Sunday, 11 September 2011

Event Camp Europe

Went along to Event Camp Europe at Down Hall on Friday, it was billed as an experiment - an opportunity to look under the hood of a hybrid event. The content was provided by ten or so presenters talking about innovations within the event world, everything from gamification to unconferencing.

There were three audiences; face-to-face, pods, and virtual.

The face-to-face audience was made up of about 40 people, there were four remote pods (Croydon, Sweden, Poland & Belgium) each with between 5-10 people in a room and a virtual audience (i.e. people participating on their own via their computer) of between 100 - 200.

The pod audiences connected into the event and with each other using Google Hangout, in addition, individuals within the virtual audience formed their own pods using Google Hangout.

Twitter provided the 'back channel' for the virtual and pod audiences to communicate with the event.

At various points the pods were patched directly into the event but a rather long delay made talking to the pods difficult. What did work well was having a host at the event representing the remote audiences. This person shared the highlights of the twitter stream and during breaks ran interviews with speakers for the pod and virtual audiences; in short they ensured that the audiences beyond the room were given a tailored experience.

What became clear is how introducing additional audiences can diminish the face-to-face experience, too many distractions and superfluous activities. That said, a decent venue and budget would alleviate a lot of the problems. There is also the danger that having additional audiences acts as a straightjacket on the event - traditional presentations from the stage work well for the audience beyond the conference room, more deconstructed formats are less successful.

All in all it was interesting to take a closer look at this type of format, its limitations and possibilities. The day wasn't without its hiccups but that happens when you try new things.