Orchestrating an online event: when my performance hobbies catches up with a conference for work


That was the feeling I had when preparing and delivering my lightning talk for the Tridion Expert Summit 2021 for the Americas earlier this year.

Mainly, in preparation for the TXS event, we practiced in our streaming backend system, which is distinct from the digital asset management used to deliver pre-recorded videos, which is also distinct from the event front-end.

It took a moment for some of us presenters to clarify the difference between the off-stage and on-stage (or backend and frontend) elements of the setup.
I'm not a subject matter expert in this kind of streaming stack of sorts, but the concepts are immediately familiar if you might have some background with, say, content management and any kind of performance or event planning.

Here are some comparisons and observations across elements.

On stage vs offstage and the stage vs the venue

In the streaming backend we use, the host acts as a director of sorts to bring people virtually on and off stage, along with any videos or presentations they may have. The system can use materials from other backend systems such as a digital asset management system to share pre-recorded snippets.

Similar to an actual live event, the presenters might wait "off stage" to be ready to go live and the host brings them on when it's time. The host might also work with the actual venue or event platform, but the roles are and probably should be separate especially for larger events.

What and who is put on stage is then visible to people in the (virtual or online) conference or event.

From a content management view, editors or authors create and assemble a mix of elements that aren't visible to the outside World until published. In my favorite enterprise content management system, this distinction between content and how it appears is historically evident in the term Component Presentation. Here's the Component or content. And here is it Presented, to the World, dressed up by a template and placed on a page.

Live vs prepared and pre-recorded

As an international organization running a similar event across Europe, Asia, and the Americas, it's challenging to get the same presenters to present the same presentation in different time zones. Kudos to my colleagues who manage to manage this on top of their regular duties! They manage to create a mix of live chat, real-time presentations, and pre-recorded sessions in order to get relevant content from people who can't practically join us live.

In comparison, this isn't much different from "live," Real World events where music, video, or elements of the experience have been prepared ahead of time. Cue that sound effect. Play inspiring background music.  

"Back-in-my-day" side commentary: in college (university) my fellow club members and I would pre-record (hopefully) humorous skits or mock commercials, using a technology called VHS to play them during live events such as a talent or cultural fashion show. ;-)

From a content management view, there's a difference between the pre-arranged elements and how they come together in a published, possibly, dynamic end-user experience.

Example Setup

As an example setup, I've created a high-level diagram of how streaming and frontend setup might work together. The vendors and systems mentioned could include other sources or even alternatives. For example, the streaming backend might connect to Microsoft Teams, Facebook Live, or other "frontend" to the backend system. A smaller, more personal setup might use a desktop client like OBS.

Digital events and their back-end/front-end systems are much like their real-world counterparts. The back-end is the behind-the-curtains backstage for performers if you will. The online event is the venue. Source for images: Product School on Unsplash.

  Below the diagram, I added the real-world counterparts, where:
  • Back-end is a sort of backstage
  • The online event is, well, the venue.
Let me end this exploration of online/offline events with a personal observation, and perhaps lament, on how limited our time is and what we can gain and lose with the familiar question: "will there be a recording?"

Will there be a recording?

In a day of sharing, resharing, and commentary, people will often ask if there will be a recording, which is great when you can't attend during the live (and prerecorded but shown live) sessions. There is definitely a difference in energy between just how live something is, though.

In the Real World, there's a premium and excitement to attending live productions as in a play, dance performance, concernt, or sporting event. After this might be the live broadcast (or streaming in digital speak) which still has a bit of excitement especially if the audience can interface or otherwise react to your event. This is perhaps followed by pre-recorded programming shown at the same time in a region, to videos shown and seen at will.

There's something special about that live performance that isn't really about how real-time and live the event was, but about having been there, with that shared experience. But don't let me guilt you out of not listening to the recording. But consider taking a moment to appreciate the time and effort that went into your next event, in-person or online.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to share your thoughts below.

Some HTML allowed including links such as: <a href="link">link text</a>.