Hybrid events are more complex than both live and virtual events, simply because they combine aspects of both kinds of event. Naturally, your hybrid meeting technology needs are a little more complex than your tech needs for a simple live event. Whether it’s for a big hybrid event with multiple sessions and hours of recorded content or a smaller hybrid meeting or event, there are a few tech items you just can’t do without.
Why You Should Plan a Hybrid Event
Essential Technology for Hybrid Meetings and Events
This is one thing you absolutely cannot do without. While you might be able to get by with a mid-range camera for a hybrid meeting or conference, you can’t get away with a poor internet connection. For video conferencing, hybrid meetings, and any other event with an online component, high-speed internet is a must-have.
Even if it’s a small event with only a dozen or so attendees, you can’t skimp on the internet connection. It’s what everyone is relying on to be able to communicate, so without good internet, your event won’t even make it out of the starting gate.
HD camera: You don’t need to go all-out and spend thousands on a 4K camera, especially for a small or one-off event. Since most of your viewers will be watching on a computer screen, the differences between 1080p and 4K won’t be glaringly obvious.
For hybrid meetings and other small events, you’re fine with a single HD camera with a minimum of 1080p resolution. Depending on the size of your event and the type of content you’re producing, you may want to add another camera. For instance, if you’re producing a panel discussion or debate, having an extra camera is handy. With multiple cameras, you can go from long shots to close-ups and switch quickly between different panel members.
Accessories: Depending on the event and your desired production values, you may also need some accessory items. The most commonly used accessories are tripods and shoulder rigs. Both are used to stabilize the camera setup so the recording doesn’t look shaky.
Lighting: Good lighting is an effective way to boost your hybrid production values without blowing your budget. A simple-but-effective lighting setup consists of a few LED panels that can be rearranged to provide light where it’s needed.
Livestream encoder: If you’re livestreaming video content, you need a video encoder. These are used to convert your video file into different formats, so the content is playable on multiple types of devices.
Encoders come in two types: software and hardware. Software encoders are sufficient for most hybrid events, while hardware encoders are typically only used by professional broadcasters. Many livestreaming providers have integrated encoders. If you choose to livestream via this method, you won’t have to worry about obtaining encoding software.
Good-quality visuals are important, but good-quality audio is even more vital. Low-quality audio is more off-putting to viewers than poor visuals, and nothing turns people off faster than stuttering sound or high levels of background noise. High-quality audio is one of the best ways to signify high production values, and make your event look professional.
Host/moderator: Your hybrid event host or moderator should always have their own mic. The best style depends on whether they’ll be static throughout the session or moving around. If they plan to stay in one spot, a lectern mic is fine. If they’ll be moving around, a lapel mic is the better choice.
Other participants: The number and style of additional microphones you need depends on the size of your event and the types of content you’re producing. For instance, for a panel discussion, the ideal situation is that every participant has their own lapel microphone. But if this isn’t possible, then seated panelists can share a table or wireless microphone.
Audience: For events with audience participation, the host or moderator should have a second microphone they can pass off to audience members. This could be a wireless handheld microphone or even a throwable mic like a Catchbox that can be passed among the audience as needed.
The Hybrid Meeting Technology Your Speakers Need
Speakers and panelists will need a few special items if they’re planning on remote participation:
- A webcam
- A headset
- A microphone
- Some form of lighting
- A background
This includes a webcam, headphones, and microphone.
Webcam: Any speaker connecting via a laptop will have a built-in webcam, but few standalone monitors have webcams, so other users may have to purchase one.
Headphones: A headset with a built-in microphone can fit the bill, but in many cases the microphone covers the wearer’s mouth, which isn’t ideal. The best option is generally an earpiece that allows the user to hear what they need to and is small and unobtrusive.
Microphone: A standing microphone or lapel mic are both good options. A noise-canceling microphone is the best choice, as these minimize background noise to improve overall sound quality.
Each speaker also needs to have some form of lighting. Natural light is the best option, but it’s not always available. Artificial light is generally fine and doesn’t need to be anything fancy. An ordinary table lamp will do. The real difficulty is getting the positioning right. Artificial light should be medium strength, and diffuse. The light source should be placed above and in front of the speaker. This ensures their face is well lit and prevents backlighting.
Ideally, every speaker and presenter who is part of your hybrid event should be recorded in front of the same background. It helps create a more cohesive event identity and helps everyone look more professional. This is easy enough for those present in your own studio or event venue. For speakers and panelists beaming in from home or elsewhere, a little more work is needed. There are a couple simple ways to accomplish this:
Digital backgrounds: Use an online tool such as Canva to create a background graphic with your event logo. You can then distribute it to everyone who’s speaking at the event. All they need to do is integrate the image into Zoom or whatever other meeting platform the event is using.
Physical backgrounds: If you choose not to use a digital background, the other option is to use a physical object to create something suitable. For instance, a large sheet of cardstock or a bedsheet can work as a background, if fixed securely in place. Products have been created for this purpose, such as the WebAround, a fabric disc that can be fixed to the back of a chair. It provides a simple, professional-looking background and comes in different colors, including chroma-key green.
Is a Hybrid Event Right for You?
Don’t Forget the Rehearsal, and You’re Good to Go
Having the right tech both onsite and at home is an essential part of hosting a hybrid event. Knowing how to use it is important too. But no matter how experienced you are, always make sure to hold a content rehearsal prior to the event itself. Your speakers will be glad of the chance to get familiar with the hybrid meeting technology they’re using. And a rehearsal is your chance to make sure all the details are perfect, in advance of the event itself.