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Take 10 - Hybrid Meetings, A Meeting Planner's Checklist

August 15, 2013
  1. What is the difference between an in-person meeting, a virtual meeting and a hybrid meeting?

    An in-person meeting occurs when 100% of the audience participates from the same physical location.

    A virtual meeting occurs when 100% of the audience participates from their computer, tablet, or smartphone remotely.

    Therefore a hybrid meeting occurs when an in-person meeting and a virtual meeting happen simultaneously to enable two audiences to participate as one.

    A truly successful hybrid meeting is designed as one meeting with two unique audiences that are united to form one collective audience…as opposed to being designed as two separate meetings OR as an in-person meeting with a virtual component thrown in as an afterthought. This ensures that it will be a seamless process and will present a unified meeting to all audience members no matter where they are located.

  2. How do you distribute documents/handouts to a virtual audience?

    Most virtual platforms have a tool that allows virtual audience members to download documents, videos, and/or audio files that you have uploaded prior to the start of the meeting. An example of video instructions on how to use the "Resource Library" on one provider's platform can be found at Oftentimes the platform also provides reporting tools on the backend that enables you to see how many downloads have occurred and even who downloaded what files.

    Other options including snail mailing or emailing the documents/handouts to the virtual audience members or providing them with links to pages on your website where they can download the files. PageBreak

  3. Accessibility (e.g. 508/ADA) is a huge factor for us. Are you finding the makers of these tools are considering this in their tools? If a blind or deaf user cannot participate, we cannot use the tool.

    Some virtual platform providers are providing accessibility tools as part of their product offering. In your research process, be sure to inquire if the necessary tools are available, how successfully they have been used in the past, and if there is an additional charge to include them in your project.

  4. How do you structure pricing for the in-person audience vs. the virtual audience during a hybrid meeting?

    Since it is impossible to offer the exact same experience to your in-person audience and your virtual audience, I would start by looking at the program. What percentage of the program are you sharing with your virtual audience? I would not recommend charging more than that same you have the top end of your range.

    Then look at your current virtual educational offerings and what you are charging for those. There will be more content provided in your hybrid meeting than say a monthly hour-long webinar, so the bottom end of your range becomes apparent.

    Finally look at what the market will bear. How much do others in your industry charge? How much value does your audience place on this program, on these speakers? Are continuing education credits offered? If so, is that included in the pricing or offered a la carte? Whatever admission fee you choose has to make sense to you, to your sponsors, and to your audience.

  5. What is the best way to handle equipment (such as lighting) and crew without making it disruptive to the on-site audience?

    Make sure it fits and then hide it!

    In all seriousness, work with your production company, in-house media services department, or hybrid meeting consultant on the site + stage design to ensure that nothing gets in the way of the in-person audience's experience. And be sure to involve them as early in the site selection process as possible so that they ensure that your "virtual vision" can become a reality. PageBreak

  6. My association provides educational credits. How is that calculated in terms of proof of participation?

    Many virtual platforms offer ways in which to assess and/or test for educational credits, most often through an included LMS or by integrating with your current LMS. In your research process, be sure to inquire how the virtual platform company handles this situation, how successfully it has been implemented in the past, and what additional charges occur.

    After your hybrid meeting is complete, the archive provides additional opportunities for your audience to receive their necessary credits and for your association to generate additional revenue.

  7. Have you done a survey of potential virtual attendees to find out what they want? How was it done and did it work well?

    Crowd sourcing during the planning process is a fantastic way to provide virtual audience members "a say in what they see and do." Surveys, website polls, phone calls, email newsletters, social media, and community platforms can all be used to select which sessions to include in the virtual program, create dedicated content during virtual breaks, determine which platform tools to activate, source hot topics for additional conversation, even find out how much content the virtual audience wants to receive and how much they wish to pay for it.

    And when promoting your hybrid meeting, be sure to highlight which decisions were made based on your crowd sourcing efforts as a way to validate your virtual audience's suggestions and show your appreciation for their feedback.

  8. What are the basic bells and whistles you think are a must?

    Whatever is determined to be the most appropriate for your virtual audience based on their demographics, likes/dislikes, and learning well as which/how many are manageable for you and your team during the pre-show, performance, and post-show stages of the event lifecycle. Ensure that your virtual audience knows exactly how to use each tool that you have selected...and is constantly reminded throughout the meeting where they are located and how to use them. And if you have determined that you will NOT be using a tool, confirm and re-confirm with the virtual platform provider that it will not be active on the screen.

    At the bare minimum, I recommend providing one communication tool that allows the virtual audience to ask questions of the speakers, the conference organizers, and technical support.PageBreak

  9. Have you ever had a program be interrupted; disconnected? If so, what do you do?

    Unfortunately yes, I have had a hybrid meeting disconnected!

    I always recommend having a back-up AND a Plan B. So be sure to have a communication plan in place in the event that the feed is lost so that you are able to communicate with your virtual audience immediately, alert them as to what occurred, and provide them instructions as to what to do next. This could be done via email, social media, community platform, or internal company IM, for example. And ensure that all technology team members have an action plan and a sense of urgency to find and correct the problem immediately. You could even provide your virtual audience with "in case of disruption..." instructions prior to the meeting so that they can refer to this information if anything does happen.

    Always remember that "the show must go on," so act fast to get your virtual audience members back!

  10. How do you go about doing a "site visit?”

    Just as I liken the virtual platform to a physical must do a platform tour just as you do a site visit during your selection process.

    Once you have completed your research and chosen the virtual platform providers under consideration, set up a platform tour with them. Be sure to look at the attendee experience as well as the backend experience. Is it nice to look at? Is it easy to use? Does it make logical sense? What can you customize? What communication tools are available? What social media sharing tools are available? Are you able to "hide" tools that are not in use? Where are the video and slide windows located? Can you control what the virtual audience sees and/or can the virtual audience control what they see? Ask to log-in to a meeting-in-progress so that you can see the virtual platform "in action." After all...the "demo" experience could be much different than the "live" experience.

    And I recommend doing your virtual platform site visits as close together as possible so that you can do an immediate compare/contrast and select the best virtual platform for you, for your meeting, and for your audience.
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About the author
Emilie Barta