Posted in: AG Events, Mark's Insights,

Last month Allinial Global hosted its first-ever hybrid conference, which included the first live component in over a year. The meeting was held from May 16–19 in Charleston, SC, with virtual attendance as an option.

When we first made the decision to go hybrid, we expected attendance to be lower than previous years with a split of one-third live and two-thirds virtual. In actuality we had two-thirds live and one-third virtual, and the same number of total attendees. We can attribute our success to several factors:

  1. Far more members have been vaccinated, although they probably didn’t think they would be by the meeting.  
  2. Having the meeting at the Belmond in Charleston, SC, which has been holding live events throughout the pandemic, allowed us to assure members the environment would be safe with appropriate protocols in place.
  3. A dedicated Allinial Global staff focused on creating an experience that was almost identical between the live and virtual versions. This included using Conferences.io for polling and Q&A during sessions, both live and virtual strategic partner and sponsor booths, and breakout sessions and roundtables for both the virtual and live experience.

The live attendee feedback thus far has been nothing short of exceptional. Although some of this joy may have come from just being somewhere—with anyone—the virtual feedback was also glowing. Of course, several items of improvement were suggested, so we will be making some immediate changes for our next hybrid event.

  1. Depending on the live location, we will look to a better start time for all potential attendees. A North American conference on the East Coast starting at 9 a.m. is pretty early for the West Coast and nearly impossible for Hawaii. Maybe the 9 a.m. session should be localized to roundtables so that keynotes could start after 11 a.m. Eastern.
  2. Continual reminders to the live audience that the virtual audience is also participating. Even though using Conferences.io allows for a common Q&A experience, it’s important to allow for an open microphone from the virtual audience as well.
  3. Consider creating smaller packages of attendance or provide pricing in four-hour blocks so that attendees don’t feel obligated to stay on for the entire conference. Three-tiered pricing could include options for a half-day, full-day, or full conference pass.

Every attendee I’ve spoken to sees the huge benefit of continuing hybrid events. This is so others within a firm can take advantage of seeing and hearing exactly what firm leaders are seeing and hearing at Allinial Global events. Several members mentioned sessions that they wished their partners or leadership group could have attended virtually. Now they will look at future agendas to make sure others in their firm attend to enjoy the same great benefits of seeing world-renowned speakers.

One thing is for sure, it’s not a question of “or” when it comes to live vs. virtual—it’s an “and.” We will continue to see attendance grow as we provide even greater value that goes much deeper for our member firms, and we look forward to offering an ever-improving hybrid experience for future events. In fact, the Allinial Global team is already working hard on our next hybrid program, the Global Forum. Taking place from October 24–26 this year, the Global Forum will feature a live component in Dubai, UAE, along with a simultaneous virtual experience. Registration will be opening soon, and I hope to see you there, whether in person or online.


      
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