaker while she was presenting forced us to switch to the recorded video on the fly.” But overall, she says, “Everything went smoothly, so my job was made easy.” The client’s event project manager says, “I am still getting e-mail from participants about how great the event was.”