This week, we sat down with Red Hat’s live events technician extraordinaire, Christian Binder, to hear all about his day-to-day responsibilities and the inner workings of livestreaming a major event like the annual Red Hat Summit.
If you’re not familiar the Red Hat Summit, the leading open source industry event involves 3 days of networking, 35+ expert speakers, 8,900+ attendees, 375 hours of educational content and endless amounts of swag. Last year’s conference featured leaders in the open source technology industry—including Microsoft’s Satya Nadella and IBM’s Ginni Rometty—coming together to discuss trends, telling stories, and anticipating the future.
According to Christian, “This is bar none our biggest event every year. We’ve partnered with BlueJeans on this for the past four years to provide the internal streaming of the keynotes to our Red Hat associates. What’s really nice in terms of off-site production is that BlueJeans supports anything that you want to plug into a laptop as long as you can connect it with a USB. We have a massive production that goes into BlueJeans, but all we're doing is plugging in a USB. We use Blackmagic Web Presenter to get our audio and video into the computer, but it's nice to be able to boil down hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment into one little device that'll stream out to our large audience.”
But this focus on providing better communication doesn't stop with their events. As a large, open source company, Red Hat makes collaboration a priority internally. So much so, that it’s seen as a critical component for multiple departments and stakeholders in making sure the company stays aligned with its four core values that drive everything at Red Hat:
- Freedom: The free exchange of opinions and ideas
- Encouragement: The ability to express those opinions and ideas
- Commitment: Staying fixed to our goals and seeing things through
- Accountability: To everyone and everything
This is the foundation of services that Christian and his team provides. Their mission statement is to be “a trusted partner that facilitates creative and collaborative meeting experiences, connects associates globally, and delivers world-class meeting and event support.”
Here are a few more snippets from the conversation with Christian that detail how his team achieves their goal of supporting open and collaborative communication at Red Hat:
Q: Looking back through Red Hat’s 26-year history, your company has experienced impressive growth. But along with growing headcount comes the challenge to educate multiple teams, reach global audiences with a single message, and align specific goals. What was the main motivator to implement BlueJeans Events back in 2015?
A: Back in 2015 when I was first brought on with my colleague, Troy, our existing events needed improvement. Every single one was a roll of the dice, whether it be technology failures, network connections, or people that didn’t have the expertise to run an actual event. They did their best, but often times it was out of their control. That’s when our team was brought in to stabilize Red Hat’s event services. So as Red Hat has become more global, and as teams get more dispersed across different countries, we’ve been brought in to connect these teams for important messages. Connecting everyone across different time zones is a really big challenge. It’s important that these messages get delivered in a timely and effective manner. Technology can’t be a hindrance to that. We run the technology so leadership doesn’t have to. They don’t need to worry about it. They can just join these events, speak, deliver the content that they need to and then leave knowing that the audience heard what they were saying. As we continue having successful BlueJeans Events, more and more end users are coming to us and asking our team if we can help solve their business problems.
Q: One of the reasons that BlueJeans loves Red Hat is that they’ve figured out how to extract tremendous value from our Events solution. Can you give examples of your most common streaming use cases and how they relate to both remote and on-site production?
A: Our three biggest use cases here are town halls, product training & sales enablement, and the Red Hat Summit.
Our large town halls are typically held at the Red Hat headquarters in Raleigh, NC. We have a broadcast event space down in our annex. That’s where I spend a lot of my time. Like most large companies, our business units are broken down into larger teams. From a technician’s perspective, these different departments are our customers, so everyone needs to be on the same page. We use BlueJeans Events to bring all those people together. Often times we have to connect our biggest hubs throughout the world—engineering in western Massachusetts, sales in Munich, Germany, another office in Singapore, one in the Czech Republic, another in Australia. What makes it hard to connect these offices are time zones. But what works well is when we stage the main broadcast from Raleigh and then allow leaders from each business unit join the presentation no matter where they are.
Product training and enablement are huge presentations for our sales and marketing organizations. For obvious reasons, our salespeople need to know how to sell what we’re trying to sell. We also have many partners that need to know how to sell our products as well, so getting them up to date on everything is a challenge from a live events perspective—especially when you’re trying to do large presentations all at once. We typically offer these events at multiple times—i.e. one in the morning and one in the evening. BlueJeans Events makes these unique join times very easy, and we wouldn’t be able to pull it off otherwise.
Q: Describe your day-to-day responsibilities as a Live Events Technician.
A: I like to break our main responsibilities into three parts: Logistics, management, and training.
We have a service where an employee (customer) can submit a ticket if they plan on hosting an event. It's a partnership between that department, the IT org, and our facilities team. This immediately alerts us as to whether they need a physical space (facilities) or just IT (remote assistance) or in some cases, both departments get involved. When both IT and Facilities are needed, we collectively consult with the customer to pick a space that we have available in any of our offices, decide what's suitable for their needs, and determine the best room to host an event. In some cases, when it's just IT, that's when I'm involved directly. We ask questions like, "what type of an event are you hosting, will you feature multiple speakers, will presenters be in multiple locations, are you sharing a slide deck, do you have a pre-recorded video, etc." We like to walk through these logistics up front. Many times, someone will have a vision about what they want to do, but they're not entirely sure how they're going to get there. Our department takes them from idea, to conception, to execution.
Next, we have training. Every time I have a new customer who wants to use BlueJeans Events, I'll hold a 30-minute training session with them so I can walk them through the interface—both the presenter and the moderator interface—and make sure everyone is comfortable so that the first time that they do this they're not jumping in totally lost. It's a good idea to clarify different buttons and features that they may not understand. Once they're comfortable and we've finished that training session, they're ready to go. However, there are still times when a moderator requests that someone from our team joins them during the event in case anything goes wrong. That's when myself or a colleague from my team will make the time to join the presentation.
Lastly, product adoption is critically important. At the end of the day we want people to feel empowered to do these events on their own once we get people through the training. We feel we've done our job when they're able to host the event on their own. Recently, we've seen more teams hosting events together as opposed to single people. This has allowed us to provide accounts for multiple teams or team members so they can run their events weekly, monthly, bi-weekly, or however frequently they do it. But the best part is that it's becoming a well-oiled machine—just rinse and repeat every single time.
A big thank you to Christian for sitting down with us! You can find the full recording of the Red Hat webinar here.