5 January, 2023
Before I started writing, I was talking to a colleague based in London. Every time we talk, the scene follows a similar pattern; I digitally call her, and she opens her computer and welcomes me to her home with a big smile. She knows more about me and my family than many people here in Stockholm. When we speak, we open our cameras and we go about the projects we are working on together, and inevitably share our domestic lives in the process. Despite the fact that we only meet two or three times a year, we’ve developed a strong bond and working relationship that feels so natural.
Like us, many people have moved from the new normal, a popular catch phrase coined during the pandemic, to the new natural. Our working styles and the way we meet have changed forever.
At CWT our meetings and events attendees are going through the same changes that we are, so we as meeting planners must adapt. This new natural involves virtual and hybrid events. Sometimes we will be in person and sometimes we will meet digitally. The difference is that today, attendees can decide on their own agenda and act accordingly. Sometimes it will make sense for them to attend in person and to join virtually on other occasions.
It’s becoming very important for organizers to make sure they have a very clear agenda, show the value of a meeting, and make sure to invite the right people. They must also create an environment that allows all attendees to collaborate and engage, regardless of if they are joining in person or connecting virtually.
During the early days of the pandemic (March, April 2020) many technology decisions were rushed. This led to many companies buying expensive subscriptions for virtual platforms to organize virtual events that they tried to manage themselves. Lead times grew longer as frustrations grew higher. The experience was poor, expensive and issues with cameras, firewalls and sound created frustration. This negative experience hid the great alternative to traditional meetings that this technology presented.
In comparison, for those who allowed professional support along the way, the transformation into using virtual technology was a lot smoother. Today about 30-40% of our clients include virtual technology in their programs, either as part of their business continuity plans, as a back-up for important events’ or as a natural step in their evolution towards a more sustainable M&E program.
The CWT meeting planners are famous for their logistics expertise and ability to multitask. With the arrival of virtual events, they had to adapt, and their skillsets expanded. First, we needed to understand the differences between the traditional in-person meeting planning and virtual planning. Next, they learned how to combine them in hybrid planning.
We all agree that content is the most important part of an event, but when the channel switches from F2F to hybrid or virtual, things need to adjust. Understanding how to engage different audiences is a good starting point: which narratives to use, the pace and timing and which data to look for. So, there is a need for a new breed of planners; planners that are comfortable with technology, broadcasting, and audiovisual production companies. They need the same multitasking skills, but also bravery when it comes to switchboards and cameras. Finally, they need to be able to guide speakers and participants through a new environment that may be unfamiliar to clients and attendees alike.
Using technology and building a platform to collaborate gives us a great alternative to mitigate the risk of travelling in sensitive times e.g., around big holidays, during Industrial actions, or to destinations with a higher risk profile.
This technology also gives us a chance to make sure that whatever happens, we can still execute the meeting with the right audience, speakers, sponsors or/and stakeholders from any location in the world.
Data is instrumental to measure the ROI (Return on Investment) for every meeting or event. This is something many clients have difficulties capturing or simply do not think of collecting. But if you want to measure your ROI, then the data and attendee experience is crucial.
We often explain to our clients around the world how we collect and analyze data and how it measures ROI. The first step is to set a clear event objective, and find the environment, location and venue that will support this objective. The next step is to invite the right audience who will bring value, contributions and benefit from the meeting or event. Lastly and most importantly, you need to establish how to measure the outcome, which is often done by surveys.
With virtual technology, we can plan and engage data points to each step of the project.
Invitations, registrations, logins, clicks, downloads, interactions, comments or time spent on certain topics. All this data can and must be planned for collection before the event to gain the best results. Without forgetting, of course, asking for the necessary permissions to be GDPR compliant if the data will be used further for marketing or communications campaigns.
I paused this blog for a short business trip to London. I met my colleague in person. We walked through the London streets talking about work and life. The best way to describe it is like having many of those “coffee machine encounters” condensed into one afternoon. For some, it may feel weird, for us, it is just natural.
Fredrik Hermelin, Senior Director Global Sales CWT M&E
Read more about organizing virtual and hybrid events