ArchiteX produced the 2021 CREW DC Awards, a hybrid event streaming a simulive broadcast to multiple in-person and virtual locations.
ArchiteX produced another hybrid, simu-live event this winter in partnership with CREW DC. Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) is an association for women in the commercial real estate industry. The DC chapter of CREW hosts an annual awards ceremony to recognize individuals and companies who excel in commercial real estate, focusing on people making positive changes on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. They had gone from hosting in-person galas to a completely virtual event in 2020 due to the pandemic. For 2021, they hoped to combine the two formats into a hybrid experience featuring an option to attend an in-person gathering or join networking events and watch the program virtually. We partnered with CREW DC to create this vision through a simulated live broadcast streamed to in-person sponsored watch parties and a virtual networking platform.
As with all events, we tackled the ‘stage’ first. The award ceremony needed to honor seven awardees, feature the current President and President Elect, and provide space for sponsorship highlights and special thanks. The producers at CREW DC crafted the run of show, drawing on their past events to create both scripted and off the cuff moments. We took this outline and designed the awards ceremony as a simu-live broadcast. For a variety of reasons listed below, we opted to pre-record each segment.
Primarily, recording interviews allowed us to edit together chosen soundbites with photos, graphics and music into a polished package for each award. It was important for the awardees and stakeholders to get to view and approve their messages ahead of time. Likewise, Filming the presidential hosts allowed us to have greater control over the broadcast through the use of a teleprompter and the ability to record multiple takes for accuracy.
From a budget standpoint, the labor cost of a video team for a day of simu-live recording and a video team for a day of live broadcast was roughly equivalent, and we were able to include a la carte services, such a makeup artist and teleprompter operator, within budget.
The film shoot also created a unique experience for the hosts and awardees, and allowed them to fully enjoy the later ceremony without being stuck ‘backstage.’
For the film shoot itself, CREW DC reserved the amenity spaces at a boutique apartment complex with views of the DC waterfront. After a site visit, we were able to identify the best shooting locations, make a plan for load in, and draft a shoot schedule that maximized our time with natural light in each space.
As part of our technical production management process, we worked closely with the CREWDC team to craft a schedule for the film shoot that would accommodate the technical needs of the production by minimizing full location moves for video equipment while working within the talent’s windows of availability and following all local and agreed upon COVID safety measures.
Creating a simu-live broadcast means pushing much of the day-of event work into earlier pre-production. After the shoot, our next priority was on video direction and editing, packaging together the raw footage with graphic overlays into the awards show narrative. We planned and executed a three-week editing timeline that allowed for three revisions. The first focused on content, with following iterations adding audio treatments and perfecting each awardee package. Each polished award package and sent to their respective awardee and their companies for approval.
With the broadcast created ahead of time, we were able to focus solely on the live experience in the week leading up to the ceremony. For in-person attendees, they could choose from three sponsored watch parties in buildings throughout the DC area. CREW DC staff and volunteers arranged for the in-person elements along with sponsors for Ubers, dessert and parting gifts. The Architex team provided technical guidance for video playback, assisting CREW DC staff in testing video, audio and internet streaming capabilities. Because the full program was simulated live, we were also able to provide a backup. Each location had a thumb drive with the full file in advance, ensuring that no part of the ceremony would be missed if anything unexpected occurred. The opportunity to have such a robust backup plan is a major perk of producing simu-live events.
For the virtual component of the event, we designed an experience that allowed for an hour of networking followed by viewing of the awards ceremony, using SpatialChat, a virtual event platform that provides customizable rooms for video, audio and text chatting. This platform was selected because of its ease of use, rich features, and customizability.
A big factor in the success of a virtual event is how user friendly the platform is - SpatialChat is simple and intuitive by design. ArchiteX supplemented the software’s accessibility by tailoring our support tactics, creating a how-to video along with a technical support room staffed by both SpatialChat technicians and our own technical staff.
The platform was sponsored by Eagle Bank. We created custom graphic designed backgrounds with their logo incorporated in both of the networking rooms for attendees.
The virtual attendees were able to create organic conversations by moving closer to and further away from other attendee’s video bubbles. The SpatialChat audio algorithm changes volume in direct relation to how far each bubble is from the others within the virtual space. This allows attendees to hear people their bubble is closest to most clearly, while fading down the volume of bubbles that are further away, simulating networking in a real conference space. This proprietary feature is one of the main reasons we chose SpatialChat over other similar virtual networking platforms.
As the main broadcast was beginning at the in-person watch parties, pre-recorded Voice of God announcements were played within the SpatialChat networking rooms, directing virtual attendees to the main stage. CREW DC members, both in-person and virtual, were able to watch, chat and react together in real time.
While our technical support staff was in SpatialChat directly helping attendees, our video production staff was in communication with the Watch Parties to coordinate the broadcast stream. We designed the simu-live awards show as a live broadcast as opposed to video playback. This is one of our recommended practices, since it allows for last minute changes, delays and announcements. We also added a layer of accessibility, overlaying open captioning provided by a live stenographer.
You might be wondering, what is open captioning? Open captioning is visually burned into the video itself, whereas closed captioning is able to be turned on and off by each end user independently within their video player.
Our video team simultaneously broadcast the simu-live awards ceremony to an online platform, IBM Media, for the three watch parties, and to the SpatialChat main stage. Throughout the broadcast, our producers stayed in contact with the CREW DC event producers to respond to any in-person needs and take live feedback.
How many screens is too many screens?
In the end, we produced a successful hybrid event in four spaces - three physical, one virtual - with no major hiccups on the day of the event due to successful planning, extensive pre-production work, and true partnership and engagement with event producers and stakeholders throughout the process.
Create a unique event experience for both in-person and virtual attendees
Ensure space for a switch to fully virtual programming if needed
Produce an in-person film shoot to capture live talent for simu-live broadcast
Produce a cohesive program along with individual awardee packages for a program with many stakeholders
Ensure digital platform accessibility for attendees and organizers
Support live event production in three simultaneous spaces
OUR BEST PRACTICES IN HYBRID EVENT WORK
Simu-live broadcasting allows for greater flexibility on the event date and robust back up plans
For live filming, create a detailed daily schedule informed by site visits and team consults
Build out a video editing production timeline with a set number of revisions
Plan for the ideal live event while still keeping a fully virtual option available if needed
Sponsorship highlights can be created for various elements of the program
Live event staff can and should engage with attendees in the virtual space for support
A communication plan for teams in different locations is vital
The broadcast streamed to all locations without interruption
~80% of virtual attendees spent more than one hour in the platform
The in-person watch parties continued the party well after the broadcast wrapped
“People were RAVING at [Watch Party 1]. Great job everyone.”
“Going to have to kick people out. A great success!”
“It was an absolute pleasure working with you and your team! I’ve heard nothing but good things about the SpatialChat networking feature and the broadcast looked great on my end. Thank you for helping us put on an amazing event!”
“Thank you so much to your entire team for all that you did to make the event such a success. It was an enjoyable experience working with you all, it could have not been a more seamless process.”
“Great event. No issues on our end. Streamed perfectly.”
For more information on CREW DC, see https://crewdc.org/