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Choosing the Best Virtual and Hybrid Meeting Tools: 5 Considerations

Jennifer Tontini
on 09/3/19 01:57 PM

Jennifer Rupe Tontini is Vice President, Global Business Development with Educational Measures. She is recognized as a thought leader in adult education, instructional design and technology, strategic engagement, and is a certified Change Management Professional (CMP). Jenn has spent nearly 20 years developing and executing interactive education, marketing, and training strategies for clients in many verticals, with a primary focus on biopharmaceutical companies, their MedComm companies and agencies, and their CROs. She has helped to lead the industry trend in designing Meaningful Engagement (ME) initiatives via strategic interactions and content, and has served as a trusted partner and consultant to dozens of organizations in this capacity.

The best live meetings and events produce results--whether they take place virtually, in-person, or in hybrid combination. As virtual meeting technology improves and interactive tools evolve, we can ensure that these meetings are dynamic collaborations and not a colossal waste of time. 


But with all the options, how can you be sure you are using the best tools for your organization? First, let’s take a step back and look at the landscape of available products to see what exists in the market today and what is coming down the pipeline.

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Next, we need to define “best.” This subjective term varies between industry, but as a baseline consists of functionality, reliability, and the ability to evolve as needs change and technology improves. A best fit for your organization may vary wildly between other industries.

 

Finally, we must consider cost. As Inc. reports here, bad meetings are bad business before you even pay for technology.

 

Ask yourself, does the price justify the benefits? Will this meeting tool integrate with technology you already use or will it become a clunky addition that produces more headaches than progress? Is it simple enough to succeed in engaging the audience? Are you seeing ROI on your investment?

 

Let’s dive into what is now and what is next in the virtual and hybrid meeting landscape by looking at a few key considerations:

1) Size Matters: Small meeting vs. larger events needs

The tools that capture the attention and engagement of a small meeting audience may prove obsolete in a larger context. Just like a megaphone is useless in a packed arena, you need to “right-size” your technology to your needs.

Why audience size matters

Video communication is the most simple form of being there without being there. For small meetings, this basic tool can produce effective results. From (a new and improved) Facetime for multiple participants, to Skype, to Google’s Hangout tool, the options abound and consistently advance. Web conferencing is ubiquitous, and the marketplace is crowded. Sift through the major players here and evaluate their various strengths and weaknesses.

 

Potential pitfalls with video technology range from lack of compatibility between platforms and service providers, to reliability issues with freezing and dropped calls, to just plain bad functionality. As you increase meeting size, these problems only compound and you’ll want to consider different options.

 

Larger meetings, require tools that catalyze collaboration regardless of location. EM’s Virtual Array® tool bridges the gap between small meeting intimacy with large meeting functionality. It translates live event impact and integrates it within a virtual context through the use of real-time polls and surveys, interactive slides and content, gaming and simulations, as well as the ability to ask questions and engage with speakers and content.

 

2) Sharing is Caring: Content collaboration tools

 

Meetings produce impact when the attendees do more than warm the seats (virtual or actual). This can be measured through communication, notetaking, and connections between attendees.

 

Tools like Clarke invite a digital participant to do all the grunt work of meeting attendance. Through artificial intelligence, Clarke records and analyzes meeting discussion and can even outline next steps following a gathering. As a result, participants are more fully present in the meeting and able to participate and partner with fellow attendees.

 

Slack is quickly becoming an essential team tool for productivity and streamlined interaction. Remote collaboration is made simple with real-time messaging and customizable notifications. Slack plays well with others and offers easy interaction with many existing office tools.

 

Other popular collaboration tools that boost meeting effectiveness are Yammer and Google Drive, both offering their own unique benefits. Google Drive is the ultimate in online collaboration and sharing, breaking down the geographic barriers between individuals and teams. While difficult to use for any offline activities, if your team is virtual, Google Drive can make work happen.

 

Yammer is Microsoft’s response to Google offerings and is often called a “business social network.” Yammer brings together colleagues and clients, and the powerful collaboration capabilities compensate for the lack of available customization.

3) Engagement Party: How to boost and measure interaction

It has been said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” And this could not be more true for the world of meeting engagement and interaction. With the right technology partner, you can quantify engagement and then take steps to improve interaction and meeting impact.

Measure and boost audience interaction

For large-scale events, companies like Aventri utilize beacons and tracking apps to connect with attendees and measure their interaction and mobility through an event. These tools allow meeting planners and organizers to see what sessions and areas of an event are the most popular how much attendees are interested in the available content. With this kind of data, organizers can pivot and change future events to bolster interaction.

 

These kinds of meeting apps also allow greater interaction and networking between attendees before, during, and after the event. Aventri’s mobile apps that can send customizable push notifications based on behavior and event interactions and also facilitate polls, quizzes, and surveys.

 

With measurable interaction, engagement becomes a powerful predictor of meeting success.

4) Let the Games Begin: Introducing gamification into events

Simply put, people love to play. Gamification invites participation and infuses liveliness into a potentially dry, mundane event. Depending on industry, this kind of approach can look like games, simulations, scavenger hunts, or customizable leaderboard activities. 

 

Beyond the obvious element of fun, gamification produces real results. From increased knowledge retention, to team building and attendee collaboration, gamification is more than just a novelty. Competition prompts deeper learning and the Educational Measures Virtual Array allows meeting presenters to engage with audience members through mid-session polling and other quiz features in digital and hybrid meetings.

 

Gamification also drives interaction with sponsors and partner companies and can facilitate easier and more meaningful networking connections. Games are a productive substrate to build real knowledge and practical connection.

5) Just the Facts: Collecting unified audience data

Knowing about your audience allows you to tailor meetings to meet needs and produce results. By capturing, collecting, and analyzing data, you can merge information from both onsite and offsite attendees.

Unified meeting audience data

EventPilot incorporates real-time analytics to help organizers produces better, more productive events. Instead of waiting to correct inefficiencies in subsequent meetings, current data catalyzes immediate action. This allows event planners to manage staffing needs and adjust traffic patterns in expo centers. It also enables improved search results during the event, better real-time communication, and the ability to reveal any potential issues with presenters or rooms.

 

While different companies approach this challenge in their own unique ways, Educational Measures utilizes the Array Hub tool for easy and centralized analysis. Data from events can be tracked, recorded, and interpreted for real-time understanding.

 

Beyond the present moment benefits, Array Hub offers intelligent meeting analytics that can determine overall meeting impact, identify cross-meeting trends, and be stored securely in the cloud for downloadable and shareable reports at any time.

 

Meeting technology will continue to develop and improve. By understanding your organization’s specific needs, you can make the right choice at the right time to propel the success of your digital or hybrid event.

 

Curious about the other tech trends barreling down the 2020 pipeline? Check out the Endless Events predictions here and Northstar Meetings Group preferred tech trends here.

 

Want to know more about how our Virtual Array tool can drive meeting success for you and your company? Contact us here. We’d love to help you!

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