TCSW 2021: the year of reconnection didn’t just happen overnight — a lot of thought, preparation, and last-minute solutions went into the week.
Whether you’re looking to host your own hybrid event, or just curious what all went into it, explore a behind-the-scenes take here.
Why we decided to go hybrid
Gearing up for another year of uncertainty, we were prepared to go virtual from the start, said BETA and TCSW Interim Executive Director Kelly Schultze.
Making the call to go hybrid early meant we had some flexibility, too. “The beauty of hybrid for planning purposes, is that it doesn’t matter how hybrid it is,” Benjamin Van Sistine, Production Lead for TCSW and Director of Experiential Design at Versus Experiential, said.
Whether we could have 10 people in a room or 1,000, the TCSW team was prepared to broadcast mainstage events so people around the world could tune in.
“We merged all of the efforts from 2019 and 2020,” Van Sistine said of the best practices pulled from both the last completely in-person event and the last completely virtual event. “We took from both and merged to create something new.”
The logic for going hybrid was flexibility, but going forward, it’ll be accessibility, Van Sistine said. The ongoing value that comes from building out the Resource Library and providing ongoing access to content is something TCSW wants to continue to do for the community.
What it takes
Being completely candid, a hybrid event is significantly more work. “You’re catering to two audiences,” Schultze said of working with both virtual and in-person speakers and attendees.
Advocating for both audiences means training speakers to make sure they keep the microphone near so the online audience can hear; ensuring the in-person audience is sitting in the front of the room so they’re in the shot; and staying on schedule.
“Having a tolerance for getting off schedule isn’t fair to the online audience,” Van Sistine said of keeping everything on time. While those attending in person may not mind the delay while they have a conversation or grab a snack, those at home would just be sitting in front of the computer waiting.
Being mindful of COVID-19 protocols included an extra lift as well — checking people in, spacing out in-person attendees, and requiring masks were all measures we took throughout the week to keep everyone safe.
Equipment-wise, there’s different levels of production for hybrid events. Versus Experiential went with an 8-person team, studio quality production cameras, a three-camera shoot, and both an upstream and downstream key, so that graphics, names of speakers, and sponsors could show up throughout.
“Having multiple options and graphic overlays took it to the next level,” Van Sistine said of the production process at TCSW 2021. “It looks better, sounds better, and looks more dynamic and polished.”
Things we didn’t realize
With any first-time effort, there will be bumps in the road.
“The hybrid event really added moving parts,” Van Sistine said. Things like reminding speakers to address both in-person and virtual audiences, and getting off-schedule, were bound to happen and the TCSW team learned from it.
Another thing the team learned is that good, stable internet access is also an absolute must. “We tested for this, but there are always things you can’t control,” he said.
Improving for next year
Going forward, TCSW will have hybrid options, both Schultze and Van Sistine said.
“Our intention going forward is that the future of TCSW is hybrid,” he said. The ongoing value of evergreen content on the Resource Library, along with the ability to tune into thought leadership from anywhere, is something TCSW wants to continue providing.
Being hybrid also expands the mission of the Fly-In Program — showcasing the city to attract talent. While not the same as an in-person experience, people can engage with the content virtually, see thought leadership, and get a sneak peek of the scene to encourage them to travel here the next year.
This year’s livestream efforts were made possible by Target Accelerators, who chose to support a hybrid TCSW to “democratize access to knowledge.”
Looking forward, the plans for TCSW 2022 include having the community be more involved in session topics and selection of events, and focusing on quality over quantity.
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About Target Accelerators:
Target Accelerators is currently accepting applications for Target Forward Founders — a program for early-stage, under-resourced founders — and Takeoff Beauty, a program focused on beauty products ready for mass retail.
Apply by November 14th at 11:59pm CT!