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Face-to-Face vs. Virtual Meetings; Come Together, Right Now.

Panel_112Hx221W.The Virtual Edge Summit I attended this week was amazing. I was genuinely impressed with the high caliber, entrepreneurial, visionary group of people that I met. For example, after presenting about how to measure results including ROI of virtual events, the conversations that ensued were challenging and relevant. Many seemed ready to develop ways to add value to an industry that still has a hard time proving the value and ROI of virtual meetings and events. It was energizing and just plain fun. 

The content from all the presenters was also high caliber. I don’t normally do this after attending conferences but I am planning on viewing the sessions I couldn’t attend. You’ll find them in about ten days at 

Many of the sessions were eye opening. I saw beautiful 3D environments, the ability to translate chats so you can speak with people around the globe without language barriers, fun and challenging games, team building activities, powerful reporting tools and more. The possibilities are enough to make your head spin. I found it easy to dream about future events complete with all kinds techno bells, whistles. 


And then, all of a sudden, my visions of a technologically enhanced virtual future crashed. I thought, “Hey, we have work to do, and a lot of it!” Around the globe companies are trying to recover from the 2009 recession and their people are the just the ones to do it. And quite frankly, they don’t give a hoot about technological marvels if you can’t help them achieve greater success.

Then my thoughts drifted to last week. I traveled to and served on a panel at the NBTA Masters Program I was with 200 of the most influential travel industry executives and it was all about travel. (Read my post about The Masters here and here) And this week at Virtual Edge Summit it was a similar kind of group and it was all about virtual meetings and events.

So, what is the best solution to engage the people you rely on to succeed? Travel? Or virtual? I’ve come to believe that the answer is both. 

You see, it’s not about ballrooms and airline seats. It’s not about whizz-bang technology platforms for a virtual event. It’s about the people. It’s about engaging people and vision casting and influencing how your people think about your product/service and building relationships and collaborating and innovating and building new skills and more. You get the picture.

And in my opinion, the best place to begin a meaningful dialog between the travel people and the virtual people is with “hybrid” experiences; meetings, conferences, trade shows, expos, exhibitions, summits, events of all kinds that include in person as well as remote audiences. By working together, these two seemingly diametrically opposed industries will extend the reach for their clients, drive better ROI and, in so doing, capture more business. Together. 

So call me crazy, but I think the two conferences should meet concurrently. What about you?


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Todd, dead on, my man! That said, there are a number of hybrid approaches, some involve concurrent meetings similar to the way that Virtual Edge executed with remote attendees and presenters, others involve ways you can engage a physical attendee base prior to and after an in-person event experience. The fun part about this emerging hybrid method is that there is no "right" way to do it. The value is created as the experience is formed, an experience that is tailored specifically for your attendees, not some generic, template approach. Those who have already created experiences through intelligent experimentation have reaped great rewards and an incredible amount of knowledge about how they would shift their approach. Everyone else who sits on the sidelines to wait and see what happens is going to be disappointed because it is unlikely that you can take another company's approach and apply it to your audience and your challenges and expect similar results.

Thanks for the comments, Steve.

It is so important to get strategy before tactic. But in the meetings and events world, it frequently gets backwards. It's exactly one of the reasons firms like yours are so valuable.

And for those sitting on the sidelines watching others execute, well, they already have it backwards don't they?

Looking forward to your continued thought leadership and evangelism in this arena!

Handshakes, business cards and a look in the eye or pressing Enter, cameras and saving time?
It's sure difficult to decide which one is better and for what purpose - we just don't have enough information and of course we have to remember that each person will do what is convenient for *him*.

Wow sounds amazing! I'm heading over to prolibraries!

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