Hybrid meetings: Bringing technology and live audiences together

Years ago, if someone mentioned the word “hybrid,” it could easily have been your grandmother talking about her prize-winning orchids. Today, not only has the term hybrid become synonymous with fuel-efficient cars and trucks, but it has also made its way into the world of corporate meeting and event planning. In fact, the hybrid meeting is something that is becoming more and more common as we continue to blur the lines between live events and online communication.
Hybrid meetingFor anyone still unsure about what a hybrid meeting is, try to look at it this way: Take a typical live event such as a conference, seminar or convention, add some technology such as smartphones, audience response systems and the Internet, and top it off with social networking and interactive connectivity and you have a recipe for a textbook hybrid event. Keep in mind, though, that the prospect of marrying technology with live event planning doesn’t have to be overwhelming, as long as we understand some of the great benefits to be found in hybrid events.

Expand your audience

If you have an audience that can’t come to your event due to such things as travel time, budgets, or weather, hybrid meetings can take your event to them. Then there’s the cost savings of delegates not having to pay for hotel rooms, meals and travel expenses. In addition, there are the benefits of having access to a global market. For example, I read recently that Cisco had an event awhile ago with 10,000 live attendees, with an additional 4,500 joining in from more than 28 countries around the world. That’s an audience increase of nearly 50 per cent!

Alternatively, maybe you’d like your event to be a little greener and help keep the environmental impact in check. By reducing travel and hotel requirements, hybrid meetings can help you accomplish that. And if you want to create an event that’s easily customizable based on your audience and the technology available, hybrids are the way to go.

Of course, it is important to keep in mind that hybrid meetings are designed to let the online or virtual experience enhance the live experience, not replace it. Let’s take a look, then, at some of the strategies and best practices for making your next hybrid event a resounding success.

Start small

If you don’t have the budget or the tech savvy to stage a full-on hybrid event, take some baby steps first. Perhaps that means streaming only the general session online. Or maybe you can think about a real-time webinar for online participants while their on-site counterparts attend breakout sessions.

Seek a balance

Try to give the two components equal weight and billing, both in terms of promotion and content. It’s always a good idea to allow interaction between the live and virtual participants. And don’t forget to ensure that your audio-visual components are suitable for both live and broadcast quality.

Create value

Make sure your content is worth paying for, particularly if you intend to charge for online participation. Creating value for your delegates has become absolutely essential in the online world. If you expect people to stay engaged, whether in person or on a web feed, you’d better make sure they have a reason to be there.

Stay on track

We all know that live events can often run behind schedule. But if this becomes a habit with your hybrid meetings, your online guests won’t hang around long enough to hear your message. Start and finish your events on time and there will be a next time.

Follow up

Once the event is over, make the most of the virtual opportunities for both the online and live participants to connect, learn and network. By using social media channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, as well as virtual and offline gathering places such as Tweetups, Meetups and Google Hangouts, you can keep the conversation going long after the real-world event dust has settled.

If you haven’t yet had an opportunity to stage a hybrid meeting for your clients or organization, it’s time you started giving these kinds of events some serious consideration.

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