There are hybrid cars, bikes, and golf clubs. But meetings? How will that look and why should you consider it?

Just like everything else, blending face-to-face and online/virtual events will probably be the future for meetings, conferences, conventions, and trade shows.

For Christopher Gribbs, managing director of conference services, at The American Institute of Architects (AIA), the “aha moment” for the potential of hybrid meetings came at the 2009 AIA Annual Conference in San Francisco. AIA had about 22,400 people registered to attend the live meeting, down about 7% from the previous year in Boston. But when the 5,500 virtual registrants were included, AIA wound up with a record number of registrants!

Comparison of Physical and Online/Virtual Events


Physical Event Online/Virtual Event
Educational Session Can offer 100+ educational sessions May only be a handful of sessions
Content There can be depth and breadth but may be costly Very cost effective
Trade Show May be 100’s of exhibiting companies with products and services May only be a few exhibitors
Networking Social events, ceremonies and parties where groups get together Chat rooms, social media and blogging but no face-to-face interaction

Benefits of Online/Virtual Events

·         Participants can log in anywhere in the world and can be part of an event they might not normally attend due to budget and time constraints.

·         By archiving sessions, attendees can access online that session throughout the year.

·         Exhibitors can be given virtual booth space.

·         Most venues have the ability to allow for live broadcasts from the meeting.

·         Speakers are often pleased with the virtual component because they know people are watching. They will often get access to an audience that they could not have reached before.

So Why Go Hybrid?

What percentage of your potential audience comes to your physical event? With an association, this number is easy. Just divide your total attendance by your total membership. With a corporate event, you need to consider how many individuals will need to fly or drive to the event, plus hotel and meals expenses. If the attendee number is low for the association and/or the cost to bring people to the event is high, consider a hybrid event.

What is the financial position of your attendees? Are they losing their jobs and getting laid off? Are firms closing their doors? Are people doing more with less? Again, looking at the overall picture of your attendees will influence whether a hybrid event makes sense.

 “Within three to five years, I would say, most conference services associations will be moving to a three-dimensional immersive virtual platform to provide greater value to their membership,” says Mike Westcott, vice president of marketing at InXpo. “It still doesn’t give you the face-to-face engagement that is so valuable to people and it’s never going to displace live meetings, but it is a wonderful complement to existing events.”

Whether it is a face-to-face, virtual, or a hybrid meeting, AV Event Solutions, an interactive technology tool rentals organization, can assist you with your next meeting or event.