We’re not TV producers but…

hybrid online event

Written by Penny Syddall , Programme Manager for Skills and Adoption, Digital Dorset

We’re organising ten events in five locations across five days, involving almost 50 speakers and 100 participants and streaming them live over You Tube to an audience of hundreds, if not thousands, of people online. Why are we doing this? It’s complex, scary and – most bizarre of all – no-one has asked us to do it. It was our idea and our generous managers believe in us enough to let us run with it. But why?

The simple answer is: because we can. We’re using the opportunity new technology has given us to promote our message in a new, more accessible and engaging way.

Hybrid is the new way of working, giving people the flexibility to work from home or get out and about. We’re simply taking the concept a step further. We want to test what’s possible – will Dorset’s latest connectivity technology allow us to engage with other fabulous Digital Dorset supporters in a new way?

Here at Digital Dorset, we like to push the boundaries. First we had network events – we developed a new style of face-to-face meetings, giving them a zany, fun twist. Then we became the first local authority in the UK to have a digital podcast. Last year, just as people were getting bored with endless Teams meetings, we had an online Festival of the Future which brought back the buzz and attracted thousands.

And this year, we’re bringing you hybrid events at FutureFest21: not a series of events that are in life one week and online the next, but interactive events which are in life and online at the same time.

Each time we’ve used new tech to engage with and grow our audience, it’s worked. People have liked our events – inspiring projects, new ideas, experimental channels, great networking, laughter and biscuits. Each year we’ve pushed ourselves outside our comfort zone and people have come with us. If you don’t believe us, take a look at our official trailer!

Our events are not only testing the hybrid concept; they are also testing our 5G network. Government funding is enabling us to test 5G on small-scale trials for future of food, connected coast, innovation accelerator and so on. As it happens, we’re holding two of our events at trial sites – so we’re going to try using the network at those spots to broadcast to an online audience, thus providing additional evidence to inform the 5G trials.

But it’s not just about playing with new technology. We totally believe in the message and our role in engaging others.

We’re digital leaders, running and supporting digital programmes at Dorset Council and two of us have backgrounds in corporate communications. We are united by a belief that digital is the future for Dorset – and the more people get behind the idea, the brighter the future will be. Dorset has no motorways or big factories; rural Dorset has struggled economically, depending traditionally on agriculture, tourism and, more recently, advanced manufacturing. Our approach is to show people – inside Dorset and beyond – what’s already happening here, that Dorset is more digital than you might think. We want to inspire people with new ideas to demonstrate what could be. We want to make Dorset a great place to live, work and visit.

When social media started, communications professionals weren’t social media experts; they didn’t know how best to use it for their clients or corporations. They got good at it by trying, sometimes getting it wrong, sharing the successes and failures, learning and trying again. If Dorset is to be at the forefront of the digital revolution, we need to be prepared to try, reflect and try again. We’ll do our best, laugh (hopefully) at any bloopers and keep trying. Please come on board, join the festival, learn something new and laugh with us.

Originally posted here

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