The National Genealogical Society (NGS) based in Arlington, Virginia, is always looking to add new and exciting elements to their Annual Family History Conference. After the 2013 conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, the discussion to offer live streaming began. With only 10% of the their membership attending the annual conferences, the general consensus from staff and board was that having a hybrid event would be a great offering. So it was decided that the #NGS2014GEN Annual Family History Conference, held in Richmond, Virginia, would be NGS’s first hybrid event!
The decision to add virtual elements to your conference is never an easy one.
The fear factor can be high! Relying heavily on technology to operate glitch-free can be intimidating and concerns for additional expenses pushing your already stretched budget can be daunting. Another common concern is that virtual streaming may decrease on-site participation, which reduces revenue in other areas such as hotel commission and sponsor participation.
Over the next few postings we will review steps on how to organize a hybrid event and partnering to ensure it is a success.
Determine your Goals
Planning a live meeting starts with goals. A hybrid event is no different. It just incorporates virtual elements into the live event. We knew we wanted to expand the services to draw in non-attending members. But, it was also a great way for prospective members to test drive our educational offerings, which aligned with NGS’s mission. NGS does not offer continuing education units (CEUs), but if your organization does, this would be a great way to expand the ability to earn credits.
How to choose what you stream?
If you are trying this out for the first time and you have multiple concurrent sessions, it is a great idea to select one or two tracks to offer virtually, assuming that you have on track per meeting room. The National Genealogical Society has 8-10 breakout sessions per track. There were also very well-known speakers on the program who have the star power to attract an expanded audience. So we went with streaming one track per day, Track One: Records and Research Techniques and Track Two: Virginia Resources and Migration Patterns, featuring our best and brightest speakers.
If CEUs can be obtained through the breakout sessions, it is important to make this education available to the virtual audience. Remember the more sessions streaming simultaneously, the higher the costs will be. Each room requires its own set of cameras and streaming equipment, plus operating staff. However, fees charged to the virtual audience can offset this cost. I would not recommend offering live streaming to non-attendees for free (unless your whole event is free). If the CEUs are mandatory for the industry or maintaining the certification gives them a leg up, the cost can be justified and attendees are willing to make the investment.
To be continued!