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
10 Lessons Learned by Hybrid First-Timers
Now that she has her first hybrid National Sales Meeting behind her, Thrivent Financial Senior Event Planner Stephanie Pfeilsticker, CMP, CMM, has reflected on the challenges of extending the impact of the live meeting to hundreds of additional financial reps. Her top lessons learned:
1. An RFP for virtual platform providers is complex. “This was the most challenging piece,” says Pfeilsticker, who ended up sending two rounds of RFPs to companies that would provide the online structure for the meeting’s virtual component. What she got back were apples and oranges: Companies charge differently for their services and have very different capabilities, so it took several conversations with each company just to learn what they could offer. “I suggest asking a lot of questions and presenting specific scenarios to be sure you understand what you are receiving for what dollar amount,” she says.
2. Make it easy for viewers. Work with your platform provider on how to set up your most important “rooms”—that is, where the remote attendees will navigate on their computers to experience the meeting. The most visited rooms are the auditorium (for the general sessions), the breakout rooms (for the educational sessions), and the resource center (for access to presenters’ PowerPoint slides). But Pfeilsticker discovered that the chat room was buried in a drop-down menu. “If it’s important, it needs to be visible.”
3. Get team buy-in. Thrivent’s core team for the virtual component of the 2011 National Sales Meeting was Pfeilsticker, consultant Sam Smith of Interactive Meeting Technology, an audiovisual producer, and the meeting sponsor. “But there were several other jobs that needed to be done,” Pfeilsticker notes, such as design work and other creative elements. “Many people were excited to work on this and to be a part of it prior to the event. However, our live meeting is all-hands-on-deck already, so to add this to the workload was difficult.”
4. Share the goals. For the core team, the virtual component and the needs of the virtual audience quickly become second nature. “But for others, who are not so fluent in that realm, you need to regularly remind them of the purpose,” she says. “For example, others would refer to breaks at the live meeting as ‘filler time’ for the remote audience. I had to remind them, no, this is the place to be strategic. What content can we offer here that can help grow the financial reps’ business?”
5. Sell and resell. Have confidence in what you are doing, and keep selling the project, Pfeilsticker advises. “There will be some resistance based on fear. But I was passionate. I knew we could reach hundreds more representatives.”
6. Ask questions. The vocabulary surrounding a hybrid meeting will be new to most meeting planners. Always ask your audiovisual and production partners to clarify unfamiliar terms and concepts.
7. Educate yourself. Look for resources from the Virtual Edge Institute, from Meeting Professionals International, and from your peers.
8. create your lines of Communication. “This is especially important on site at the event,” Pfeilsticker says. “Determine the chain of communication ahead of time. Your audiovisual producer should have an open line of communication to the live meeting producer to communicate when the live event is starting so that the virtual team can prepare to stream. The key is that not every member needs to have a communication device.”
9. Create a knowledgeable team. Think through how everyone will have to work, and what specific information each team member will need. Flow charts are helpful to explain team members’ functions.
10. Plan for thorough testing. “On the Sunday before our event, we had a list of things to test. But there are certain tests we were unable to run because of the provider,” Pfeilsticker relates. “Some Day 1 issues could have been prevented if we were able to test everything. I wish I had pushed them harder to perform certain tests or asked the provider to test well in advance.”