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Hybrid meetings are like...sports events

The latest i-meet Planner Confidence Index survey showed over 60% of planners intend use hybrid meetings in the near term (an onsite meeting with a virtual online component). In the past the online meeting portion was simply a video camera pointed at the stage as an afterthought for a small audience. And they appeared by most accounts ...well bad, boring and unimaginative.

In a post-Covid world things may reverse. The onsite will likely have limited attendance and virtual online becomes the more widely attended option. How can we make them better? Here’s a comparison and four factors to get the creative juices flowing.

We go to hybrid meetings all the time, they are called -- sporting events. The Super bowl, the World Cup, the Olympics are hybrid events. There are limited seats available onsite, but millions of fans want to see the event. So most view it online. Yet all attend the same event, it fits the definition of a  hybrid meeting.

What can we learn from them? Television! The virtual part of a hybrid meeting is not just pointing a camera at the stage. Rather, to quote Mark Jeffries, "we now have to think like a television producer,” when doing online meetings. Here are some comparisons to use for all of our meetings, big and small:

1 -  Teams - Two separate teams work the meeting. The onsite crew is the same as usual, but we also have an online production team. They approach the meeting as the television crew of a sporting event. It may include a host, a director, color commentators, videographers, onsite roving reports and QA chats to involve the audience. If a smaller meeting, the planner may have to play all the roles. Either way it's important to think about the online portion as a separate entity from the onsite.

2 - Value - Should it be recorded and rebroadcast, maybe or maybe not? It is an event, a happening and each side has unique value. Attending a sporting event live is an experience. But the televised version has factors not seen onsite. Expert commentary, graphics and sideline interviews are not seen by the stadium crowd. For example, meetings can describe the food at the breaks, the layout of the facility or anything of interest to the audience unable to attend. It should be fun and entertaining. Regardless of the size of the gathering there are many ways to add value online.

3 - Equipment - Broadcast online may require more online speed and large server space. Privacy may be a consideration, how to stream the meeting and password protect it. Serious A/V equipment may be needed. However, it's not as hard as might be imagined. Most all have a TV studio in their pocket, it’s called a smart phone. There is no end to the creativity they will unleash. Potentially there are many camera operators at the event onsite and online to feed the production. Smaller meetings are not exempt. The same thinking applies but scaled down.

4 -  Audience  - Engagement is the product. How the two audiences are mingled is critical. Zoom, FaceTime, Tweets and instant messaging can be used. But like a TV producer backstage reporters, earlier taped interviews of both online and onsite audiences can be employed. Tours, interactive chats and video montages of portions of the offsite events can be added for the online audience.  The smartphone is the ultimate engagement device with endless uses both onsite and online. All of this applies to smaller or internal events as well. These days the audience is more sophisticated with higher expectations regardless of meeting size. As they say, "Toto...we're not in Kansas anymore."

Today hybrid meetings seem like the early days of sports television. As networks began to televise events they learned new techniques and approaches and so will we. There are so many exciting things about to be developed. All of it should uncover further value to our meetings as new skills are acquired. Think like a television producer and have fun 'cause hybrid meetings are like sports events.

What do you think? Do you have any new ideas or experiences with hybrid events?


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