Expert Advice: Tommy Keown on Hybrid Events

Rejuvenate talked with seasoned faith-based events planner Tommy Keown, CMP, about the first hybrid event he planned and asked his advice for others looking to do the same. What was the first hybrid meeting you managed? The “Living Proof Live with Beth Moore” conference held in 2003. Why did you decide to add virtual elements to that meeting? We wanted to expand the reach of the ministry and make it possible for women who could not otherwise attend to have the experience of participating in a Beth Moore event. There are many technical implications to setting up a virtual registration and streaming of presentations. Was there concern about how to manage this? There was a great “buy-in” to doing this, but there were also lots of questions as to how we would be able to pull it off successfully. It was something we had never done before, but the team was willing to give it a try. Many organizations worry that providing a virtual registration will diminish the on-site attendance.  Did members of your planning team express some of this hesitation? There was definitely some concern that it would hurt the on-site attendance. We have tried not to promote the simulcast events in the immediate areas within driving distance of the other Living Proof Live events. We don’t discourage it; we just don’t put as much promotion into it in those locations. What was your on-site attendance prior to adding the virtual element and then later after you added it? We were averaging an attendance of about 5,000 to 6,000 women before adding the virtual element. The first year we added it, we had 34 churches participate [virtually] for an additional attendance of about 3,500 persons. The second year, the virtual attendance increased to 165 locations for an additional 35,000 participants. The on-site attendance has continued to increase every year. What technical process did you use to stream the meeting? The first few years we used a satellite dish for transmitting the event. We now use an Internet smooth stream in high-definition. Did you experience any technical difficulties while streaming, such as the signal going down? In just a few instances, the weather had an effect and we lost contact for a few minutes, but other than that, there have been no major problems. We did have a backup feed available. What sort of instruction do you provide attendees to help mitigate any user error? One of the things that has been helpful is that we provide online technical support for churches to know how to prepare and deliver the event without any problems. There is someone to walk them through the process and double check that everything is going to go smoothly. We also send out periodic newsletters with additional information that will assist in the technical aspects of the simulcast.  We also encourage churches to participate in multiple testing experiences—a trial run through—so that there will be no problems on the day of the event. What advice would you give to planners who coordinate a hybrid meeting for the first time? Make sure that you have a good, qualified, experienced technical team to deliver the event. This is not the time to use someone new and inexperienced.