Understanding Digital and Hybrid Events

How Are they organized and when and where do they occur?
Jeff Loether, ISHC
How two or more physical meeting spaces are arranged and interconnect can take several different structures, also known as event topologies. It is important to consider the goals and needs of each meeting to understand what types and scale of technologies, both physical and digital, will be required to achieve the desired outcomes.

Point-to-Point topology is the simplest arrangement of communication for digital and hybrid events. There are two “points” that are interconnected, typically by a unified communications and collaboration (UCC) platform via the internet but other possibilities include telephone lines or video teleconference circuits. Each end of this link can have one or more people, who are fully enabled to see, hear, talk, and share content with each other.

Star topology is where more than two points (also referred to as “hubs”) are interconnected. Each of the points can have one or more people participating, all of whom can see, hear, talk, and share content with any or all of the other participants. Sometimes one or more of the points will lead the presentation.

Hub-and-Spoke topology represents an arrangement where one of the points is the primary session or “main event” and all of the other interconnected sites are remote audiences. The main hub may be set up like a television studio, complete with professional backdrops, furnishings, lighting, and even a studio audience. Often, the remote audiences are visible on large displays in the main hub studio, but typically those remote audiences cannot see each other. All eyes are on the main stage.

Another way to appreciate the development of meeting technology is to consider two of the most
central aspects of collaboration: when and where it occurs. These two factors can intersect in several ways, and today there are examples of three distinct scenarios, often referred to as “digital events”:
  • Here & Now (Synchronous) is the most intuitive type of collaboration, and represents the most traditional way of meeting, also known as analog, face-to-face, or in-person meetings.
  • There & Now (Hybrid) describes a the virtual meetings currently taking place on Zoom, WebEx, Teams, and other platforms. It also describes in-person events that include remote attendees using social media or dedicated event platforms that allow them to share comments and ask questions of speakers via in-room displays.
  • There & Then (Asynchronous) describes video on demand and recorded webinars. To accommodate demand for this collaboration model, in-person and hybrid meetings must have the technology needed to capture event presentations and interactions and make them available for future (THEN) reference and experience.
It should be noted that each of these models has its plusses and minuses in terms of the user’s ability to collaborate and feel involved in the meeting. But the big takeaway is that at least for the foreseeable future, people will want choices.


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