Inspired by the April issue of Rejuvenate Meetings magazine, the article “Rules of Engagement” interviews event professionals who understand hybrid, the art of integration, and new integrated tools such as games and other geo-location apps. The author, Jennifer Garrett beautifully answers exactly what we were thinking – have planners opinions about hybrid meetings shifted considerably?
“Less than two years ago, defenders of virtual meetings spent most of their energy convincing planners that streaming an event live would not harm their face-to-face events. Now, virtual components are accepted as powerful marketing tools that extend a meeting’s reach, interaction, and longevity.”
If you’re reluctant to see how the virtual aspect doesn’t hurt, but helps the face-to-face event as a whole, we’ve compiled a list of how interactive tools (such as apps and social media) as well as the virtual components offer solutions and positive results for meetings. These three points were briefly discussed in the article – here’s our elaboration on each:
- Participatory culture – Keeping your conference entirely offline could be harmful as attendees become more comfortable with technology, they expect you (the planner/conference organizer) to integrate it not only within the conference, but year-round. Everyone wants to be involved in the process of producing content of the conference they’re attending and choosing the sessions they have an interest in which can be done with LinkedIn discussions, Twitter chats, on Facebook discussion boards, or websites. Feedback is also viable to the success of an annual conference so post-conference feedback is just as important as pre-conference input which are both easier for attendees with the ramped up use of technology.
- Virtual meetings extend a meeting’s audience - If you’re on the opposing side and believe virtual components harm face-to-face conferences, Jeff Hurt makes a valid point in the article. Hurt states, “The impact of being able to video from smart phones and immediately post it on the web has created a natural response. People want to see that at events.” Imagine watching a speaker on virtual programming – if it gains your interest and you’re intrigued, you’ll want to attend the following year but face-to-face.
- It’s not what it use to cost – Hosting sites for streaming video are typically free and reduce the costs associated with hosting hybrid events. According to the article, “UBM Studios and similar providers can produce complex virtual trade shows for clients, or planners can mix-and-match the company’s offerings to include live content streaming, chats, exhibit booths or material exchange.” Another aspect to saving money is that in a way, virtual meetings become somewhat sustainable meetings – with all that video, there’s no need for paper. Attendees are creating their own media whether photos or video with the power of their smart phones.
We were unable to find a link to the article in Rejuvenate Meetings, but highly recommend if you can get a copy of the magazine to read this article which features Robert L. Wagner, Jeff Hurt, Maddie Grant, Kate Spellman, and Samuel Smith. Have you had any experience successfully or unsuccessfully integrating virtual components into face-to-face events? What were they and what lessons did you learn?