Honorable Mention Chapter Award
Honorable Mention Chapter Award

Preparing Your Members for Hybrid Meetings

Jul 27, 2021, 10:03 AM by Avery Carter
Hybrid is the new buzz word for meetings, and our members are catching on too.

In the last year, the meetings industry has quickly generated a list of forbidden vocabulary. We all cringe at the words pivot, unprecedented, new normal, virtual, social distancing, zoom fatigue, and now…hybrid.

I’m sure your email has been blowing up with articles and webinars addressing how to create a hybrid event. Hybrid is the new buzz word for meetings, and our members are catching on too. But, do your members really know what hybrid means? Sure, they’re intelligent, they’re aware this means the meeting will have face to face and virtual elements. With such a broad definition of the word, this opens the door for a variety of interpretations and expectations. On one side, this allows organizations to create a format that works best for them. On the other side however, this means your attendees may create their own idea of what hybrid would be, and set their expectations accordingly. It is your job to help ensure your member expectations are met, which means it is also your job to make sure those expectations are in-line with the event you’re planning.

When your organization held the first virtual event, no one knew what to expect. Your attendees were most likely excited by some elements, and disappointed with others. They may be expecting the elements of virtual they liked to be incorporated into the hybrid event you may be planning for the following year. This does not mean you have to incorporate it all, but it does mean you need to prepare your members for what they should expect. For my annual event, a lot of members raved about having access to recordings of sessions they missed. This is something they would not typically receive from the face-to-face conference. Now, they want it forever! Realistic? Maybe, if you have the budget for it. But if I can’t deliver this piece, I need to make sure my members know this. I do not want them to assume this will be included, because I know that will lead to failed expectations and unhappy attendees.

So how do you do it? How do you prepare your members for what your hybrid event will look like? First, think about what doesn’t work. If your members seem to be more likely to delete marketing emails, and less likely to read a wordy email, then sending them a list of expectations may not be the answer. What about videos and images? I have found that the more I can put into a quick video, the shorter I can make my emails. Who wants to read through a list of FAQs on a website? If someone has only one question and they fully understand everything else, that might be the way to go. But, for a new event format, you must think about the question they have and the questions they are not thinking to ask. By creating a short video, your members need to watch and listen for their question, but you’re also educating them on other expectations.

Example number one: I tried this video method out with my members for our new online courses. They run for 4 weeks, so the start/stop date is listed on the event page with the course description and details. On our event listing page, I had a detailed paragraph with the header, “How Do Online Courses Work?” Unfortunately, no one read the paragraph. I received daily emails asking me to explain the course format, even though it is right there for them. Some members wanted me to call to explain because they were still confused after reading the information. So, it clicked, if I create a quick video that explains the questions I’m receiving, I can give them the answers to all questions and do it in a way that allows me to explain thoroughly without worrying about my email getting too long. So, I did it. I posted the video with the explanation on the website, and I point members to the video when they email asking for information. This has worked flawlessly. They all come back and say the video answered all of their questions. Expectations set!

Example number two: Preparing for our big annual event was drastically different this year, as we were going virtual. Our members were hesitant, and we could tell by the registration numbers climbing slower than ever before. As we got closer to the event, my speakers started to get nervous, asking when they could access the platform to play around. I was able to set up a quick sneak-peak for them, which eased their minds quickly and they expressed how impressed they were with the program. It clicked again…maybe this is why people are not registering! In the final three weeks leading up to the conference, we added a sneak peak to the beginning of all meetings and webcast programming. Then, we added a brief video to our weekly member email. Our registration numbers soared, and we heard from many members that the sneak peak made them realize this wasn’t just going to be a Zoom meeting, and they were going to get perks to this conference they never had before (the recordings).

Providing your members with a visual and audible explanation of your new event/meeting format will enable you to set the expectations. Find ways to get the video in front of as many members as possible. You should certainly include some written expectations, but we can not rely solely on written communications to be read and interpreted correctly. Pulling together a hybrid or virtual event is difficult enough. The last thing you want is for attendees to register expecting something different from what you plan to deliver. Help your members prepare for your hybrid event/meeting by assisting them in setting their expectations. Videos aside, what other ways do you think we can help prepare our members for new event/meeting formats?

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