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Meetings -- coming out of the stone ages?

"Teaching has survived the same way since the stone ages," recently stated one educational pundit. He went on to mention the changes occurring at every level of schooling. But the statement also applies to meetings. They too, have survived with only incremental changes for many years.

One of the silver linings of the pandemic is the chance (and time) to reexamine how we conduct meetings. And to accelerate the changes that were ALREADY coming.  Thankfully we GET to do this, for many industries there is currently no "virtual" option.

True hybrid meetings are part of that reboot. In the past we were happy to get 5,000 attendees at meetings in Las Vegas, Orlando, or others. We had little time to really consider the 15,000 others who would have attended but could not afford the time, the money or both to be there in person. COVID-19 has forced us to think differently and spend more time on the virtual side of a meeting. And we're discovering an un-tapped demand.

For example, Cvent Connect occurred virtually last week with 42,000 attendees. In the past there was no single venue capable of handling that number other than a sports stadium. As we've written before, from this point forward hybrid meetings will be similar to a sporting events. The majority of the viewers attend virtually and onsite tickets may be limited.

If we're trying to spread a message or build a community for our products, opportunities now expand 10 times. Demand never dreamed of is now available. Netflix and Uber redesigned their industries and made this discovery -- now it's our turn. Some of the tools to support the new design may not exist yet, but therein lies the opportunity.

How we handle the logistics, staffing, and bandwidth are being tackled by the great creative minds of our industry. There is a new set of rules not encountered by face-to-face meetings. One click and our virtual audience can disengage or disappear. As Corey McCarthy, CMO of  Socio said recently, "If a virtual event doesn't include networking or engagement, it's just a webinar." And how about other issues like languages and time zones?

How will the hotels and venues adapt? During a recent BTN webinar, Kim Napolitano, Executive Director Specialty Markets at Hilton reviewed their plans to update bandwidth and meeting space to host the onsite meeting knowing the virtual side has to be streamed to a larger audience.

It's an opportunity for individuals, too. Many meeting planners have lost jobs. Some will excel at this new business and become virtual hosts, producers and directors. Virtual is expanding and few understand the skills needed for this side of the business.

When we took training at StarCite online years ago, we thought it would just be a matter of doing the same sessions online as onsite. Boy, were we wrong! We had to completely redesign the sessions, the rules and the methodologies to teach virtually. As a result, we could educate thousands of planners around the world without any travel. The same is true in today's meeting world.

We have to reboot our way of thinking to take advantage of new technologies and this enhanced way of meeting. Those who do will help bring the industry out the "stone ages." They'll discover audiences we never dreamed of reaching.

What do you think? Do you see the same?

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