For most of us, and perhaps now more than ever before, much of our lives are online and so it makes sense that our events should be experienced there, too.
Onsite productions are (cautiously) becoming an option again, and these days the benefits of a virtual production are more widely understood and experienced by both the industry and the general public. So hybrid experiences, it is your time to shine.
Image: Worre Studios in Las Vegas. Photo by Jerry Metellus.
Simply put, most hybrid events at best will connect in person and virtual audiences to a stage but will fail to connect virtual and onsite audiences with each other.
In a hybrid event, the onsite audience might see interactions from the virtual audience, but they can’t engage unless they log into a virtual platform to interact in the same environment that the virtual audience exists. Technically, once you log into a virtual platform, you are a virtual attendee. This ultimately disrupts - not enhances - the onsite experience.
In order to move from a hybrid event to a hybrid experience, we need to create ways for onsite attendees to stay out of platforms and hands-free from their devices. And we also need to find ways for virtual attendees to more freely navigate online to build ideas and relationships that emotionally tie them to the community.
Is that even possible?! Yes, with the right technology for broadcasting in place.
In the diagram above, the happy face in the circle represents the audience at an onsite event, and the rectangular faces are a virtual audience.
At an onsite event, it is much easier for an attendee to build a shared experience. They can navigate through spaces with more fluidity, host an unofficial event on the fly, and have more sensory inputs to feel connected to the people around them who are sharing the same time and space. If you’ve ever sat around a firepit to hear someone tell their story, you’ll know that things just hit differently. The glow of the light, the smell of the flames, the heat warming your skin, the tiny vibrations you hear in the narrator’s voice… All of this contributes to really experiencing a story.
With virtual events, technology reduces our ability to create shared narratives to a ‘call and response’ format. Sure, you might be able to hop from breakout room to breakout room or you may be able to spin up a new Discord channel to kick-up a new interest-based conversation, but you are dependent on a bunch of 0s and 1s to get you there. And, oftentimes, in a virtual space you are reduced to a username in a chat box.
Adding a virtual event platform as an offering to your onsite event will technically make a hybrid event, but you’d be still very far from developing a colorful hybrid experience. Virtual guests in a platform are simply never seen and heard by an onsite guest unless the onsite person logs in (effectively making them another virtual attendee) OR we bring the virtual attendee to life in the physical space.
Happily adds an interactive layer to broadcasting to join the onsite and virtual audiences together in the same room - whether that’s online or onsite. This fixes issues on both sides of the platform: virtual guests are now visible to onsite guests without requiring those in-person to glue their eyeballs to a personal device.
Broadcasting is the critical component that closes the loop and can turn a one-directional hybrid event into a multi-dimensional hybrid experience. So let’s first break it down a little into the basic kinds of broadcasts.
A Studio Broadcast happens in a controlled, indoor space, and with the possibility to have a live audience who can be heard clapping and laughing, etc. The content is being made in and broadcasted from the Studio.
A Field Broadcast is brought to where the content is, and broadcasted from that location. For example, a live sports event, a festival, summit etc.
A Virtual Broadcast is where the entirety of the production - the audience, the team, and the talent - all meet in the digital space. The production is not exactly broadcasting from an anchored location in the way that Studio and Field do. Virtual broadcasting and livestreaming is the most recent innovation in the industry.
A Hybrid Broadcast pulls from any number of these broadcast studios.
A hybrid experience allows the embodiment of everyone in the same space. Video games like Fortnite are wildly successful experiences because everyone is together, roaming free to express themselves. Of course not everyone is willing or able to fire up a gaming console or put on a VR headset and show up to a professional event as an avatar. And the technology to allow thousands of individuals to stably show up in HD camera quality at once exists primarily in Zoom.
Virtual guests are going to be ok - maybe even prefer - not to be seen by onsite attendees, but churn will slowly rise the more that they are not engaged. Event organizers who partner with creative production teams like Happily who are testing the latest interactive video technologies and programmatically know how to evoke social behaviors across media platforms will be the most successful at turning hybrid events into hybrid experiences.
The immediate future of hybrid productions lies in our ability to embody both virtual and onsite participants in the room. This can be either onstage, with large screens behind a presenter but it can also be on the sidelines with screens in the room perimeter.
Image render by Happily
In the diagram above, the stars represent the talent, the happy faces in the circles represent the onsite audience, and the rectangular faces are a virtual audience. The boxes are the broadcast as a whole; the solid one is the Studio and the hollow one is the virtual, both working in sync. By bringing everybody together in that same place, built around and feeding into and out of the broadcast, is when a hybrid experience can happen.
Talent is also able to come in either virtually, or into a studio and onto the main stage. The talent, onsite audience and virtual audience are all able to see each other and feed off each other's reactions. For example, there would be chats, comments, faces and emojis from the virtual audience brought into the physical space, via screens curated into the set design. This would all be seen and interacted with by the onsite audience and talent. That is when we actually are starting to have a high rate experience again and the central broadcast element is vital for that.
We’ve already learned the hard way on hybrid events so you don’t have to. For more on producing a hybrid experience with Happily, please reach out to us below click here.
Every Happily event is unique, and Happily teams are customized, so below is just a general outline to understand overall how a Happily Producer will, can or could contribute to your event. (Spoiler alert! They are amazing.)
They really take the wheel behind-the-scenes of a production. It could be an onsite or virtual event, an intimate fundraiser or a massive week-long summit - no matter the scope or complexity, an events producer can be involved.
In event planning they supervise and coordinate all practical aspects of an event and oversee the ‘ground forces’ that will be present on the day of the event, such as the AV team, keynote speakers, Backstage Leads ect. The level of communication between these ‘ground forces’ is the responsibility of the Producer.
A Producer typically creates a detailed run of show (ROS) for the event or live broadcast, manages the ground staff, and schedules, as well as leads all those team meetings. If the event requires (eg. a live broadcast) they can call cues and ensure that every beat of the ROS is met by the right person.
What a Producer doesn’t usually do is have much involvement in the creative, strategic and overall vision of a production. They take the goals, concepts and general outline established by the leadership or the client and get the wheels turning.
An Executive Producer is a different type of producer. They would be part of that leadership team, sitting above a Producer. An Executive Producer will co-create the experience with the client. They oversee all the components of the project, from creative vision and pre-recorded videos to custom micro. An Executive Producer is more ‘bigger picture’ than a Producer.
They'll manage and be thinking about the 10,000 little details that create a successful production so you don’t have to. You can keep your energy for the ‘bigger picture’ stuff, or so you can take a step back and enjoy the event, knowing that the behind-the-scenes will be running smoothly without you.
No matter the scale of an event, there is always a very long and growing to-do list. Having a production that is organized is vital. Producers will bring structure, be delegating tasks, providing detailed production documents, ticking things off that to-do list, and just get. stuff. done.
Producers will resolve any issues that may come out of nowhere during the middle of the event. They are decision makers, who are assertive and capable if something unforeseeable were to happen.
We all know how important strong communication is, just you know, in life. A large part of a Producer's job is to create and support wonderfully harmonious communication between any various teams, as well as with you. They will keep everyone on the same page, and make sure everyone has the information that they need to do their job.
They are the ship captain who can see an iceberg from a mile away. Sometimes things just won’t go according to plan, and if that happens they can anticipate any issues and have already thought about or discussed or planned what to do in that situation.
For example, if a microphone onsite stops working, there will be a spare one handy. If someone cuts out during a virtual event, they might have a video ready to play.
Producers are event professionals who will be able to provide for you the expertise and knowhow of putting together an event. They can bring all the experience you need for a successful production, offering advice, presenting alternatives or explaining any bumps in the road they foresee.
Hire our specialists On Demand to help with ongoing experiential marketing and media production tasks that don’t require a full-time employee. For a low monthly fee Happily makes it easy to expand your team with friendly, talented, and responsible team members just in time.
There are over 50 different types of specialists roles across Happily’s five studios - Strategy, Creative, Web, Broadcast, Experiential - that you can tag in. Such as a Producer, Sponsorship Strategist, Video Editor, Technical director or Web Developer. For more about our On Demand click here.
If you're a Producer, join Team Happily to be a part of the award-winning network that puts on the best in events. Create an account here to get started.
The Delta variant is still circulating in the United States and the globe. The COVID-19 vaccine is still being rolled out and the vaccination status of event attendees could vary dramatically. All of us in the public, as well as event organizers, should be keeping an eye on the current Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations for Activities, Gatherings & Holidays.
With all the continued uncertainty brought upon by the pandemic, producers and the events industry must continue to do what we do best; take everything in our stride, and focus on what can be done. A strong level of understanding and communication of established safety protocols, is one thing that you can control.
There will now be elements of a venue that you will have to understand that you didn’t need to before the pandemic. More detailed knowledge about outdoor spaces, capacities, traffic flow, air filtration systems (including MERV numbers) and cleaning processes, will need to be understood to fully align the event with the safety protocols.
Basically, the higher the MERV rating (from 1 to 16) the better that filter is at catching certain types of particles. It will be a solid go-to number for understanding the quality of a buildings’ filtration system. MERV 13 or higher is recommended for viruses.
These new contactless norms aren’t just about maximizing the safety of the attendees, they will also maximize the production process of the event and the overall guest experience.
Here are some examples:
Safety guidelines and standards should be created or updated to include an event’s official stance on COVID-19 measures, and how they should be handled.
Here are the main COVID-19 measures to outline:
Safety measures will need to be way more accessible, distributed and visible than pre-pandemic. They should be given more prominence on event microsites, email invitations, social media ect.
You should include questions about the attendee being vaccinated (with proof provided) as well as them checking a box to indicate having read, understood and agreed to any new safety protocols for the event.
If the production will have onsite testing, in order for you to have access to those test results, each attendee and staff member taking a test must sign a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Release Form. Just something to consider for the registration and pre-event communications.
If it comes to your attention of a COVID case at the event - whether it was through onsite testing or elsewhere - making this known to all the attendees via an email blast is important. This way attendees know that they should go get tested.
It is rapidly becoming a requirement that all attendees and staff need to be 100% vaccinated in order to be onsite. This will include providing proof of both vaccinations. Here at Happily, among the safety requirements for our staff working on onsite productions is that they must be 100% vaccinated.
We are talking about a Happily team booking flights, making custom itineraries, arranging for under 18 travel, international travel, ground transportation with door-to-door pickup, hotel check-ins, and we can even build a special web application just so we can keep travel plans updated.
We’ve managed VIP travel experiences for some big deal companies, such as YouTube, H&M, and TikTok’s Make Black History Summit 2020.
Not only are some people still not ready or able to prioritize work travel, you’ll be reducing carbon emissions by up to 97%. For flights you can’t avoid, we always book non-stop to reduce carbon and calculate our emissions to offset those in our Happily Forest.
For us at Happily, this means 70% of the city is fully vaccinated. Also that the venue has comfortable outdoor spaces, with clear guidelines on entry and exit.
Create a dedicated space online to publish COVID safety requirements and updates local to the area, your venue, and your program. Use plain, even fun English to prepare folks to get temperature checks, wear masks indoors, and using hand sanitizer.
This might sound extra, but we recommend it. Ideally, your travel insurance covers COVID related health expenses, flight changes and delays, and all the stuff that travel insurance should cover. (Pro Tip: book well in advance for that flexibility.)
In the (g)olden days, we used to save some money here and there by putting two staffers to a room, two guests in a car ect. and it just does not work out that way anymore. If you’re going to spring for an all-expenses event, just go for it.