A Global Hybrid Event: Together Against Hunger
ArchiteX produces Together Against Hunger, a coalition-building hybrid event focused on fighting hunger worldwide.
Action Against Hunger held their first coalition-building hybrid event this fall at The REACH at the Kennedy Center. The event brought together activists, philanthropists, and policy makers from around the globe for the purpose of reevaluating the fight against hunger. It included special film screenings and Q&As, expert panel discussions, and high-profile interviews for both online and in-person audiences. ArchiteX designed the technical aspects of the event to bring the in-person and global virtual audience together with live streaming, live polling, and networking opportunities.
COST-SAVING MEASURES & BEST PRACTICES IN GLOBAL HYBRID EVENT PRODUCTION
Design utilizing the existing infrastructure of the space as much as possible
Send out RFPs to compare quality and costs between vendors and select the best fit
Maintain production management continuity from the beginning of pre-production through the execution of the event
Analyze how the same content can be conveyed to various attendee groups to save money, such as on-demand options versus live streaming content
Use budget wisely to plan for pandemic precautions, such as adding the capability for virtual speakers and pre-recording select important messages from keynote speakers
Utilize AI translation capabilities to provide translation and captioning
Select an audience interactivity tool that can bring together virtual and in-person audiences
Plan and budget for continuing the momentum of the event after it ends through deliverables like still photography and a post-event highlight reel during the pre-production process
As always, we began with technical design. The Action Against Hunger team designed a program consisting of high profile speakers and panels and concurrent, interactive sessions in multiple spaces.
First, we determined exactly what technical elements and labor were available and included with the space. Then we worked with the Action Against Hunger team to sculpt their program desires, and from there worked on detailing out what infrastructure needed to be supplemented.
We opted to utilize the in-house audio and lighting system while integrating additional video and live streaming into the space, integrating the hybrid component and allowing for virtual broadcast and remote speakers.
We created an RFP detailing the equipment and labor needs to create a main stage program with video and graphics playback, camera shots, and a livestream broadcast for a virtual audience.
We partnered with CVW Event Productions to provide the supplemental gear and specialists needed and worked with the Action Against Hunger team to determine what additions were “nice to haves” versus “need to haves” within their budget for this event. Throughout the process we found areas to cut costs in various places - for example, we reduced the live streaming component to only one space instead of two by making feature film viewing sessions available for on-demand viewing virtually for the remote audience, instead of building out the equipment to live-stream that content out from the in-person viewing room. The savings from that budget cut allowed us to increase production in other areas, such as adding the capability for remote speakers to present virtually to the mainstage as a pandemic precaution.
In addition to equipment lists and schedules, we also drafted diagrams of each space. Throughout pre-production all the varying information spread out over many documents and links was all organized into our production portal. Moving from digital to paper for the implementation, we distributed that information to all team members. This organization and information dissemination throughout the process set up all teams and individuals for success before and during the event.
We worked hand in hand with the Action Against Hunger team to create the look of the event. We created graphics for the broadcast, virtual platform, and app, integrating photos and the brand identity from Action Against Hunger to create a cohesive visual identity for the event on screen.
Nathan Russell works as the in-house graphic designer for ArchiteX and designed the visual identity for the Together Against Hunger event. He is also a skilled professional photographer and when both of those skills are needed, we always recommend bringing him on to capture the events that he designs both because of his professional skill and because of the benefit of having the graphic designer onsite to handle onsite changes as needed. More than once Nathan completed quick edits reflecting real-time changes.
Credit: Nathan Russell, graphic designer, & photographer.
The desire for motion graphics was a result of analyzing the event space and seeing its capabilities. The Skylight Pavilion is a beautiful, naturally lit gathering space that we utilized as a space for breaks, networking, and meals throughout the event. In order to bring the themes of the event into this space, we designed projected motion graphics for the wall that would bring in meaningful quotes about world hunger, curated by the Action Against Hunger team.
We also worked with the Action Against Hunger team to create some of the event content, such as the opening sizzle reel. We went through archives of footage and many revisions to get the tone, voice, and message desired, creating a strong opening video for the event.
We also completed a series of remote pre-recordings of speakers that would either not be able to attend in person. This ended up being invaluable when speakers were sidelined with COVID or travel complications and we were able to play their pre-recorded content in their stead.
As a global humanitarian organization, it was paramount that this event be accessible to stakeholders, volunteers, and other attendees around the world. With offices in affected areas around the world, careful language selection was needed. French, English, and Spanish were chosen as the main languages for the program. Live translation and captioning can quickly increase a budget, especially with two days of continuous programming.
Our solution to increase accessibility without ballooning the budget was to utilize CleverCast, a video player with AI captioning, for broadcasting. At an AI price tag it saved thousands that might have been spent on live stenographers and real-time translators. Viewership spanned across 33 countries throughout the event, as seen in the data map below.
How do we bring the live audience and the virtual audience together?
Audience interactivity is a crucial component for events like these that focus on policy making and connections. Connecting the in-person and virtual audience for any hybrid event is a challenge. We bridged the gap between attendees at the Kennedy Center and those around the world via live polling. Mentimeter, which has been widely used in school settings worldwide throughout the pandemic, provides a customizable platform for a wide variety of polling options. The Action Against Hunger team created polls using various response formats including multiple choice, ranked voting, and custom write-ins. We visualized the results as graphs, scales, and word clouds, all updating in real time as votes came in from both sets of audiences simultaneously.
Making sure every audience member had access to the live polling was paramount for its success. To that end, we provided multiple ways to access the live polls: an entered code on Menti.com, a direct link distributed digitally, and a custom-created QR code. This variety allowed for maximum audience participation. The polls were shown in real-time on both the in-person screens and the broadcast, and time was given to allow both audiences to answer the polls as the results changed on screen, reflecting the votes coming in live.
Selecting and Building a Hybrid Platform
Another constant challenge for hybrid events is selecting the right platform for the event’s needs, size and budget. This event specifically required a platform where we could embed the custom video player to supporting our AI multi-language captioning solution, and we decided to use MeetMaps. We were able to customize a browser-based platform for virtual attendees as well as an app-based platform for in-person attendees, which both allowed attendees to join sessions, chat directly with each other, and view speaker and sponsor profiles. We worked alongside the event planning team, Freya, to build out the platform and register attendees.
How do you support both the in-person and virtual audience when inevitable questions and technical difficulties arise? Our solution was to divide and conquer, relying on the event planning team’s partnership with Sin Brand ambassadors for in-person audience management in coordination with the Kennedy Center ushers, while the ArchiteX team staffed virtual tech support for virtual attendees. This proved its worth time and again, especially when a virtual attendee, a man from Uganda, became a new volunteer for the organization by chatting with the virtual help desk.
ArchiteX provided production management and stage management to coordinate the in-house technical team, the supplemental video team, the event management team, audience services, catering, talent, and Action Against Hunger leadership. In addition to a sitewide production manager and a technical director, we had a stage management team in both primary spaces along with our photographer/graphics designer, a professional film team, and the virtual support team providing platform management and technical support for virtual attendees.
…What about COVID?
From the very beginning, we discussed what an event plan would look like in a scenario where the event was taken all virtual. We completed “plan B” budgets and identified key decision deadlines. The event proceeded as planned, though not untouched by the pandemic. Multiple speakers came down with Covid before the event and had to be pulled from the program, which necessitated adaptation for some sessions. We had pre-recorded some sections of the program as a just in-case measure, and were able to use those pre-records to replace some of the speakers who could no longer attend in person.
One of the main goals for this event was to create momentum that continues long after the event ends. While content is the main driver for this, we can help keep that momentum going with post-event deliverables that remind the audience of the key themes of the event and their experiences in the moment. Going into the event, we knew one such deliverable would be a highlight reel. To that end, we provided a videography team to capture footage of the space, the audience, and candid moments with speakers backstage that we could combine with the recorded and broadcasted content to capture and convey the spirit of the event. Planning to capture this imagery and creating an editing timeline was a key pre-production component that served the purpose of the event to reboot the fight against hunger.
You can watch that highlight reel here:
“ I was massively impressed your entire team and so, so pleased with the final product. It was nothing but a pleasure to work with you and we would absolutely do so again as well as recommend you to others.”
- Actions Against Hunger staff member
“Both video and audio very clear. Joining from Kenya. This is great by ACF!”
- Virtual Attendee
“Tupac Shakur said "They got money for wars but can't feed the poor" in his song "Keep Ya Head Up" in 1993 which is still true today that's why we have to come all together to end hunger.”
For more information on Action Against Hunger, see Actions Against Hunger.
For more information on The REACH at the Kennedy Center, visit the Kennedy Center website.