If you’re thinking about adding a hybrid element to your annual meeting, chances are you have plenty of concerns about the costs. Take a look at some helpful tips on how to calm those concerns with Mary Reynolds Kane, director, online marketing, PCMA, and one of the driving forces behind PCMA’s adoption of the hybrid model.
1) Isn’t This Going to Cost Way Too Much Money?
While technology certainly requires an investment, taking your meeting hybrid may actually be cheaper than you expect.
“If you already have a camera and an operator in your general session, you’ve already covered a big portion of the labor and equipment costs,” Reynolds Kane says.
There are different investment levels for taking your event virtual, too. Reynolds Kane says that you don’t have to use high-end production value in order to push out content. You also don’t necessarily have to have a live component, which involves higher Internet costs. Instead, you can record content from the face-to-face experience and then push it out a few days later in a simu-live format.
Reynolds Kane says that the most important part of the process is to establish your objectives. How many sessions are you hoping to broadcast? How many attendees need to register for this to be successful? Are you looking for a sponsor to help deflect some of the costs? Once you know what you’re hoping to accomplish, you can be creative with delivery. From flip cams to Ustream and Skype, there are a lot of options.
2) How Much Should I Charge?
It depends on your audience and the goals of your hybrid meeting.
For PCMA, Reynolds Kane says that the goal has been to expand the reach of the organization’s content and leverage it as a marketing tool for the F2F experience.
While planners must ensure that their meetings and conferences are financially rewarding for their organizations, Reynolds Kane says that charging can create a hurdle for getting those attendees to actually register.
“When I have talked to those that have been in this space for a while, there are no hard and fast rules,” Reynolds Kane says. “Similar to the wide range of face-to-face meetings, each one is different. You have to create the value and then test and adjust the pricing model for your audience.”
3) How Do I Actually Monetize a Hybrid Meeting?
All of your content represents a financial opportunity. With the ability to charge for on-demand access to sessions after your event is over, the programs you capture can give you a continuing stream of revenue and your audience a continuing stream of education.
Reynolds Kane suggests that in the future, planners may begin to consider a model similar to Hulu’s TV service or Spotify’s music service where content is supported by advertising during the actual hybrid experience. For meeting attendees, this might mean listening to the occasional 30-second promotion for your organization’s partners.
4) So If I’m Not Making a Lot of Money, What’s the Point?
Engaging attendees with a hybrid meeting will pay off, but you may not see an immediate big boost in your bottom line. Instead, you’ll need to take steps to continue the conversation with those attendees. Ultimately, that conversation can lead to more members and more face-to-face attendees in the future.
“We’re using our hybrid meeting as an extension of our brand and an introduction for meeting professionals who may not be familiar with PCMA,” Reynolds Kane says. “It’s a driver to discover more products and services that will help planners in today’s meetings industry. For meeting professionals who are already our members, it’s another way for them to learn, engage and maximize the value of their involvement with PCMA.”
5) OK, I’m Sold, But My Organization Isn’t It. What Do I Do?
Even if you see the value in offering part of your meeting in a virtual format, you still may need to turn other decision-makers in your organization into believers. That belief starts with demonstrating how your hybrid attendance creates a positive impact for your face-to-face numbers.
“It’s up to the planner to show that there is an increase in face-to-face attendance,” Reynolds Kane says.
At PCMA, Reynolds Kane has done just that. After Convening Leaders Hybrid 2013, 63 percent of participants indicated that they are now more likely to register to attend a future face-to-face PCMA event.
For more advice on how to execute a successful hybrid event, click here.