Richard chats to Phylip Morgan, tech entrepreneur and influencer and one of PCR Magazine’s Top 50 UK Executives, and Ben Harding, Director of Fresh Productions, the go-to events company for the tech industry, who provide everything you need in one place.
Richard, Phylip and Ben discuss what hybrid events are and how the IT industry can embrace them, the tech you need to run an online event and why customer service and engagement is even more important.
They also talk about what MSPs can do to support their customers during this tricky period and how to get more comfortable on camera. This episode was live-streamed, so there’s also a Q&A session where Phylip and Ben answered viewer questions during the interview.
Watch the Video of the Live-Streamed Interview
An Interview with Ben Harding and Phylip Morgan
Who are Phylip Morgan & Ben Harding?
Ben Harding is the Director of Fresh Events, the go-to events company for the tech industry, who provide everything you need in one place. Phylip Morgan will be familiar to long-time listeners of TubbTalk.
Phylip is a tech entrepreneur with a 30-year track record of business success and recognised by CRN as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in the UK Technology Sector, and by PCR Magazine as one of the Top 50 Executives in the UK.
Why IT Event Organisers Will Have to Embrace Hybrid Events
Phylip says that event organisers have to accept that social distancing is going to be a challenge for some time yet because we don’t know when a (COVID19) vaccine is going to be available.
Part of live events is that the attendees have to travel, and it’s impossible to social distance on a plane. It’s possible that there will continue to be travel restrictions, and that’s going to make live events harder.
MSPs want to take their businesses forward and they want to take advantage of the latest technology available to their business, so it’s going to be necessary to have hybrid events in order for them to do so.
Maybe if there’s an event in London, 100 people from the local area can attend, but for me, in deepest, darkest Wales, I’ll have to attend virtually, and I think that’s where hybrid events will become popular.
Ben adds that hybrid events give you flexibility to choose which one you attend, and whether you do it in-person or virtually, so you don’t end up with conference fatigue. While you can’t network with people face to face, you can use virtual lobbies to chat.
Keep up to date with the latest MSP events over on The 2020 List of Awesome Events for MSPs.
What a Good Virtual Event Looks Like
All events need good and careful planning, with goals to achieve, a set budget and a team to support it. All of those things are important for virtual events, but you also need to increase your engagement with the attendees.
To do that, make it as user-friendly as possible, and make it easy to go from presentation room and lobby, and it needs to be accessible on mobile as well as desktop. The main thing, though, is that things need to be measurable. Where did people go and what did they listen to? This allows you to create a buyer persona and market directly to them.
And it’s important to have a good chat function so people can talk to each other. We want to enhance the customer experience, because we’ve got so much tech at our disposal.
One of the ways that Fresh Events does this is to offer a virtual ‘swag bag’. At live events, you collect leaflets and brochures from stands, so they allow people to send the information directly to their inbox, and link it to each of the custom booths. And don’t forget, you’ll need a global integration so attendees can communicate in different languages.
What a Good Live Video Setup Looks Like
There’s a huge range of things to choose from, and you can spend as much or as little as you like on your equipment. But really, all you need is good, wired internet so it doesn’t lag and drop out, a high-quality webcam and decent audio. The most important thing is the lighting. As you go, you can customise things more and upgrade your tools.
You can live-stream your event to give real-time engagement, answer questions directly and make people feel valued. However, using pre-recorded video lets you edit and tidy up mistakes, add titles and make it look great. It’s also a great way to get you more confident with speaking on camera.
How People can Become More Comfortable on Camera
You’ve just got to do it and get used to it. Easier said than done, but you’ve got to start practicing and start small. The more you do, the better you get at it. You might feel embarrassed at first, but your audience will understand.
The second part of this is that while some people are great at MCing events in person, they may not do such a good job virtually. As we move to more hybrid events, organisers will look for good hosts who can facilitate conversation, and I think that’s a new role that will emerge.
For any MSPs or vendors listening to this, think about recruiting someone who’ll be good at doing this role virtually as well as in-person. It’s really important to give your customers a good experience, so use a professional presenter who’s used to doing this sort of thing, because it’s a totally different experience to putting someone on a stage and handing them a mic.
Live streamed Q&A
In a first for TubbTalk, we opened up the interview session to the live audience to ask their questions. We thought it would be good to share these too, so everyone can get the value from the answers Phylip and Ben gave. To watch the video in full, head over to How to do awesome Live Streams & Virtual Events on YouTube.
How can you network effectively at virtual events?
BH: There are three ways on our Fresh Productions platform. Firstly, there’s a general chat session which is accessible by all attendees. This shows you who’s at the event and allows you to send them messages.
Then, just as with live events, there are booth reps at each booth, and they have a chat facility too. Finally, there’s a networking lounge, which is outside of the exhibition. Here, you can work out which experts will be around at different times of the day, and book a slot to chat directly with them.
What would you like networking to look like at virtual events?
PM: Some things will look the same when it comes to hybrid events. Although we’ll be using the ‘Big Picture’ stuff such as our screen and monitors, but we’ll still have our mobile phones to hand too.
If I’m listening to a presenter on stage, I’d tweet out a comment or photo, and that can be done from home or the office too. Then you can say, “I’m watching this online now, and if you are too, get in touch. People will engage with you, and you can be a leader and network in exactly the same way as you would do in person.
What are lower thirds?
BH: Lower thirds is what you can see just above our name tags. It’s a video production thing, although I don’t know why it’s called that!
What software and equipment did you use to record this Interview?
BH: We’ve got a basic webcam and audio equipment, but we had Dennis in the studio using a high spec PC which is encoding everything and preventing lag where possible. Then, it’s all going out on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and so on.
What do you think of virtual backgrounds for zoom calls?
BH: When the opportunity is there and it’s the right time to use them, then it’s brilliant to use them. If you’re working from your dining room and the kitchen is behind you full of dirty dishes, it’s better to hide the mess to minimise distraction.
When you’re trying to increase the engagement online, you don’t want people being distracted by things behind them, you want them to listen to you. They’re great when they’re needed, but if you can create a real background with plants, uplighters or even candles, then the authentic version is better.
What is your setup, Richard?
RT: I’ve got a Blue Yeti microphone on an anti-shock stand arm, with a pop filter over the front to cut out noise. Then I’ve got a normal PC and a high spec one, an HD webcam from Logitech, and a monitor.
PM: I’ve got a stand-up, sit-down desk and keyboard. I’m using a Jabra Evolve 75 headset, which is Bluetooth and can be connected to a mobile phone and my PC at the same time. I’ve got an I7 Dell PC and a Logitech C920.
How can you monetise hybrid events?
PM: When it comes to a live event, people are heavily invested. They’ve put the time in their diary, they’ve had to travel, maybe get up early for a train. They’re invested financially, emotionally and physically. It’s a big investment for someone, even if they just do a ‘lunch and learn.’
Online, you don’t have that luxury. If they lose interest, they can switch off. So there are three elements to make a virtual or hybrid event work. First of all, share your agenda – who’s speaking and why should they attend? What are the benefits for them? And then deliver an awesome customer experience.
Once the event is over, your follow-up has to get feedback, to find out what you can help them with or give them further information about something they expressed an interest in. That’s where you’ll see the payback in terms of ROI, such as better engagement.
You’ll also have better engagement during the event, because you’re encouraging people to do that. And you’ll create FOMO during and after, because seeing people talk about someone great that they saw speak will make others feel that they missed out.
They may not transact with you now, but the long tail of that transaction is going to be extended. And if you do it well, an online event will be more profitable than an in-person event.
Have you seen any businesses where live streaming is particularly good for them and where they’re making wins?
BH: Anyone who hosts a conference in real life with over 50 attendees will find they have a global reach when they move online, and that’s going to grow their event. In turn, that’s going to grow their business.
It’s also about thinking differently about the possibilities. Alongside your keynote speakers, exhibitions and trade shows, you could host a job fair, and even allow people to apply for roles directly within the event platform. And the networking part of it helps too.
Do you see VR and AR coming into hybrid events in the future?
PM: We’re already there! We mentioned using green screen on Zoom calls earlier – that’s augmented reality. If you decide to have a background of the San Francisco Bridge instead of your office, then you’re using AR.
BH: Yes, but we need to be faster at creating AR and VR within online event platforms. For example, when we create a custom booth, the quicker you can do that the better. At the moment, it takes a while, but if we made a 360º virtual headset style perspective, that takes a lot longer.
They’re using the technology in the music industry to film live events in 360º, but they have special cameras and the operators stand on the stage beside the musicians. And they have a huge team to put all of the images together afterwards.
It comes down to time – the quicker we can design what we need and stitch it all together, such as with the custom booths, then it will be possible to deliver it. But I don’t think that’s too far away.
How can you model the sponsorship side of hybrid events? How can you market them and what will advertising look like in future?
PM: Things change all the time, in all kinds of industries. Some opportunities will no longer be possible at virtual events, such as the lanyards, but there are ways to create other monetised sources.
Organisers may have social advocates to talk about the event online, or a vendor may send a gift to someone and get them to do a reveal of what it is. I think we’re going to see a burst of creativity over the next couple of years as event organisers come up with new ways to monetise conferences.
One thing I’m certain of is that what the tech channel needs right now is vendors who are looking to take their businesses forward, and MSPs being more focused on their customers that they need to serve, and understanding what they want.
Customers are in two categories now – those who are really under pressure because of the impact of COVID19, who can’t grow their business and have been hit hard. That’s places like restaurants, pubs and bars. Then, we’ve got people whose businesses are online, or are B2B, and those companies are growing, which brings its own stresses and strains.
It’s a case of spotting the opportunities, and we need vendors to come up with creative solutions to fix the problem for business owners, and to present that as a ‘toolkit in a box’ for MSPs to implement for their customers.
How do we make sure live events are ‘live’ and a delay doesn’t cause a problem?
BH: The delay on live streams isn’t actually that long. This interview that we’re doing has a delay of about three to five seconds, which isn’t bad. If you want to pose a question that gets noticed during the Q&A session, that shouldn’t be a problem.
On the hybrid side, when there’s a physical venue you can livestream with the real stage and the people on it, with the screens behind, and put it on the platform, and you can ask questions as well. So even if an audience member is sitting at home, they can still get involved with the Q&A part of the panel sessions.
On a live video, do you prefer to stand up or sit down?
PM: I stand up. I’m a very animated person, and I flail my arms around and use body language to communicate. I do that on all live streams, so it’s easier to stand up. But as you can see, Ben is sitting down.
How do you know who people are when they’re using avatars? Not everyone has an avatar that looks like them.
PM: I can see the death of the avatar, because in a hybrid world, we’re going to want to be able to identify people. If my avatar wears a Viking hat, I’m not going to attend an in-person event in London wearing a Viking hat!
We’re all going to have to move to having professional photos done in order to move our businesses forward, and we’ll be using those headshots in place of the avatar images.
And another aspect of it is that people despise bots. I want to know I’m talking to Richard Tubb online, not his bot. I think there’ll be some pressure when the hybrid model comes to the fore, but people will become a lot more comfortable with putting their own headshot up rather than an avatar.
RT: What is the one question you think I should have asked you today that I didn’t?
PM: We could have talked about how we can help MSPs to grow their businesses. And I think the way we could do that is to help them understand that they can help their small business owner customers by introducing them to all the wonderful new technology available.
Everyone is using things like Teams and Zoom now, so why can’t an MSP owner, no matter where they’re based, organise a virtual event right now? Find an expert from your supply chain, or all of them, whether that’s your accountant or solicitor, and say, ‘I want to help my customers by putting on an online event.’ Then work with them to deliver it.
A lot of MSPs aren’t asking themselves what they can do now to help their customers, because they’re waiting for things to go back to normal. Don’t wait – think and come up with ideas for how you can help your customers in a new and dynamic way.
BH: I think a lot of people will have listened to our chat, or seen conferences being run virtually, and be wondering, ‘How much does this platform cost?’ But in relation to a physical event, the online platform is a lot cheaper, and it’s easier for your attendees. You don’t have venue or production costs, but you get a global reach. And that’s not as expensive as you think.
Connect with Ben and Phylip
You can find out more about Ben on LinkedIn, or go to: www.freshproductions.co.uk. Likewise, you can find Phylip Morgan on most platforms, so search for him on your preferred tool and he’s happy to answer questions.
Mentioned in this episode
- Jabra Evolve 75 UC Wireless Stereo On-Ear Headset – Unified Communications Optimised Headphones With Long-Lasting Battery – USB Bluetooth Adapter – Black
- Logitech C920 HD Pro Webcam for Amazon, Full HD 1080p/30fps Video Calling, Clear Stereo Audio, HD Light Correction, Works with Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, Hangouts, PC/Mac/Laptop/Macbook/Tablet - Black
- Blue Microphones Yeti Professional USB Microphone for Recording, Streaming, Podcasting, Broadcasting, Gaming, Voiceovers, and More, Multi-Pattern, Plug 'n Play on PC and Mac - Silver
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