When part of your audience is in-person, and part of them are remote, how do you engage everyone? And what if one of the devices involved is Microsoft’s Surface Hub?
The first question isn’t a new one for those of us who’ve been in the virtual events business as long as we have. The latter, however, is only as old as the Surface Hub, and frankly, there are some new things to think about.
To explore this, the EB leadership team spent some time at the Microsoft office here in Portland, and with the gracious assistance of Casey Clark and Halie Becker we put our own platform to the test with their 84” Surface Hub.
Surface Hub is essentially a purpose-built computer
It has its own processor, it’s own variation of the Windows 10 operating system, and requires a connection to the interwebs. In other words, it’s the smartest wall-mounted thing you’ve ever played with.
Integration with Skype for Business is tight: it’s the room and the contact
Here’s where it starts to touch down for us at EventBuilder. A Hub is treated as both the “room” and the “contact” when it comes to locating it. Calling in and out, messaging, screensharing, etc. are what you’d expect from SfB. The Hub puts a SfB button in an easy-to-find way, so it’s obvious that that’s a primary modality. When it comes to how you’d use it in a webinar or virtual class, then, it’s just another device that gets invited to the party.
Training a hybrid audience will require thinking about a few new things
The Hub has awesome cameras, speakers, etc., but you’ll want to think about a few things (put on your ‘instructional designer meets user experience’ hat for a moment).
First, while you can use a sophisticated wireless keyboard to access the Hub, it’s probably most intuitive via touch. That said, when you’re standing there touching the thing, the built-in cameras – to the right and left of the screen – aren’t positioned to catch you head-on (you’re too close relative to their purposed angle, which is to look into the room).
Second, if you were presenting/training an in-person audience, you’d not want to spend all your time with your back to the room while you manage the Hub via touch. We asked about using an external camera and, as you might expect, the simple answer is the good answer (a USB-equipped camera will get you rolling).
Using the Hub with EventBuilder’s Gateway is a piece of cake…with even more options
This included testing how EventBuilder’s bot joins the meeting to record the session (which then is automagically hosted in the cloud at the exact same URL as the live session…convenient for users and pretty sweet when it comes to reporting).
The Surface Hub’s whiteboard is da bomb, so we tested using it while presenting from the Hub (which then would be seen by all participants, including remote).
Finally, because we tested how you’d have two presenters presenting simultaneously, one from a remote laptop and one from the Surface Hub. A second laptop was logged in as an attendee. All worked well, and there was much rejoicing.
The bottom line
The hard truth is that if you desire to really engage your audience, presenting or training to mixed audiences is much harder on the presenters/trainers. When some participants are in a room and others are wholly online, they’re having two very different psychosocial experiences.
That said, it’s not hard, just different. A bit of planning (perhaps assisted by some instructional design/user experience consulting) will ensure that you maximize your impact.
And one thing’s for sure — cool tools like the Surface Hub are well worth doing a little planning to incorporate.