Hybrid events

This page is our recommendations/ideas for hybrid events (in-person plus online components). It may be out of place on scicomp.aalto.fi, but it’s the best place we have to put them right now. Unlike other recommendations, this page is not just for teaching but applies to any type of event.

Why hybrid?

  • Why do you want hybrid, as opposed to online or in-person? If you can’t clarify the purpose to yourself, it may be hard to put on a successful event.

    • In-person gives better chances to talk in small groups and among your friends, both during and after the event. (Is your in-person event disadvantaging introverts or less well connected people?)

    • Online allows anyone to participate with a lower threshold. If you do it right, you could allow anyone in the world to take part.

As a side note, for massive events, participants can get a full experience by having their own group chat to discuss the topics, separate from the event chats.

General considerations

  • Plan and test early, don’t assume things work unless you experience it yourself.

  • The first time (or few times), have a separate “director” who can manage the online part and tech, so the hosts focus on hosting.

  • Related to the above (possibly the same person), have someone to help interface with the audience and relay questions from them to you, answer basic questions, etc. This person should be able to interrupt you immediately for pressing questions. For the largest events, have two: one person answering questions directly, one selecting and queuing questions for the speakers.

  • Audio is the most important part and will most often go wrong. Make sure you use microphones well, don’t count on wide-area room mics, do an audio check days before and immediately before, ask audience if it is good, and make sure they tell you immediately if problems develop.early if things get worse.

  • Consider activities for during breaks for the people online. Yes, you need to be slow to give people a chance to go get their coffee, but also can you do something during breaks. Are there some ways to facilitate online↔in-person networking during breaks?

  • The meeting begins well before the scheduled time for random discussion, and ends well after scheduled time for post-meeting discussion. Don’t end the online discussion right after the meeting (this is an important lesson even for online meetings!).

  • For the reasons above, you need more staff than a single-faceted event. For each of registration, entertaining people during breaks, etc, you will need someone to do the same thing for the online people, and usually it would be better if you have someone focusing on each audience (at the same time working together to bring the them together).

  • What about after the event. If you have streamed it, you could also record it. Can you do this while maintaining privacy of all participants, so that this information is not lost and reuseable later? What follow-up communication and so on can you do? Start thinking of this early.

Feedback and interaction

One of the biggest advantage of online events is the combination of multiple communication channels, so that it is not just extroverts asking questions.

  • Have a clear way to get feedback (like presomo). Make it very explicit how this works. Have some icebreaker polls/questions.

  • Require in-person audience to ask questions via the feedback tool, not via voice. Distributing microphones is a lot of work and will often be forgotten, and also voice questions bias towards extroverts, and you will be able to better order your answers. Text questions also allow other people to answer and give help at the same time. If a question becomes a discussion, you could distribute microphones.

  • When feedback and questions are done well, they can be published along with the talk (make sure you announce this in advance). Especially the “document-based” method below is very good for this, since it can be fixed up after the course.

  • Make sure that the current presenter can always see the questions. A good recommendation is a separate computer with it large font next to your presentation computer.

  • To encourage people to use this, it is best to also screenshare/project it, so that the audience can see that it is in active use. This takes some screen space, but can be well worth it if it increases interaction.

  • If the text communication tool is the same as the rest of what the event uses, and has good treading support, then you get even more synergies.

There are different types of feedback tools:

  • Chat is simple, but linear and thus questions can easily get lost, and answers are hard to connect to questions. The advantage is it is usually built-in to meeting software.

  • feedback tools like Presemo (https://presemo.aalto.fi) allows basic questions, voting, and replies.

  • Documents (google docs, HackMD, etc) allow free-form text. The general idea is people write a free-form question or comment at the bottom of the document, and bullet points are used to give answers or replies. This requires some getting used to and has risk of trolling in extremely large events, but when this works, it works well. See the CodeRefinery HackMD mechanics for an example and advice.

Tech: Zoom

Zoom, and other meeting software, have many of the features that can be used for an easy, self-service hybrid event. We assume you know how to use Zoom (or equivalent) by yourself for an online meeting, and here we describe the changes for hybrid events.

The advantage of using normal meeting software is that you don’t need to learn a new tool and it is perfectly reasonable to do everything self-service.

  • Classrooms set up for hybrid work have camera inputs hooked up to the room cameras. There is a separate control panel for switching and rotating the cameras. Play around with the controls to learn how they work. Select the right input.

  • Zoom can equally share the screen like normal.

  • If you present from your own computer, you can run zoom on your computer to share screen, and use the room computer to share the camera view + sound. You can tell any other presenters to do the same.

  • Consider how you screenshare if it should be a two-way meeting (online audience should be visible to local audience):

    • Zoom in “Dual monitor mode” (find under general settings) actually produces two windows, one with the {current speaker or screenshare} and one with the gallery. If you have two monitors in the room, this makes a great experience: the entire gallery is visible and if someone uses zoom “raise hand”, it is apparent to everyone.

    • If you do the above, the current speaker can present from their desk via screenshare. This may be easier than transferring to the presentation computer.

    • Remember to share the collaborative notes, agenda, and/or chat by default, so that people are motivated to use that instead of speaking over each other.

  • Remember the benefits of being online. Providing slides and material in advance allows online (and in-person) people to use multiple channels at the same time, if it suits them.

Zoom audio in a classroom

As described above, audio is one of the most important considerations. In principle it is easy, but there are many details to consider.

  • The first is your goals: we have three categories, (presenter), (in-person audience), (online audience). Which of them should hear each other?

  • The main thing is to prevent audio feedback. To solve this, it is important to have one machine as the audio master in the room (it has both the microphone and speakers connected to it). This also prevents the presenter from having their audio go back into the room via the online meeting.

  • Presenter → online can be done with microphones connected to a computer, for example the classroom computer connected to the microphones or a bluetooth microphone.

  • In-person audience → online, in practice, needs to be done by passing around microphones. An wide-area microphone might work, or might not.

  • Online → in-person is a bit more interesting. You can connect the audio computer to the speakers in the room (or external speakers). You will need to position the speakers to avoid feedback into the microphones as much as possible, and adjust all the different volumes.

  • To adjust for different sound levels of the different groups, you might need someone continually monitor and go adjusting the volumes of the various microphones separately.

Overall, you could say that voice communications is the main point of in-person meetings. But it is also the hardest to scale to a large audience. Consider if you can get text feedback and interaction working well, and then perhaps you could skip audio - and perhaps the entire effort of a hybrid event?

Tech: dedicated A/V setup

We have put on an event with a dedicated A/V setup, with external microphones, etc. In the end, it also used Zoom to broadcast to the world, so was quite similar to the above. Perhaps this recommendation is obsolete and one should just use the above as a starting point?

TODO: more info

Tech: live streaming

For a largest events, meeting software doesn’t work: you have to manage all the participants, and any one participant can disrupt the event for everyone else. The “live streaming” model is much better in this case: it is a one-to-many broadcast, not many-to-many meeting. Live streaming is popular these days, and thus you can find many user-friendly but powerful tools.

For now, see CodeRefinery manuals on the MOOC strategy for a detailed description.

See also

Aalto University links: