This summer we had the privilege of working with some of Canada's leading meeting planners at the CanSPEP Event Business Summit, an amazing couple of days that brought together some of the top planners from across the country giving them a chance to share lessons, thoughts, and set new standards for the industry.
This was the first time the association held an event of this type, and traditionally it might have been held in a single city but the association felt that asking members to travel from across the country to a single city would drastically increase costs so in an effort to find a more efficient and cost effective solution they reached out to us here at FMAV to help them host their first multi-city hybrid meeting. Hybrid Event Specialist, Mahoganey Jones says “Producing the business summit as a hybrid event allowed for us to engage with members across the country as though we were in the same room. When determining the kind of technology to use, CanSPEP first looked at the goal for the summit.” Using Videoconferencing tools we were able to work with the association to link together 3 locations (Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan). Originally the association felt that this solution would work only for their keynote and similar presentations but the result was such a seamless meeting that participants from all three locations were able to engage in real time discussions (eliminating the need for breakouts) with each other and experience a truly hybrid meeting (many for the first time). “Hybrid events allow for cross-country reach and engagement opportunities that are not available in just a face to face setting. It has allowed for real time connections while extending the reach of the event” says Jones.
During the meeting we had an opportunity to answer some questions from the group located in Ontario, one of the questions put forward asked why we chose a Video Conference over other types of connectivity tools like Skype or webcasts, and what additional equipment would be required for each of those endeavors. Of course we were happy to share our answer with the group and as we wrapped up it was suggested that we share that same answer here. So here are FMAV’s notes on selecting the best platform for hybrid meeting centered around a group discussion.
Most of us are already familiar with Skype in some way shape or form and have used it to connect with friends, family and colleagues at some point in our careers or personal lives. This is a great platform for connecting small groups of people wherever they are and at very low cost (often free). However as an event solution the platform presents some issues. Delays and quality vary greatly based on the individual connections of the participants, and there is no ability to share video and a presentation at the same time (it’s one or the other). This means that skype is great for a small team meeting (think a weekly update) or a cross country call with a colleague but not the best solution for linking large groups for important presentations.
Webcasts is generally used as a catchall term for any broadcast over the internet, and while that works in a lot of contexts for event planning the definition is much narrower. A webcast is a one way broadcast from a single location to any number of other sites. These broadcasts may have a online chat or question and answer function but these are not really two way conversations. Unlike Skype webcasts can share video and presentations simultaneously with dedicated windows to each or they can create full screen images of either source. To operate a webcast also requires additional AV equipment, some of which you may already have at your event like projectors, microphones and cameras), but you will likely need to add a dedicated internet connection and encoding tools.
Video Conferencing provides a sort of best of both worlds when it comes to hybrid meetings. They have a very high quality connection like webcasts but allow for a real time discussion between all of the events sites. Video conferencing also allows powerpoint and video content to be shared across sites. This makes this option the best choice for multi site meetings where participants from many locations may be presenting or where a discussion between attendees is very important. Similar to webcasts there are dedicated pieces of equipment and an internet connection that may need to be added to your events AV to compliment many of the pieces you may already have, so be sure to check with your FMAV account manager to get a better understanding of what exactly is required to add video conferencing to your next event.
Why we chose Video Conferencing for CanSPEP
There are a few reasons why we decided to deploy a Video Conferencing solution for use at the CanSPEP Event Business Summit. The key to making this decision was having a complete understanding of the meetings objectives and the infrastructure of all of the event sites so after talking with the planning team we knew that they were going to have small groups at each of the locations, they wanted real time discussion between sites and wanted to be able to share live video and presentations. “When producing a hybrid you have to look at the experience you want to create and the non-negotiable. For this hybrid event, video and polling were set as requirements. The technology was then paired with the expectations to create the event experience they were looking for.” says Jones.
For more information about creating a hybrid meeting or bringing multi-site connection tools like these to your existing event you can reach out to an FMAV account manager in any of our 7 offices