This article by Regina McGee from Virtual Edge Institute is reprinted here with permission and originally appeared online here.
Why live stream from the exhibit hall? For the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE), there are many dividends but at the end of the day it’s all about building community and driving engagement, said Dana Freker Doody, vice president of corporate communications for The Expo Group, ASHE’s general service contractor. She has served as hybrid event strategist for ASHE since the group’s first hybrid annual meeting in 2013.
“ASHE is very close to its strategic objectives as an association,” Freker Doody said. “They see the hybrid format as a way to reach members who are not coming to the annual meeting, and they want to stream content that will keep that community close and position the association as a leader.”
Dana Freker Doody at the 2016 ASHE PDC Summit
But why stream from the show floor versus, say, the registration area or somewhere else at the meeting? Event organizers everywhere are looking for ways to break down the barrier between “learning is over here and the exhibition is over there. Bringing education to the trade show floor changes that and drives more member engagement,” Freker Doody said. And of course, exhibitors love it. They love it so much that booths near the association’s booth set up for streaming now sell for a premium.
The “ASHE Connect: Continuing the Conversation” booth is strategically located two-thirds down a brightly carpeted diagonal boulevard that is the show’s main aisle. Here 15-minute conversations with conference speakers are live streamed several times a day during the show. Freker Doody helps facilitate questions from the remote audience, with various ASHE staff and board members serving as discussion moderators. The booth area has seating for attendees. Speaker interviews are scheduled and posted so attendees on-site can plan ahead. In addition to this content, the association also live streams the meeting’s general session.
According to ASHE, in-person attendance at the annual event is more than 6,000, and the hybrid adds 8 percent more registrants, with both live and remote audiences increasing by small percentages since the hybrid program was introduced in 2013. The 53rd ASHE Annual Conference and Technical Exhibition will take place in July in Denver, and Freker Doody is looking forward to trying out something new: the production crew will be able to unplug the camera from the association’s booth and live stream at spots around the show floor.
“People online always want to see more of the show floor, they want to know if it’s busy, to see what’s new, so it will be great to have this option, and it may help drive in-person attendance because remote audiences will see what they’re missing,” she said. “Whenever you have cameras and lights on the show floor, it creates buzz and excitement.”
Here are her quick tips for making the most of hybrid events, especially when streaming from the show floor:
1. Remote audience viewers really appreciate being recognized by name when their questions are transmitted to the speaker or panel. “Great question from Phil in Philadelphia …” Also, for the ASHE remote audience, streaming content that is very how-to oriented is much more relevant than policy or theoretical discussion. Bottom line: know your remote audience and personalize interactions when possible.
2. Cord management is critical when you are moderating. Get a handle beforehand on how to deal with all the chords and connections you will have on the set when you are moderating a live stream session.
3. You may have to experiment with business models before finding one that works best. ASHE started out charging a fee for remote attendance, but now uses a sponsorship model.
4. Obviously, it’s not a good idea to trap attendees for a long period anywhere on the show floor. Streaming sessions that last about 15 minutes and are held periodically throughout show hours work well.
5. Social media is a great tool for building interest and remote attendance, but make sure you have great content links. Tweeting or texting a link to something that’s not of keen interest won’t deliver results.
For more, see “Get the Word Out: Increase Your Association’s Value Proposition and Reach with Digital Events,” a VEI session at Convening Leaders in Vancouver in January. Dana Freker Doody is one of several presenters offering tips and suggestions based on association case histories.