How do virtual conferences work? Crash course for reschedulers in the face of Covid-19

Live communication draws attention to the stage show or exhibit. A considerable part of the emotions, however, is deeply rooted in the experience of one's own interaction with the others in the room. The other, that can be the performer on stage as well as the other participant. The teambits toolbox for interactive participant participation is therefore much more important in hybrid and virtual events than in face-to-face events. How do you create the special experience of personal encounters, when you don't meet each other in person anymore? Is it because #Coronavirus and #Covid-19 forces everyone to stay at home? All planners are now confronted with many questions. Conceptually and above all technically.

Smaller things can be done as web conferences. Starting at about 50 participants, video live streaming is a likely option. In both cases, the live feeling stands and falls with the opportunities for interaction offered to the participant. Web conference solutions usually offer a chat. Live streaming usually comes without a return channel. teambits provides the decisive design tools for both variants.

Web conferences

Web conferencing works more for small audiences. Everybody knows meetings via Skype, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, WebEx, Adobe Connect, vitero and many others. The glass ceiling is the maximum possible number of participants. For the staging, it has to be clarified whether the participants should be able to see the other participants bidirectionally and, in some cases, hear them. This is because web conferences become bi-directional difficult if there are more than 10 participants.

Video and Livestreaming

Even before Corona there were a few events without an audience. For example, in the pharmaceutical sector or in corporate events of highly decentralized companies, which are aimed at their managers or staff in the respective locations. The location now only serves as a studio. The stage events are rather classical: key notes, lectures, talks or panel discussions. The audience is somewhere in the world. On location, you usually need two cameras, a mobile picture control room and a streaming unit that encodes the video signal and sends it to a streaming server. The participant receives a link to the player to watch the stream.

Web conferences and live streaming can also be combined to a limited extent. The obvious problem with web conferences is the picture and sound quality. Therefore, the camera technology and the picture direction are of particular importance. The video control room merges the video signal of the slide presentation with the available camera images in order to provide the viewer with dynamics. Alternatively, it is possible to show the slide presentation in the player parallel to the streamed image of the speaker. More about this later.

Interactivity

The challenge of both virtual and hybrid events is to keep the remotely connected audience on the line. If you're sitting on location at a live event, you can't get away that easily. When bored, the participant looks forward to the break or has a whispered conversation with the man or woman next to him. Great networking, but dangerous when it comes to droplet infection. With virtual events, on the other hand, the attention of the audience must be constantly regained. As with television, the participant can switch between the two. This is one reason why the phenomenon of "online moderation" has been around since the advent of online conferences in the early 2000s.

Q&A, collaboration, chat, social wall

teambits offers the most extensive possibilities on the market for moderation and staged interactivity. With teambits, the moderator integrates the audience into the active events on the live stage. For instance, the moderator addresses the questions of a single viewer live, but always retains control over the content. Since the dialogue with the audience is not conducted via the hall microphone, the number and quality of the spoken contributions from the audience is considerably better.

Alternatively, the moderator involves the viewer in a content-related work process in which the participant must describe problems, formulate solutions and show preferences. In other words, digital moderation. In order to make the experience of a personal meeting in a whispered conversation possible, teambits also offers a number of different chat functions. The "Social Module" contains the most far-reaching functions. Participants can choose between a 1:1 chat or on the "Social Wall" to post, comment and link posts and comments. The upload of pictures is also possible

Video team and technology on site

The video team for a livestream usually consists of at least one person who operates the cameras and someone who is responsible for cutting the video signals and sound live and sending them to the server. The internet bandwidth required for this on site depends on the quality of the transmission. If the venue does not provide it of its own accord, an LTE modem with channel bundling is typically used.

Low threshold access for subscribers

Participants in traditional web conferences use teambits parallel to the video conference window. Either in another browser window or parallel on their smartphone. If several people come together in a meeting room to watch the transmission together, the participants typically use their own smartphones, tablets or notebooks to work together just like the participants on site.

An alternative to the parallel opening of player and interaction surface is the complete embedding of the streaming player into the teambits interaction surface. In this case participants only use the teambits WebApp link. The stream is then displayed there. An advantage: This link is not only easily accessible, but also better protectable. For example, if the exclusivity or non-publicity of the event should be protected by participation restrictions, passwords and the other similar measures.

In this case, teambits takes over the video signal via RTMP protocol at the streaming server in the teambits cloud. If the video signal is already provided directly as a video stream via HLS, we can also integrate it into our event app. The bandwidth required by the participant then depends strongly on the desired quality and resolution. Between 1MBit/s and 3Mbit/s should be estimated per participant.

Live events and virtual events are complementary

We do not claim that watching a live stream or participating in a web conference could replace a live event. But there is room for maneuver. Live communication draws attention to the stage show or exhibit. Nevertheless, a considerable part of the emotions is deeply rooted in the experience of one's own interaction with the others in the room. Interactions made possible by teambits open up the scope for planners to enable live communication experiences in virtual space. Tools such as teambits, with which interaction can be established, are therefore much more important in hybrid and virtual events than in face-to-face events.