Everywhere you turn these days, meeting professionals are searching for the “killer app” that will make social media and virtual technologies more an opportunity and less a threat for face-to-face events.
The language of hybrid meetings, virtually unknown a year ago, is quickly gaining currency. MPI experimented with a Virtual Access Pass at its 2009 World Education Congress in Salt Lake City. A growing number of associations are opting for virtual or hybrid annual general meetings. And on MeetingsNet Extra last week, we heard from Hugh Lee and Julie McKown of Webster, NY-based Fusion Productions, where the effort to fully integrate online technologies with live meetings dates back to 2006.
At The Conference Publishers, we’ve made our own contribution, with the introduction of innovative products like conference content portals and Virtual Attendance. We’ve identified a series of advantages for organizations that bring together the best features of onsite and online settings. But we’ve never consolidated all those ideas in a single statement…and we know of no one else that has, anywhere in the industry. (If that’s wrong, that’s why blogs include space for comments. Please reply and let us know.)
So here’s a first attempt. Many of these statements will warrant their own blog posts (watch this space), if not full white papers. Some of them will no doubt change, evolve, or disappear in the face of closer scrutiny or practical experience.
But we’ve begun to suspect that meetings and social media can complete each other, to the extent that neither will meet its full potential without the other. If that’s the case, acquiring a deep understanding of social media and virtual technologies may be one of the most important items on any meeting professional’s agenda.
And so, with no further ado: A dozen (actually, a baker’s dozen plus one) expectations for linking social media and virtual technologies with face-to-face meetings and events. Any “killer app” must:
1. Build a broader community around the objectives and content of a conference, beyond the group that gathers onsite and beyond a single meeting
2. Create continuity between live and virtual meetings
3. Maximize the link between co-located meetings, or meetings held in a series over time
4. Minimize a meeting’s consumption of energy, water, waste, and carbon, while ensuring the greatest, most measurable return on every investment in these environmental services
5. Ensure that the discussion, dialogue, and learning around key issues and topics begins before the conference convenes, and continues after participants go home
6. Present content in multiple media, to accommodate the widest possible range of learning styles
7. Combine presenters’ knowledge and prepared content with accurate reporting and the commentary of a vibrant blogosphere
8. Combine the power of a highly focused onsite program and the much wider, more diffuse audience that it attracts online
9. Deliver finished content in a wide range of media—from hard-copy printing to mobile devices—that is tailored to the communication needs and preferences of the various target audiences
10. Enable organizers to share control over the conference message with a broader community of interest, both onsite and online, recognizing that the right balance will vary by conference, audience, topic, and timing
11. Build mutual transparency and accountability among conference organizers, speakers, and live and virtual participants
12. Permit content to be broadcast or narrowcast, and discussion to take place in public or private, as the need arises
13. Balance education and commerce in the way that makes most sense for each event
14. Generate a revenue stream for the host organization
This list is deliberately provocative, and it’s intended to launch the widest possible conversation, not cut off dialogue. Do you think it’s fair? Realistic? Incomplete? Ridiculous? We’ll be working through these ideas in the weeks and months ahead, and we’d like to see your comments.