Hybrid meetings are an increasingly popular option among event organizers and hoteliers as a way to safely convene attendees across the globe during the pandemic. Case in point: At Marriott International’s recent “Connect with Confidence” — a hybrid event held on Nov. 9 at The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner, in Virginia — one-quarter of the corporate, independent, and association planner participants said that they intended to host a hybrid event in the next three months.
The “Connect with Confidence” event launched a series of hybrid gatherings that will convene at different Marriott International properties in the coming months with content tailored to reflect the innovations of regional executives and hotel leaders. The inaugural half-day event hosted 28 in-person and 180 virtual attendees, who heard from Marriott executives about its “Commitment to Clean” protocols, industry insights, and new solutions for meeting safely. Attendees were able to see these new measures in action, as well as look at the ways in which Marriott is able to make a virtual audience feel integral to the event’s programming.
Most of the in-person attendees were local to Tysons Corner, but some were hosted by Marriott overnight. They were able to make use of Marriott’s digital registration before the meeting and pre-select “Sanctuary Seats” that provided a preview of the room setup. Upon arrival, attendees were given individually packaged amenity boxes that included a face shield, mask, hand, sanitizer, and color-coded bracelets to show each attendee’s comfort level — red indicated if they wished fellow attendees to keep a distance, yellow meant others should respect their space, and green meant that elbow bumps were welcome. During the event’s lunch break, attendees were given the option to dine alone or with up to three other attendees at their table.
“In-person attendees were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about meeting in person again,” said Tammy Routh, senior vice president, global sales for Marriott International, adding that they “felt comfortable with the steps Marriott and The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner took to deliver a meeting with heightened protocols in place.”
The 180 attendees who opted to participate remotely experienced a different side of the hybrid event. While they weren’t able to mingle and eat lunch with other planners in person, Marriott took steps to ensure they didn’t feel left out. Virtual attendees were given curated, virtual-only content, including infographics outlining the pre-event, event day, and post-event protocols. For lunch, Marriott gave online participants an UberEats credit so they could enjoy a meal at the same time as their in-person counterparts. They were also brought into the live event discussion — moderated by Doreen Burse, vice president, Marriott Global Sales, U.S. and Canada — through MeetingPlay, the virtual experience provider.
MeetingPlay’s team created “a multiple-camera view so that virtual attendees could watch the show from various angles, such as switching their seats from left, right, and center,” Routh told Convene. “In-person and virtual attendees could also use the MeetingPlay app and online dashboard to network, real-time chat, and answer polls and surveys, with their results shared live toward the end of the event.” There was also a networking function that allowed virtual participants to view other participants’ profiles and engage with them before, during, and after the event. Virtual attendees were invited to share their thoughts on protocols with Marriott executives during one-hour feedback sessions.
These initiatives helped online participants feel “engaged throughout the entire meeting,” Routh said. In addition, they “appreciated videos that highlighted what the attendees were experiencing in person.”