Now that we’re in lockdown again, virtual events are once more the only option available for minutes, briefings and conferences.
A major difference this time is that people have become more skilled at them. Which by itself makes them more effective than when the first lockdown was implemented.
In the last lockdown and during the latest Sydney lockdown we have organised several “hybrid meetings” and these are clearly the way of the future and will play an increased role in meetings, briefings, conferences, and all other business events.
Now that executives are comfortable with them, and communications advisers have shown how presentations need to be adjusted to suit the new approach, they have become very effective, with many unexpected benefits. But hybrid events also have some drawbacks. But one thing is clear, even when this lockdown is over we must accept hybrid events are here to stay and prepare for them.
We have found some of their benefits are:
- Time poor executives and clients are more willing to participate in briefings when they don’t have to spend time travelling to off-site venues and be at the event for longer.
- Some guests will attend who might not normally. One client had 400 advisers attend a market briefing during lockdown last year, as many as a normal briefing.
- The economics of meetings make virtual or hybrid meetings very cost effective, including less catering, no venue hire, less time away from the desk, and reduced travel time/costs (especially for interstate executives), especially for virtual meetings.
- Greater use can be made of overseas and interstate experts as it’s so much easier now that it’s been tried successfully. At one client briefing we were able to include a presentation by a fund manager direct from Los Angeles, which added interest and attracted more guests. This was always possible of course, but less likely to be arranged prior to Covid.
- Interstate invitees can attend where previously they may have been unable.
- We have found more journalists attend media events if they can do so from their desk.
- A video recording is automatically produced that can be used in other ways, extending the reach.
Virtual meetings therefore breakdown state and international barriers and increase attendance, making them a very cost-effective approach.
On the downside we found that they:
- Can mean less personal interaction. Personal contact with attendees who have “zoomed in” is minimal at best. There are no informal chats or catching up with old contacts, or making new ones, which reduces benefits of meetings, for BDMs for example.
- There are also less networking opportunities, less relationship building and goodwill development. Different approaches are needed to maintain networking.
- While some journalists prefer briefings where video conferencing is offered, we also notice we lose some who we hoped would be there in person. So there are pluses and minuses here, and it needs careful management and knowledge to get the best from opportunities and relationships.
- It might become a habit for some organisations to go straight to video to avoid attending events out of personal preferences. Which is unfortunate when you have personable clients as impact is lost.
- Hybrid events need a different management approach to be effective. Guests can be isolated and not involved. The event program needs flexibility to maintain interest for remote guests who can leave the meeting at the press of a button and blame technology.
- Badly managed hybrid meetings not only lose attendees at this event but can also lose them for the future. There’s no “the presentation wasn’t much but the people I met were pretty impressive and the informal chats very informative”.
Overall, we believe now they have been accepted, hybrid briefings are here to stay and add a positive benefit to most event types. Presentation skills have become even more important to get messages across and hold attention. However, hybrids should not dominate completely and other events will be necessary to maintain personal contact.