As this year brings its own set of unique challenges to our industry, we asked meeting planners how they’re approaching their upcoming events.
As you plan for 2021 events, what are you most excited about?
Cori: I am most excited about two items. 1. Seeing the increasing (re)growth in our industry. Last year was devastating to me. But it was more so to our hotel worker colleagues that service our meetings. And, 2. I can’t wait to get on a plane in June, as it’s my first trip in 15 months.
Colleen: The possibility that the large majority of meetings, sessions, conventions will be either Hybrid or completely face-to-face again.
How has hybrid changed the way you plan and design events?
Cori: Like it or not, hybrid, I believe is here to stay – at least for the time being. It truly is planning two separate meetings. most people do not realize how each (virtual and traditional in person) differ in need.
Colleen: It is much more expensive with the need of additional AV and new technology. AV is generally always used in some form for most meetings and programs, but it has taken on a new role this past year with the Hybrid or virtual meetings. It is critical to keep your virtual audience engaged and treated equally as if they were onsite. This includes involving your virtual audience with all points of the meeting. What you do for your onsite, you need a similar program for the virtual. If not, you could lose your virtual audience completely. Or they have remained online but have completed zoned out by doing other tasks (checking emails and text, working on a completely different program).
What types of event technologies are you planning on using?
Cori: Conferences Designed has used a variety of virtual programming options. Sometimes, the new and flashy is not the best. I am still a fan of the GoTo family and have been for years. However, I have enjoyed the opportunity (albeit forced) to learn new larger scale virtual platforms. This week, I have the opportunity to use another new large scale (over 1,000 attendees) platform. It has been a blessing to work with some new production and tech teams that have critically updated my tech game.
What is the biggest tool for successful audience engagement?
Cori: I think the biggest, best tool for audience engagement is a production manager and meeting planner that care. To me, it is that simple. It is important, more ethical, and smart business to know your attendee – even when virtual. In fact, it is just as important as the production of a successful in-person event. From asking questions of the virtual audience through candid, one on one engagement, having opportunities for audience feedback, QA management for specifical on-line questions submitted and more allow for virtual engagement that do not cost the client a lot of money.
Colleen: 1. Involvement. You need to keep all involved and active in the program. This could involve opening up throughout the program with Q&A, just not too much Q&A. You do not want to lose some of the audience if the questions do not involve all of them or the main goal of that session/program. You need to provide just the right amount of Q&A and the ability to control the frequency or with that one person that is always asking too many questions and directing the program to them only. As you know, you may have one or two attendees asking all the questions.
2. Tell great stories that pertain to the subject of that program. Everyone loves a great fun, educational and interesting story because in many cases they can relate to those stories.
3. Excellent speakers that are covering exactly the content of your program and what the attendees need to hear. They also need to add that excitement and buzz for the rest of your meeting/conference to keep your attendees interacting and ready to jump into these new programs.
4. Speakers that provide your attendees with immediate take-aways and material for their growth and has essential educational substance.
5. Exciting and fun breaks. These come in all shapes and sizes. They need to provide more fuel for the rest of the day, excellent networking opportunities and something new to keep your attendees waiting anxiously for the next break.
6. Shorter presentations…especially if the program is virtual. What you do for an in-person workshop/meeting/program, can definitely vary for a Hybrid or a virtual meeting. People sitting in front of their computers need much more involvement, excitement, and worthy content to keep their interest for longer periods of time.
7. Start and end on time which will help with staying on time for each segment of the program.
8. Reach your goals for that program, and always make sure you are providing the most excellent of information to your attendees. Especially if they are paying for this program, they want new and informative information.
9. Your programs need to provide up-to-date and excellent material, but also fun. You need to make them grasp all the necessary information, but they need to enjoy the program to comprehend.
10. Add a few surprises. You can do a trivia game, add some giveaways, games, etc. All of this varies with the content of your program, length of program, budget, and of course your purpose for the program.