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Hybrid Events: How a Livestream Becomes an “I Was There”-Conference

At Bertelsmann, people meet again: via a digital event platform, powered by Arvato SyncTank®.

Hybrid Events: Creating an “I Was There”-Feeling
Data Management
Customer Experience
Digital Transformation

At Tech & Data Week 2021, more than 900 Bertelsmann employees shared what is currently on their minds and what will drive them in the future. Although not everyone was there in person at the hybrid event, it almost felt like one - thanks to our Digital Event Platform.

Digital and hybrid events have now become established. The transfer of know-how can take place in this way, and usually more cost-effectively - after all, there are fewer travel expenses and logistical efforts. But especially for trade fairs and conferences, the hybrid version is usually not a full-fledged substitute for the physical version. The atmosphere is simply missing, as are personal experiences and acquaintances that are fondly remembered. Industry festivals like Online Marketing Rockstars or SXSW Festival would have nowhere near as much appeal if speakers streamed from their living rooms while someone moderated from a studio with a few guests - no matter the topic. At Tech & Data Week 2021, we managed to offer attendees everything that makes a good conference: entertainment, networking and education. How did we manage to put on a hybrid event with an "I was there" feeling - especially for those who were not there and participated via a device? From my point of view, the following things were done right.

Inspiring Events Need a Professional Setting

It is crucial: For Tech & Data Week 2021, a setting lived up to both the motto "The New Together" and the demands of a festival. On-site, many were delighted to meet in person finally (certainly after 2G-Plus) after a year and a half. Most of the more than 900 guests joined in via video stream, from Europe to the USA and Asia. They, too, were to get the feeling of being there and not just watching. The Main Stage, with its video wall and powerful visuals, was the central point and interaction area at the same time. It was not only the stage presentation that mattered but, above all, those who were on stage. Here, personalities were presented who carried away the audience with their manner, gestures, and voice: the fabulous Amiaz Habtu, known among others from the TV show "Die Höhle der Löwen", and our colleague Niki Kalkanova, Director Employer Branding & Talent Acquisition at Bertelsmann. Both interacted with the audience, creating dynamics and emotions. They deliberately involved the remote guests. Niki was available for questions, moderated the chat and surveys, took music requests, and motivated everyone to join the virtual workshop sessions after a presentation. Hardly anyone left the event at this potentially critical transition. DJ Cooper from Berlin provided the appropriate musical ambiance time and again.

So providing an authentic conference atmosphere was essential for success. It is clear that not every hybrid event has a budget to hire top presenters - but it is also not mandatory. There is undoubtedly someone in your company who is very good at moderating and would be happy to take on a challenge of this kind.

Content is King, Storytelling is Queen

To turn a hybrid event into a lasting highlight, the content is, of course, also important. Relevant topics must be selected to promote interaction and broaden horizons. This can only be achieved with a varied and high-quality presentation. You package the content in different formats, such as keynotes, panel discussions, and workshops. In any case, the presentations should avoid that remote participants sitting uninvolved in front of their screens and switching off mentally. Webinars pose this danger. To keep people's attention, Tech & Data Week 2021 repeatedly featured small elements where guests could get involved themselves - for example, by asking questions via chat or answering short surveys. In addition, the three days of the conference were structured in a meaningful way. Each day followed a different theme. Day one, the "Cross Divisional Day," was all about "getting into the groove" and learning more about new projects. The following "Community Day" was all about collaboration and the benefits and innovations an intensive exchange can bring in #NewWork. In moderated breakout sessions, participants dove deeper into their particular favorite topics. On the last day, the "Summit Day," there was the technical deep dive and the presentation of the related Tech & Data strategy at Bertelsmann.

This ensured that a permanently high and constant number of viewers were present for each session on all three days - even during the breaks — an award for DJ Cooper.

Hybrid Events Demand Technical Excellence

However, professional event planning is only half the battle. Technical expertise and powerful tools are also needed to make hybrid events an experience for everyone. We provided a digital event platform based on our API management solution Arvato SyncTank®; we offered a digital event platform. We had already implemented several similar customer projects exclusively for trade fairs. We now realize that a hybrid conference brings with it yet another set of requirements. Since guests here listen to presentations and visit digital booths and participate in discussions and workshops, they need much more information in advance. After all, they want to know precisely to what extent a session fits their interests and goals before they sign up for it. For us, this meant that the amount of content that had to be available on time and the effort to enter it into the platform was more significant than usual. In addition, the interface had to be adapted to the changed requirements. No problem at all - together with our colleagues at Bertelsmann, we took on this challenge and created an excellent portal. Guests could register on the platform, select and bookmark events in advance, participate via live stream and access the recorded streams and associated content afterward. The image and sound quality of the live stream were excellent everywhere. Everywhere: a colleague even tuned in on the ICE. Who would have expected that? Adaptive Bitrate Streaming makes it possible by automatically adapting the quality to the current connection rate.


In the end, every team did a fantastic job. In #NewTogether, the individual components have to harmonize with each other, requiring functioning interfaces to a wide variety of systems.

New Ways for Long-Term Relationships

Tech & Data Week 2021 fully achieved its goals. The event was hosted by the Bertelsmann Collaboration Platform (BCP), a web interface for Bertelsmann's internal tech and data community. The BCP has become much better known as a result of the conference. Access numbers have multiplied, and there were numerous new registrations. There is now also a technical basis for different events with our digital event platform. A large conference is an outstanding activity but ideally embedded in a - interaction-oriented - user journey. To ensure that the many new faces become regular users of the BCP, the communities can promptly offer their webinars and training sessions. The event platform maps all hybrid and purely digital formats. In this way, the Arvato SyncTank® supports the purpose of the Bertelsmann Collaboration Platform: to share knowledge permanently, develop topics sustainably, and improve together.

Arvato Systems Alive

The hybrid event platform with endless possibilities.

Written by

Jens Kretschmann
Senior User Experience Consultant