IN-PERSON: Oct 15-18VIRTUAL: Nov 5-8
Starting our third decade as the standard bearer for presentation best practices
This document will serve as a guide for all of our presenters and meeting hosts, both in person and virtual.
Leading a hybrid seminar is more similar in experience to in-person than it is virtual. To those who participated in 2020 and recall the intricacies of entering a virtual studio and being on a virtual television set, this will be an easier experience. That goes double for our meeting hosts who will have a much easier time bridging the gap between in-person and virtual when they can actually be in the room with the presenters.
The following make up our set of requirements and recommendations.
Presenter: Live in the ballroom, talking to the in-person audience and to the remote attendee audience. All presenters will be in person this year.
Meeting Host: Person in the ballroom, seated next to the AV tech team, connecting the remote audience to the presenter.
Broadcast Manager/Producer/AV Team: Each ballroom has a dedicated AV tech running the live stream and managing in-room AV.
In-Person Attendees: In the ballroom with the presenter.
Remote attendees/Virtual audience: Viewing the presentation in real time on the virtual meeting platform. Remote attendees are view only, they do not have a webcam or microphone to directly interact with the presenter or audience (the meeting host is capturing their questions and relaying them to the presenter)
Latency: This is the delay from live (when the presenter says something) to when it is processed and seen on the live stream. Plan for a 10-second delay, which has implications for presenters asking for immediate input from the remote attendees.
Lavalier: This is the small “lapel” microphone (vs. larger handheld microphone).
On-demand replay: Every session is recorded and available on the virtual meeting platform for registered conference attendees to watch and rewatch. Recordings should be available within an hour of each session’s conclusion and will be available for six months after the event.
With all live seminars, your words, your thoughts, your ideas, and your actions will all serve to create two experiences at once (three if you include on-demand viewing post-conference). The hope is that you can focus mostly on those things, while also keeping in mind the things you can do to facilitate the hybrid environment.
In other words, if you are brilliant, both audiences will prosper. There is little that you can do to mess up brilliance. And your mere acknowledgment that you are aware of the two audiences will be appreciated by all.
Meanwhile, the role of the meeting host does not have the same dual nature: you are there to accommodate the virtual audience. Their needs are your primary concern. You will interact plenty with the presenter, and if in context, you can certainly converse with members of the in-person audience. But you do it all to create a better experience for members of the virtual audience.
Unlike with a virtual-only event, presenters and meeting hosts do not need to log in to anything, install anything, or be running anything additional. Presenters show up, connect their computers, and present. Meeting hosts show up, log into the meeting platform with a provided computer, and monitor the chat.
Every presenter will need to be fitted for a microphone — typically a lavalier mic for seminar leaders and either a lav or a handheld mic for keynote speakers and others presenting in Conference Central. Your virtual audience will hear you through your microphone. If your session is a cozy discussion with five people, you will still need to have a lav. In-room volume can be adjusted separately, so if you are before a small group and you would prefer not to be amplified, you can reduce or eliminate it. But as long as you have a remote audience, you must wear a lav.
Meeting hosts will also be mic’d—you will have a table-top microphone at your station at all times.
The rest of the technical requirements for presenters are standard operating procedure:
We recommend that presenters who will be demonstrating software (e.g. showing the PowerPoint interface) use dark backgrounds and light text whenever possible. (Microsoft offers Black and Dark Gray Office Themes.) This enhances the viewing experience and is easier for our cameras to adjust lighting.
Each meeting room has three pre-positioned cameras to capture you as you present. There will be marks on the floor indicating the areas of the room in which you will be visible.
It would not be a terrible thing if you walked outside that boundary if there was context for it (wanting to approach a member of your audience, making a point of going to the corner of a room, or one of countless other scenarios). Just do it quickly and perhaps describe out loud where you are going and why. In general, you will spend nearly all of your time within this boundary and there is plenty of room within it to move around.
Rules of thumb:
Finally, we will be using stage lights this year to better illuminate you. You will have a bit of light in your eyes, emanating from the back of the room.
Keynotes and afternoon general sessions, all taking place in Conference Central, will have a generally looser set of these same guidelines: boundaries to move around will be a bit larger and camera angles will be more open. We won’t know where the cameras will be set until the week before, but our priority will be to create a natural space for keynote speakers to do their thing.
The livestream begins online five minutes before the session starts. Presenters need to have their computers set up and microphones tested and ready before this five-minute mark. Here is the timeline for seminars:
Ten minutes prior: Connect computer video and audio, set up lavalier mic, test all with the AV team, become familiar with the camera boundaries, communicate any requests to the AV team.
Five minutes prior: AV team will start the livestream countdown and let you know the countdown is live. In this time before the seminar formally begins, you can chat with your in-person audience, or continue to prepare. During that time the virtual audience will see a countdown timer (in breakout seminars) or will be hearing from our virtual MC (before keynotes).
Thirty seconds prior: The meeting host will get your attention and make sure you are ready.
Go time: The meeting host will cue you when you are live on the stream. It is not essential that you begin at that very moment; we don’t want to be so slick as to feel like we are on network television. But obviously, you do not want you starting early and you will want to begin soon after your cue, because we are sticklers for ending on time. We need a punctual wrap-up for our virtual audience and we would like you to take no more than a minute or two to button up in the room, because it is likely that someone will be coming in right after you with the same requirement to be ready at T-minus five.
Keynote speakers need to create a conclusion for their virtual audiences, and if they want to stay and visit with anyone onsite afterward, that will be no problem, as there will not be anyone coming into Conference Central to present immediately afterward.
The more that the meeting host and presenter can work as a team, the better. If their interactions are natural, contextual, and genuine, audience members from both environments will appreciate it. If a presenter can anticipate a reaction and, say, ask the meeting host if virtual folks are sharing their own experiences about something, that is a gold-standard hybrid moment. In general, the more that the two act as a team, the better the experience is for everyone.
We have been suggesting to in-person attendees that they are also members of the virtual audience and some are likely to connect to the platform while attending a seminar. It will be vital that they have their device volume completely off or else the 10-second latency gap will make everyone crazy. There is a nearly 100% chance that meeting hosts will need to be ready to remind in-room attendees to manage their sound.
Q&A jumps in importance for a hybrid learning event, as it is the only opportunity for virtual audience members to interact with the presenter. This increases the importance of the meeting host’s role. While there will be microphones to pick up ambient noise, it should never be assumed that the virtual audience can hear questions from the in-person audience. It is more vital than ever for presenters to repeat questions, and if they forget, then that responsibility falls to the meeting hosts. Even if they have to interrupt the presenter.
Ideally, the meeting host is compiling questions throughout the session and will be ready to offer them when the presenter asks for questions. If a presenter asks for input about something that they just showed or discussed, they should start with questions from the room first. That way, the latency gap can be better managed: while those in the room are asking questions, they can ask theirs and the host can see it in time to queue it up.
The meeting host’s microphone is for the virtual audience; it is not amplified into the room. So when the presenter asks for questions from the virtual audience, it is best for the meeting host to speak prominently so everyone in the room can hear. In the alternative, the presenter should repeat those questions coming from the host before answering. In Conference Central, where it might be difficult for the meeting host to project to the entire room, questions need to be repeated on microphone so those in the room can hear it. Rick Altman, conference host, usually assumes that responsibility during final Q&A.
Your virtual audience will be watching a mix of you and your screen. Our production team will be choosing camera angles optimized for the room and will maximize effectiveness for the virtual experience. At any point in which producers see the focus narrowing to the screen, they could use their judgment to switch to a dedicated image of your screen. Just like a television broadcast, the producers will switch views as they see fit.
We will be setting all presenter tables audience left this year and asking presenters to stand audience left whenever they want to interact closely with the screen. We ask this of you so that your interaction with the screen will seem natural to both audiences:
Two other points to keep in mind that will smooth your screen interactions:
If you have any questions at all, you can either ask them in our private Slack channel or directly to us here.