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Hybrid Events, Content Bursts & New "Smart Stage" Technology: A Conversation with Hartmann Studios' Candice Boaz

Virtual Events 3/30/2021

Earlier this week, I had the chance to catch up with Candice Boaz at Hartmann Studios, one of Brightcove’s event production partners. I wanted to get Candice’s take on how virtual events will continue to evolve, and learn how the Hartmann Studios team is helping to move their clients one step closer to hybrid events.

Check out our conversation below to learn more.

NICK: Candice, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me. Why don’t we start by having you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and Hartmann Studios.

CANDICE: Great, thanks Nick. I’m Candice Boaz and I lead account development here at Hartmann Studios. We’ve been in the events industry for more than 35 years now and started producing events with significant and complex virtual components well before 2020, when our clients were forced to pivot their in-person events to virtual. We offer end-to-end production services, everything from strategy to execution, for companies like Oracle, Samsung, and The Home Depot. What I love most about the events industry is that there’s alway some sort of new creative challenge to tackle.

NICK: ...and let’s be honest, 2020 was full of challenges and many lessons learned! I’m always curious to hear what new things our partners are learning and the attendee engagement strategies that are working. Because at this point, we all know screen fatigue is real. How does Hartmann Studios tackle this?

CANDICE: You’re absolutely right, and I will tell you that we are always testing and learning and optimizing for this. What it really all boils down to is effective agenda planning and short bursts of information.

One of the benefits of in-person events is that you have a captive audience over a finite period of time. With a virtual event, this couldn't be further from the truth, and your audience can lose interest a lot sooner.

At Hartmann Studios, we approach agenda planning and building for virtual events as ‘total time.’ The idea is that you should be delivering short bursts of compelling content, and then give your audience time to internalize—or act as a group—on the information while away from their screens, before delivering the next burst of messaging.

For example, The Climate Reality Project’s global virtual event that Brightcove and Hartmann Studios collaborated on, we made the decision to turn their typical 3-day intensive in-person training and spread it out over the course of 9 days with a few hours of targeted video programming each day so we didn’t exhaust people through the process.

NICK: “Content bursts.” I love that. You are speaking my language. We’ve been hearing more and more requests from our customers who are already planning for hybrid events. What is Hartmann’s philosophy or approach when it comes to planning for these?

CANDICE: It’s a great question, and one we often get asked as well. At Hartmann Studios, we believe memorable and impactful events - virtual and hybrid - must always include 5 key elements:

1. Design a highly engaging experience for the audience and presenters

2. Create opportunities for people to make authentic, meaningful connections

3. Infuse personalized touches that make the audience feel like active participants

4. Develop a vision for repurposing content in a meaningful way to drive ROI beyond the event itself

5. Employ a solid measurement plan—virtual events provide rich analytics with some careful pre-planning

The biggest thing to remember for a hybrid event that is often overlooked is that you are working with two different audiences - people at home and people in the room - and the biggest challenge is to make them feel like they're one audience.

NICK: I know the Hartmann Studios team is working on some exciting new technology that will help bring hybrid events to fruition. What can you share with us?

CANDICE: Yes, absolutely. I think the feeling that comes from being face-to-face with a live audience is truly something special, and it drives our team to constantly raise the bar for engagement, entertainment, and connection in the virtual events and conferences we produce. We are thrilled to finally be able to share our latest Smart Stage technology, which … well, I think the video says it all!

NICK: It’s so exciting. And I think we're really starting to see that as expectations for these events get higher and higher, video is enabling limitless possibilities.

CANDICE: Yes, and high-quality, fail-safe video is essential and one of the many reasons we often recommend Brightcove to our clients. One of the most crucial aspects of any virtual event and conference is the technology that’s distributing our client’s content, which ultimately affects the production decisions we need to make. The foundational event technology has to integrate well with other technologies, and Brightcove does just that.

NICK: Candice, anything else to add on hybrid events or what’s happening over at Hartmann Studios?

CANDICE: One tip I will leave your readers with is this: virtual events should really begin before the scheduled programming. For example, what content can you share with registered attendees before the event that will get them excited? Better yet, how can you give people a head start to connect with each other? Try hosting a pre-program gathering where the host and perhaps one of the speakers can do an informal session to prep attendees on what to expect, how to get the most out of the event, and gather questions from attendees to inform some of your content. I think it’s our responsibility as event professionals and program producers to innovate and adapt to help foster authentic human connection. It’s really all about bringing people together and making them feel connected to others during a time when people need it most.

If you’re planning a virtual or hybrid event, we’d love to help. Get in touch with us here.

Nick Iuliano is Brightcove’s Senior Director of Content, helping to tell our best brand, product, customer, and partner stories across global marketing channels.