Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

February 10 2015

5 Key Factors That Fuel PCMA’s Hybrid Success

By Jennifer Kingen Kush

It’s been five years since PCMA first entered the Wild West of hybrid meetings. Since 2010, the organization has embraced the spirit of experimentation. We’ve tested a range of pricing models. We’ve encountered our fair share of technological issues. We’ve revisited our objectives to determine what we really want to accomplish with our online content.

Over the next five years, hybrid meetings will continue to change the meetings industry. As PCMA members prepare for a future where more attendees will search for online educational opportunities, here’s a look at some of the key ingredients that have shaped our success to this point.

1) Getting C-level support.

From day one, we have had a supportive CEO. Even in the uncertain economic conditions of 2009, Deborah Sexton believed online meetings and hybrid extensions were essential pieces of advancing the industry.

While we’ve been lucky to have leadership who recognizes the importance of online education, many meeting professionals will face pushback on the need to invest in hybrid meetings. In these cases, meeting professionals must articulate the reasons why their organizations need to get on the hybrid bandwagon. The best place to start? Attendees are asking for it. According to recent American Express Meetings & Events research, 63 percent of attendees would attend more meetings and events virtually if the option were available.

2) Measuring ROI with a long-term stick.

At PCMA, we don’t look at our hybrid initiative with the hopes of an immediate revenue increase. Instead, we see the hybrid as a powerful marketing tool to help us engage new meeting professionals around the world and expand our brand’s reach. That’s why we offer the experience for free. Our data shows the freemium model will pay big dividends, too. Nearly 70 percent of our 2015 attendees indicated that they plan to attend our face-to-face event in the future.

3) Testing and testing…and testing.

Every meeting professional knows there are plenty of potential issues that can arise on-site. There is no shortage of concerns in the hybrid environment, either. Is the stream too slow? Is the lighting too low? Is the audio fuzzy? Is the camera capturing each member of the panel? Before the meeting begins, we test every component to make sure the correct electrical and Internet requirements are in place. All that testing has paved the way to a top-notch experience. Ninety-two percent of attendees rank the meeting as excellent/above average.

4) Striving for the 30-second solution.

We aim to resolve issues for on-site attendees immediately, and we approach our hybrid attendees with that customer service goal. In today’s rapid-response landscape, we believe that attendees should not have to wait for help. With that in mind, we have a goal to resolve all challenges within 30 seconds. Because these attendees are behind their screens, any longer delay runs the risk that they will simply log off.

5) Providing more than education credits.

While our hybrid meeting relies on the best content to attract meeting professionals, we know that education alone isn’t enough. That’s why we host a happy hour at the end of each broadcast day. It gives attendees a chance to chat with each other, ask questions and build a real community — one that feels similar to the face-to-face audience.

In 2015, there was another crucial factor that paved PCMA’s success: the sponsorship of Meetings + Conventions Calgary. The organization’s support allowed us to deliver the content to our online audience. The members of the Calgary team are true believers in complementary face-2-face meetings and online extensions to maximize audience reach. If you want to find out more, visit www.meetingscalgary.com

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