MIXED MESSAGES
Business Traveler|June/July 2021
Hybrid meetings are likely here to stay, but are already morphing into something more
GRETCHEN KELLY

Since the world closed down in March 2020, the hybrid meeting has stepped up to fill the void. Powered by Zoom and other virtual platforms, hybrid meetings morphed out of the 100 percent virtual landscape to the partially opened world of mid-2020 to the now more fully opened, but meet-in-personcautious world of 2021.

A recent study from the Global Business Travel Association predicts the number of hybrid meetings held in the US is set to double in 2021. “As restrictions ease and business meetings resume, hybrid meetings could be on the rise to better accommodate both in-person and virtual attendees and reach a broader audience,” according to the GBTA report.

The research, which was conducted with support from meetings technology provider Cvent, reveals that technology plays a central role in the new growth of hybrid meetings. The majority of meetings and event planners surveyed were “interested” or “very interested” in adding technology components to virtual meetings to “deliver a more engaging and immersive online event.” The respondents pointed to elements such as virtual conferencing, online registration, post-event surveys, live polling and mobile event apps.

“A smart mix of virtual, in-person and hybrid events is the future,” says Cvent’s CMO Patrick Smith. “These three event delivery models will enable companies to reach and engage bigger audiences and gain deeper insight into attendees’ interest. The use of (live-streaming ) technology will help to lead the way in this new environment where we expect events to be more numerous and impactful than ever.”

IMPROVING THE QUALITY

Kevin Iwamoto, chief strategy officer at Bizly, a meetings content and planning platform, agrees that hybrid meetings are here to stay. Iwamoto says advances in technology will be increasingly used to power both in-person and hybrid meetings as the world assesses what “the new normal” will be. “We have to make hybrid integrations easier,” Iwamoto says.

As the pandemic broke, Iwamoto explains, “We saw a bunch of technologies come to the forefront and the hands-down winner was Zoom, which has a lot to do with how easy it was to use. However, now Microsoft Teams and Google are creating a more comprehensive, fluid platform than what Zoom has. Zoom has not diversified. The competition is working harder with corporate support packaging behind it.”

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