Meeting the Challenge of Hybrid Events

Hybrid meetings ask for more from planners, like finding ways to replicate the energy of in-person meetings for virtual audiences — and in multiple time zones.

Author: Kate Mulcrone       

Dale Parmenter session

In-person events are “four-dimensional” experiences (above), while virtual attendees see everything on a two-dimensional screen while being distracted by what’s happening in the three-dimensional space of their home or office.


FIND THE SESSION: Digital Experience Institute: It’s a Very Very Hybrid World


Hybrid meetings have clear benefits like greater sustainability, nearly unlimited global reach, and the relative ease of including speakers who are unable to travel to the physical meeting location that will persist long after the pandemic has died down. But holding participants’ attention is another story, according Dale Parmenter, CEO of DRPG — How can event planners translate the visceral “I was there” excitement of an in-person event into a digital format?

Parmenter will share — and demonstrate — his strategies for designing engaging state-of-the-art hybrid and virtual meetings as a speaker at Convening Leaders 2021 on Thursday, Jan. 14 at 6:10 p.m. Singapore Standard Time, 11:10 a.m. Central European Time, and 5:10 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Dale Parmenter

Dale Parmenter

From Four Dimensions to Two

Parmenter looks at the differing engagement levels of in-person and virtual meetings as a matter of perspective, he said. In-person events are “four-dimensional” experiences that combine the 1) auditory content of a session with the 2) physicality of being in a meeting space, as well as 3) visual elements like slides and videos, and 4) interacting with the other people in the room. Attendees at live events can choose which of these elements to pay attention to, based on things like where they are seated, Parmenter said. But for virtual attendees, elements 1 and 3 are confined within a two-dimensional screen and set within the distracting three-dimensional space of their home or office. If event planners don’t bring additional elements into their hybrid meetings to engage participants’ attention, it can be all too easy for virtual attendees to look away from the screen and become caught up in something else happening in the room, he said.

In addition to the challenge of capturing attention, Parmenter also addresses the issue of the extra costs associated with going hybrid: Planners can’t expect to save money, he warns. Other hybrid challenges include managing a digital infrastructure that includes everything from additional sound equipment to cloud-based streaming software and scheduling content for different time zones.

Kate Mulcrone is a New York City–based freelance writer.