Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Musings of a Virtual Attendee

There I was in my bunny slippers lounging on the couch this weekend just back from the BSR 2011 Conference. My schedule didn't allow me to attend EventCamp Vancouver in person and I didn't want to miss it, so virtual I was. Laptop on my lap (I get that term now) I was streaming the content, engaging in the 1000 Acts of Green game, and tweeting away.

How was it?, you ask. Fantastic! I felt as if I were actually in the room contributing to the discussion, networking and learning! The only time I was left out was during the coffee break, but then I just I went to my kitchen, poured myself a cup and settled back into the couch.

Here are some of my musings you might find useful when developing your hybrid event:

  • Make the technology as simple as possible. Participants shouldn't have to fight the technology to get to the content.
  • Hire both an MC and a Virtual Concierge, the remote audience needs both to feel included.
  • Ask the virtual folks to ask questions or provide answers during the sessions.
  • Make sure the game (if applicable) is relevant to both audiences. The game app at EventCamp Vancouver worked famously.
  • Start on time, no matter what. Otherwise, we don't have anyway of knowing if our systems are working.
  • Consider including "pods" (small groups meeting together in a different city and attending virtually). This gives people even more of a community feeling. My husband and daughter refused to be part of my couch pod...just saying.
  • Do small breakout group work when the camera is off or determine a way (Skype) to include the virtual audience members in the groups.
  • Film and publish some of the silly stuff too that happens during a conference so remote guests are in on the joke the next day. Loved the late night singing captured on You Tube!
Now, I am usually an conference organizer and not a participant, so this was a new role for me. The weekend of learning was essential and provides me with a true comprehension of the virtual attendee experience.

Best of all, I didn't have to get dressed, go to the airport, go through "security theater," fly, check into a hotel or get to the venue. And to top it off my remote footprint avoided enough carbon dioxide emissions to fill 110,000 party balloons! That is a win both environmentally and economically as well as allowing me to spend time at home. Your participants will love it too!

photo courtesy of bunnyslippers.com

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