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The Biggest Hybrid Meeting Mistake

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When planning a hybrid meeting, it’s important to avoid the most common mistakes. Probably the most consistent complaint by an attendee is the feeling of being forgotten or disconnected from the onsite experience. To more clearly illustrate this, let’s imagine a scenario together:

You are a member of the National Dog Walkers Association. You have just started your own home-based business so you register for the annual meeting. Your goals are to learn best practices from peers around techniques with aggressive dogs and also acquire skills for business owners from experts. You pay for the event and receive a confirmation, but the only instructions you receive are the address, dates and times of the event ... and maybe a website where you will research all of the content to plan your agenda. A little nervous about what to expect, you nonetheless are looking forward to attending the event. 

After figuring out the best system to get there, the best clothing and meal plan for your needs, hunting around to see what speakers will be onsite, looking through LinkedIn and Facebook to try to get a feel for other attendees who might be there, you finally arrive onsite. At this point, you are directed to a room with no one else in it, aren’t sure when meal or bio breaks will be, look at a projection screen that says "waiting for content" and listen to weird music while waiting for a speaker to arrive. On the hour, a sponsor walks in, gives details on their products and services and then walks out. Immediately following that, a speaker walks in, opens a PowerPoint and launches into a presentation without looking at you or acknowledging your presence. After an hour of sitting in the same chair, holding your hand up for half an hour while listening to your phone ringing and email pinging, the speaker finally answers your question. As abruptly as they walked in, they then exit the room and you are notified the next session will begin in 15 minutes. What you are supposed to do for the next 15 minutes is a little unclear, so you quickly jump up and go grab a coffee down the hall. Alone. With no chance to ask other attendees those questions you’ve been longing to ask about the aggressive behavior of your teacup poodle client.

At the end of 15 minutes, a speaker walks in and duplicates the process. After about 35 minutes, your email and phone become a lot more interesting. Plus your stomach is starting to growl and you wish you’d had something a little more substantial to eat before entering the room (of course, preparing for the day was hard to do with limited knowledge of what to expect).

After a day of eating alone, speakers ignoring you and no chance to get answers to your most pressing needs, you’re pretty sure tomorrow you’re going to skip the event altogether and see if the LinkedIn Forum solves the riddle of Tiny’s ankle snapping angst. 

If we are not equally measuring the needs of our remote audience with those of our in-person, then we are not actually planning an event, but simply broadcasting a TV show. Do try to remember this when planning your hybrid meetings and think about all the opportunities for engagement in order to re-create the fun and value of attending the event, whether onsite or offsite. And don’t forget to attend my session, September 7, 2014 at the CMP Conclave in the wonderful city of New Orleans!

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