Have you returned to planning live events? You might not want to throw out the tools we used to get through the last two years virtually so fast. Out of necessity, we mastered snazzy new ways to connect, play games, exercise, entertain, make lunch/dinner/drinks and build things through platforms online.
Just because we can meet in person, doesn’t mean that is the only solution. Given all the technology and our experience and understanding of the virtual space, why would our meetings and events ever remain the same?
Reasons to Hybrid
Hybrid meetings incorporating virtual tools are here to stay for some powerful reasons. Offering a hybrid format for your meetings and events may:
- Bring you more attendees, as well as greater community engagement between and with the virtual and in-person audiences
- Increase your membership
- Give your organization a global audience
- Provide an opportunity to package the meeting content for your digital library
- Generate more revenue through new and existing streams
How to Make the Most of This Inconvenient Truth
Start by understanding that your organization’s meeting goals and objectives are critically important to the overall program and must be determined before beginning the planning process. To build momentum and community, entice people to attend, and reach your fiscal objectives, you’ll also need a strategic marketing and communication plan that integrates into your end-to-end planning and production process.
You should ask:
- Why is your program important?
- How are you delivering on the member or attendee value proposition?
- How can you engage participants who may not have previously attended?
- How will you infuse energy, engage and help all participants experience your meetings at the highest level?
- Can you offer one-day registration options or join now/membership with registration as a combination option?
- Does it make sense to package your meeting content, add it to the digital library, and monetize it for post-event viewing?
- Most importantly: How can we energize participants, facilitate togetherness and collaborate differently?
Try a New Approach to Engagement
Focus on producing innovative, immersive experiences that allow people to feel closer together while engaging them virtually and live through ‘hub and spoke-style’ events occurring simultaneously in different formats and locations.
Consider creating options for attendees to collaborate in meet-up groups, use gamification, LED walls that include space for writing/drawing/coloring, and social responsibility and engagement activities that impact local communities.
As producers, we should scale experiences that elicit togetherness. Unique experiences can be designed for live or virtual audiences and include group size, attendees’ interests, abilities, and engagement levels. Asynchronous programming—offering various content at different times in unique platforms to extend the duration of the impact—can also help facilitate this approach.
Another engagement idea includes building micro-communities, which allows attendees during live meetings to sit comfortably in pods similar to a community room with a lounge set. Establish activation sites throughout your program and make the meeting app your friend. This is also a great way to engage partners and activate their sponsorship through health/wellness activities, games, puzzle collaboration, art projects and in many other ways.
Attendees want memorable programs with meeting content and experiences that energize.
The meetings and events industry knows how to bring the community together and create phenomenal experiences.
Thriving in any environment involves a strategic, thoughtful approach that includes planning and producing programs differently. The answer to the cocktail party question “What’s new?” is now: “The meetings and events experience” for five very good reason that will make hybrid meetings and strategic engagement a part of our toolkit going forward.
Shelli Vasser Gilliam, CMP, SEPC, is the Principal of Vasser Gilliam LLC, a woman-owned consulting company that bridges the gap in resources and makes connections for clients and collaborates on events and programs to raise awareness and increase support for their work. Connect with Shelli on Linkedin.