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4 Benefits of Incorporating Hybrid Elements in Your Meetings

Photo of the 2023 ASH Cityside Terrace Activation

In March 2020, the meetings and events world was hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak, with thousands of meetings, events, conventions and tradeshows scrambling to move part or all of their events to a virtual format.  

Photo of Bill Reed
Bill Reed

Now, four years after the beginning of the pandemic, many companies have made the choice to return solely to in-person gatherings, leading some to say hybrid meetings are rapidly receding in their relevance. But for Bill Reed, one of the most respected names in the meetings and events industry, planning hybrid meetings wasn’t just a temporary replacement for in-person experiences.  

Reed is the planner behind the American Society of Hematology (ASH) and its Annual Meeting and Exposition, which hosted over 30,000 medical professionals from over 110 countries in 2023, making it one of the largest healthcare events in the world. The event also offered a virtual option, and while many meeting planners view hybrid and virtual meetings as an expensive inconvenience to overcome, Reed sees it as an opportunity to invest in the future.  

“In 2023 we had just under 5,000 virtual participants for the event,” said Reed. “So, if you do the math, 5,000 participants times our registration fees, which are not cheap because it’s an exceptional meeting, I will add, that’s a good source of revenue. And because we’ve leaned all in, and all of the content is live streamed, we can command the full registration price. If you’re only offering a small slice of the content on the virtual platform, it’s very hard for you to justify the full registration price.”

[Related: Three Levels of Complexity, and Cost, for Hybrid Meetings]

More Opportunities for Revenue

One common meeting planner complaint about hybrid meetings is that hybrid meetings cost too much to produce. And, yes, there are multiple costs associated with producing hybrid meetings, including licensing or building the virtual event interface, AV equipment and production costs such as the salaries of any extra team members you hire to support a virtual option.

But while there certainly are costs associated with hybrid meetings, there are also more opportunities for revenue. By opening your meeting or event to virtual attendees, you are simultaneously increasing your revenue opportunities for that event and allowing more people to experience it. As Reed pointed out, many businesses may only be seeing see the upfront costs associated with hybrid meetings but not realizing the potential revenues and profits they are missing out on.  

Ability to Incorporate International Attendees

One of these reasons many of your attendees (or potential attendees) are unable to attend your meeting or event is if they live abroad and are not a U.S. citizen, and with the U.S entry system often difficult to navigate, this may be a key factor keeping them from engaging with your event.  

“The international participant, perhaps someone in a low- to middle-income country, is probably never going to be able to afford the travel expenses to come to the in-person meeting,” Reed added. “So, this is a great new product for them to consider that was not even available prior to the pandemic.”

[Related: 4 Questions Medical Meeting Planners Should Be Asking When Choosing Destinations]

By incorporating hybrid elements into your meetings, you will be able to broaden your audience to those who live internationally, not only helping to increase the number of attendees but also potentially increasing the audience for your organization as well. Reed also pointed out that having a virtual option means international attendees can go back, slow down and translate the event sessions, something they would be unable to do in person.

2023 ASH Health Equity Studio. Photo Credit ASH
2023 ASH Health Equity Studio. Photo Credit ASH

Increase Attendee Engagement

One of the things Reed witnessed at the ASH event last year was in-person attendees engaging with the event through the virtual event platform. Reed saw people adapt to the new technology in a variety of ways, including having people ask their questions to an event speaker both in-person and virtually, thereby doubling the chances of their question being answered.  

Reed said he also saw some people not attending any in-person education sessions at all during their time at the event, instead choosing to focus on the networking and one-on-one conversation opportunities at the event and engage with the speaker sessions on-demand.  

Provide More Value to Attendees

One mistake Reed often sees first-time hybrid meeting planners make is trying to emulate or mimic the in-person experience in a virtual format. But it’s important to understand the value of each aspect of your event and recognize that the value does not have to be equivalent across formats. What do your attendees want out of a virtual experience versus an in-person experience?

Elements like education sessions can easily be replicated (and perhaps enhanced) in a virtual format, but many people aren’t going to have an equivalent networking experience over Zoom as they would in a convention center. Recognizing that virtual and in-person formats don’t have to offer the exact same value to attendees is one of the key takeaways from Reed and why he has been able to make his hybrid event so successful.

Want more insights on hybrid meetings? Check out the full podcast with Bill Reed on the future of hybrid meetings in the industry.

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About the author
Logan Pratt | Digital Content Coordinator

Logan Pratt joined Meetings Today in May 2023 as digital content coordinator, focusing on digital marketing efforts and covering breaking news stories for the Meetings Today website and newsletters. To send a press release or any information regarding the meetings and events industry please email