Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Lessons in Hybrid Meetings: Hybrid or not?

With the rising interest in hybrid meetings - a meeting or event with at least one group of face-to-face participants connecting with other participants in one or more additional locations - planners have to ensure they are choosing options that not only fit their budgets, but also suit their members. Whether your goals are to increase revenues, improve performance or grow your membership, associations should start small and set realistic expectations. To ensure the success of your hybrid initiative, it is crucial to manage expectations of both the association executives and your members.

The hybrid model is so new that most association staff make incorrect assumptions about it. Hybrid meeting planners need to provide a clear rationale to both management and attendees that explains why the meeting is organized as a Hybrid and what they will be getting. If attendees are expecting the format of a talk show and they get a lecture from someone in a two-inch window, they’re going to have trouble staying engaged.

Questions to ask to help determine if you should produce a hybrid meeting or event:

  • What problem might a hybrid meeting address, and how? 
  • What opportunity might a hybrid meeting provide, and how?
  • Which elements of your live event might be enhanced, and how? 
  • What strategic objectives would a hybrid event achieve or support?
  • What is the competition doing? Are they engaging your members more efficiently than you are?
  • According to your membership surveys and attendance data, what are the main sources of value in your current physical events? 
    • In what ways could this value be transferred and/or enhanced online? For whom?

Producing a hybrid meeting for the first time does take more time than planning a face-to-face meeting. After two or three hybrid meetings, this is no longer true. Initially, though, the planning process does become more elaborate as you coordinate for TWO audiences.

In my opinion, hybrid meetings are a way to enhance what your association is already doing well. Does your meeting bring in exceptional keynotes? Does your association produce innovative and engaging sessions?

Offering one or two keynote presentations as a webcast lets non-members “see what they are missing”, but the captured content now becomes a strategic tool for the association. The content can be re-purposed as a promotional tool for the meeting, a financial opportunity through the sale of the recording, or a member benefit by offering a copy of the recording for free in your resource library.

By embracing hybrid meetings, we as planners are able to show that we have the skills necessary to address the expectations of our members while demonstrating a clear commitment to innovation and new ways of adding value to our meetings.

Next lesson: Getting buy-in from senior management

Mahoganey Jones is a Certified Meeting Professional and Digital Event Strategist with a background in continuing professional development.  She has a proven success record in planning meetings and events that boost revenues and increase brand awareness. She specializes in ensuring all details are considered and that all targets are met and/or exceeded.

Image courtesy of ddpavumba / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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