What is in this article?:
- Behind the Huge Success of a First-Time Hybrid Sales Conference
- 7 Best Practices for a Hybrid Meeting
- 10 Lessons Learned by Hybrid First-Timers
7 Best Practices for a Hybrid Meeting
Steph Pfeilsticker, CMP, CMM, senior event planner, Thrivent Financial, hired consultant Samuel J. Smith, founder of Interactive Meeting Technology, to guide her through the process of creating a virtual program for remote attendees that would mirror the face-to-face Thrivent National Sales Meeting November 7–9, 2011, at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
With a virtual program, “you are daring attendees not to be distracted,” Smith says. And with just the attendees’ computer screens to work with, you need to think hard about how to avoid a remote experience that resembles bad local-access TV. Smith’s tips:
1. Think “live TV.”If theater is the metaphor for face-to-face meetings, he says, live TV is the metaphor for the virtual portion of a hybrid event. Imagine sporting events such as the Super Bowl, or awards shows like the Oscars. “There is always a host who connects with the audience and creates continuity,” says Smith. The hosts use breaks in the action—half time, for example—to offer analysis and additional color or content. Live TV, Smith adds, is also “a reference point” for the audience. If you model live TV, you’re offering something they’re used to consuming. They get it.
2. Give your virtual attendees custom content.Thrivent created an Agenda and Idea Notebook solely for remote attendees, and mailed it out in advance of the event. “It’s a tangible way to make them feel that they are an important part of the event,” Pfeilsticker explains. “It also served as a keeper for ideas they collected throughout the event that could grow their business.” In addition, Thrivent created six hours of exclusive programming for online attendees. This content includedinterviews, interviews with leaders, sales program overviews, and training videos.
3. Hire an emcee for the virtual audience.Thrivent Financial hired an emcee, Emilie Barta, who was set up in a studio at the live meeting but focused specifically on the virtual audience. “An emcee connects the virtual audience with the activity at the live event,” Pfeilsticker says. “When there was a break at the convention center, the emcee would interview an executive or ask a general-session presenter questions that had been submitted by the virtual audience. This gives the virtual audience a voice and greatly increases engagement.”
4. Make communication two-way.Create the ability for attendees to become participants in the event. If you ask attendees to take a poll or ask a question, be sure to give them feedback. Show the poll results, or ask their specific questions right away, Smith advises. “Attendees love it when you use their questions or ideas and give them credit for it. So be sure to say their names on camera.”
5. Coach speakers and facilitators.They should occasionally look at the camera as well as mention the virtual viewing audience. “The more specific the references you can make to that audience, and the more the integration between the face-to-face and the virtual, the better,” Smith says.
6. Use multiple cameras.Again, Smith suggests taking a cue from live TV: Multiple viewing angles create impact and make the remote audience less likely to tune out.
7. Create a hybrid team.The best practice is to assign a separate team to the virtual event, says Smith—a team that is focused on the needs of the virtual audience. If the planners of the face-to-face meeting work on the virtual component as well, the tendency is for the live event to take precedence.