A Google Hangout Brainstorm: Is This the Future of Hybrid Events?
How can you engage the senses and make the experience of the remote attendee more enjoyable and productive using Google Hangouts?
I woke up at 5 am today to attend the Event Camp Europe Brainstorm via Google Hangouts which planned to explore these topics. But before I share some of the insights and ideas I gained from this experience, I have a confession to make.
Though I've co-organized a hybrid event and just completed a research project for MPI with Ruud Janssen, Sam Smith, Rosa Garriga-Mora and Richard John regarding hybrid events, I haven't been the greatest fan of attending an event remotely. I've always recognized that others find value in them, but personally, I haven't had that full experience of being excited and engaged as a virtual attendee. Today that changed for me.
I was immediately engaged in the hangout discussion session I joined with Ruud and Nadia Colaiuda on how to engage the sixth sense at hybrid events. I think part of the reason was that the group was so small. I had never thought of engaging a remote audience as part of an interactive breakout session - but now I can see that if the group is small, this works wonderfully. If the group is large, I learned that a silent hangout where the participants communicate via chat can be much more productive.
Throughout this experience I really felt I was taking part in a discussion that was pointing to the future of hybrid events. You can view a summary of the brainstorm that was presented as a broadcast hangout here.
Here are a few more of my takaways:
1 - Hybrid event producers should consider different combinations of audio, video and chat when crafting the remote attendee experience.
2 - The site where the event is accessed by the online attendee should be as simple as possible.
3 - ALWAYS consider what visuals the online attendee experiencing - what can be added to improve the experience.
4 - Music can help to brand an event both for online and face to face attendees.
5 - The hybrid event production team should ALWAYS consider the online experience when deciding to use music. Don't flood the place with music during breaks - this can interfere with online activities that continue during face to face breaks.
6 - Consider using music to bring online and face to face attendees together i.e. all might have a team building experience of playing instruments as a band in an online jam session.
7 - When using Google Hangouts, clear instructions for joining the hangout should be provided ahead of time.
8 - The experience of food and taste is one that can be shared if both online and face to face have access to the same food or drink.
9 - Food can be a driver for attending a pod.
10 - Food can offer unique sponsorship opportunities for hybrid events i.e. A Global Chocolate Taste Contest in which pods from all over the world subject a variety of chocolate to a taste test.
11 - Consider alternatives to friendly touch for virtual participants. Can a virtual handshake be created?
12 - To make remote attendees feel more connected to event, send them small items that face to face attendees have at the event - even it's just a pen from the event - so they can engage the sense of touch.
13 - Smell, a powerful sense linked to memory, might be employed at a hybrid event if the same smell experienced at the face to face event were created in a pod. Repitition of the experience would be necessary to evoke the positive association with the event.
14 - Educational sessions usually done webinar-style could be much more engaging if an interactive tool such as Google Hangouts were employed.
15 - Limited sensory input, a perceived disadvantage of remote attendance, could be used as an advantage. i.e. if you shut down audio and just have video and chat with a clear structure you may acheive a more focused output.
16 - Video/text chat may not work so well for those who are not very familiar with the rest of the group.17 - Group mind - an improv term for the somewhat "telepathic" experience of group creation - can be accessed in hybrid events when everyone is building on ideas presented
, rather than judging or detracting from them.
18 - Group Think - groups working together to brainstorm can fall into the trap of group think when they are more negatively focused, not encouraged to express individual thoughts.
19 - When 2 people are seen on one screen together in a hangout it creates a more unified circular feeling in a group of three than if each of them is seen on his or her own individual screen.
20 - The intimacy of smaller group of people in a hangout gives a much richer experience when using audio.
21 - When a group is bigger and you take away audio, which slows down discussion, the use of a chat (text) function becomes very powerful.
22 - Hangouts can be effectively used to give team members who can't attend, a sense of a venue during site inspections.
23 - Hangouts could be used to give tours of a venue to entice attendees to register for an event.
24 - Hangouts can be used to give remote attendees a tour of the venue during breaks.
25 - Hangouts can be used to allow remote attendees to network with face to face attendees. For instance an onsite attendee might walk around with his or her phone on a google hangout and join groups of people who are networking and introduce them to remote attendees.
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