Watch a little piece of Conferences That Work streamed live!

Adrian conf photo IMG_5780 cropped

If you’ve registered for EventCamp Twin Cities as a remote attendee (it’s free!) you’ll be able to watch a live stream of me running a personal introspective from the comfort and convenience of your web browser of choice on Thursday, September 9 at 4:15 p.m. EST. This will be the first time I’ve ever facilitated a personal introspective with a remote audience, and I’ve added an experimental way for remote attendees to share the results of their introspectives online.

Actually, why restrict yourself to just my session? We have a great set of innovative sessions available to anyone who wants to join the remote audience. I’m also running a fast-paced Pecha Kucha session at 2 p.m. EST the same day, and the conference program is packed with other great content and formats. The organizers have bent over backwards to create a two-way experience for remote attendees; here’s an excerpt from the EventCamp Twin Cities remote audience page:

[You’ll be able…] to view the video stream and the slides from the main sessions, [and have] the ability to participate in the backchannel with on-site attendees and other remote attendees. The official Twitter hashtag is #ectc10. Also, there will be a hybrid moderator that will capture your questions and comments to share with the greater audience. And, we will be using PollEverywhere to allow ALL attendees (face-to-face and virtual) to vote via Twitter or their mobiles when speakers are asking questions.

In addition, Emilie Barta, the virtual emcee will guide you through the event and make sure that you are connected to the face-to-face audience. In between sessions, she will interview speakers, sponsors and attendees to add additional context to your event experience.

And it’s all free. All you have to do is register for the free Virtual Event Community Pass and fire up your browser on Thursday!

I may not see you at EventCamp Twin Cities (though I’ll be scanning and responding to messages via my Twitter feed throughout the event.) But I hope you’ll drop in and see me and the other wonderful people and sessions we’ve created, and interact with us too. Don’t miss this unique opportunity!

A potential drawback to hybrid events

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Recently, there’s been a lot of buzz in the events industry about what are being called hybrid events where there are two audiences: people physically present, the local audience, and people connected to the event remotely, via Twitter, chat, audio, and video streams, the remote audience.

Event planners are excited about this new event model because it has the potential to increase:

  • overall audiences
  • interaction between attendees
  • exposure for the event
  • exposure for event sponsors and the hosting organization
  • the value of attendee experience through new virtual tools
  • the likelihood that a remote attendee will become a face-to-face attendee in the future

Because of these positives, I think it’s likely that events that include local and remote audiences will become more popular over time, as we gain experience about what formats work and become proficient at resolving the technical issues involved in successfully hosting these event environments.

But there’s one thing we may lose if we add a remote audience to our events.

At the face-to-face conferences I run, attendees start by agreeing to a set of ground rules. These ground rules create an environment where participants can speak freely and ask questions without worrying that their individual statements or viewpoints will be revealed outside the event.

It’s hard to convey the difference this assurance makes to the climate at Conferences That Work unless you’ve attended one. The level of intimacy, learning, and community is significantly raised when people feel safe to ask “stupid” questions and share sensitive information with their peers.

I’m not sure that it’s possible to create the same environment of trust when an unseen remote audience joins the local participants. Believing that everyone will adhere to a set of ground rules is risky enough when everyone who agrees is in the same room as you. To sustain the same trust when an invisible remote audience is added is, I think, a significant stretch for many people. If I’m right, the end result of opening up a conference to a remote audience may be a reversion to the more common environment of most conferences today, where asking a question may be more about defining status than a simple request to learn or understand something new.

Do you think that hybrid events can be designed so that they are still safe places for people to ask questions and share around sensitive issues? Or do you think I’m over-blowing the whole issue?