What do you know about hosting successful hybrid and virtual events? The chance is, it's not enough. While hybrid events can have a huge impact on the overall success of your event, too many planners report feeling overwhelmed or undereducated about the process. I recently had the chance to sit down and chat with Steph Pfeilsticker, a leading force in hybrid events, about her new educational series she is launching that I think is a great opportunity for anyone looking to undertake more hybrid events in their future.
First of all, please tell our readers a bit about you and your background.
I have been a planner in the meetings industry for 16 years. In 2010, I discovered virtual and hybrid events at an industry event. After a successful hybrid pilot where I streamed a National Sales Meeting to those who couldn’t attend in person, a viable option to extend our message was born. Requests came in for more hybrid meetings and I started a Virtual Strategy Group to produce these events. I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur and by late last year, I made that a reality by launching Hybrid Events Authority, LLC based in Minneapolis, MN. Through Hybrid Events Authority, I guide clients through the process of planning hybrid events or if they prefer, I can produce the events for them. I also regularly speak at industry conferences on hybrid events.
I know you are launching a new Hybrid Education series - please tell me more.
I believe that education on hybrid events is necessary for planners to understand how and when hybrid meetings should be incorporated into your own meetings. Most education at industry conferences give planners 60 minutes to learn about hybrid events. To fully understand the process behind hybrid events, a more in-depth course is needed. To meet this need, I have teamed up with Digital Event Strategist, Mahoganey Jones from Toronto to produce a 5-part series online that will allow planners to walk away with the ability to plan their own hybrid event. We wanted the series of sessions to be comprehensive, yet practical so the information could be immediately put to use. The course begins on Thursday, April 23rd via the internet so that anyone can attend! Meeting professionals can register for it at www.planhybridmeetings.com. You may enter code NMID to receive the early bird rate.
What is the biggest thing you think planners need to know to embrace hybrid events?
Hybrid events are not only possible, but are a great way to extend your message to those who cannot attend. The two factors that prevent planners from producing a hybrid event are not understanding the process and concern over the technology working properly. While the process is different than face-to-face meetings, it isn’t any more difficult. Having quality vendor partners is essential for all events, but especially when you are using streaming technology. Your a/v supplier, virtual platform/streaming vendor and internet provider need to communicate with each other to ensure a smooth hybrid event.
What is the biggest mistake you think planners make when it comes to hybrid events?
Often planners do not take time to understand how the virtual audience is different than the in-person audience. If you are building content around this group, you should know how they different from those at the event. You can better choose what sessions would be most appropriate to stream. For my events, I’ve seen virtual audiences be comprised of attendees newer to the organization or for other reasons not aware of the quality of the content to pay to attend in-person. That kind of attendee has different needs than the in-person attendee.
There has been a lot of talk in the industry about whether hybrid events cannibalize in-person events. What is your take on this?
Great question! Cannibalization was a big fear a few years ago. Since then research on event data has concluded that not only do hybrid events NOT cannibalize in-person events, but they are actually attendance drivers. How so? Virtual attendees are a different type of audience from those that attend face to face. They typically have not previously attended the event in-person.
Statistics from my events range between 34-51% of the virtual audience attending in-person the next year. Other industry stats have had similar success. This is great news for our industry!
Finally, I have to ask, what is your favorite app?
My favorite app is a travel/transit app that uses augmented reality to help get you find the nearest subway, or other transit stop. WayFinder NYC allows you to put your phone up as if you were taking a photo and it lays the direction and distance over the actual street view to the nearest subway. The last time I was in New York City, I downloaded it and got around the city using it. There are similar apps to navigate other cities as well.
My contact info:
Steph Pfeilsticker, CMP, CMM, DES, MBA
Hybrid Events Authority, LLC