While virtual meetings will continue to have a place in the workplace, hybrid meetings are beginning to take over as the new preferred method. This evolution is not surprising. With COVID continuing to loom as a threat and with 57% of the U.S. fully vaccinated, not all event attendees are comfortable meeting at in person events. This has created an opportunity for companies, such as Inspire, to pioneer innovative technologies to create hybrid events that attendees enjoy. However, even hybrid events may come to an end. To learn more about this, HT spoke with CEO of Inspire Chuck Bauman.
How has the meeting and event industry evolved in the last year or so?
While virtual and Hybrid meetings continue, we have seen a shift towards hybrid away from full virtual. The groups meeting business in our partner hotels has steadily increased over the past 12 months with some traditional seasonality but less than in pre-COVID years. With smaller numbers of meeting participants than in the past the stage settings and presentations are more intimate and personal.
What new pressures does this evolution put on hotel AV departments?
We are not sure the evolution to virtual and hybrid has put new pressures on hotel AV companies the past 12 months. The successful partners were able to pivot immediately to these services but now we see the trend moving back to traditional in-person meetings. Pre-COVID we thought booking windows were short, but now they are even shorter and in some cases in the week for the week. Flexible staffing levels is critical in this tight labor market and your in-house partner needs to make the investment in the team for client experience stabilization.
What kind of new technologies are now available to create great hybrid events?
There is not really any “new” technology but providers of hybrid solutions have shifted to more broadcast standards then previous webcasting standards. There have been equipment enhancements made to support the higher standards and software development has come a long way to make the operator experience much more seamless while doing more than before.
What do hotels need to ask themselves before offering clients hybrid event options?
Hotels should ask themselves: Do I have a strong internet infrastructure? The ability to segment and dedicate bandwidth to clients is important to provide a stable platform for hybrid events.
What's one piece of advice you would give hoteliers about hybrid event tech?
Acknowledge that virtual and hybrid events are a bridge to the traditional face to face meetings that we all want to resume for our hotel partners. We need to provide the service but work together to get business travel back for the hotels. A hybrid component is likely to be a part of future meetings to accommodate reduced travel and increased work from home businesses, but it should not be viewed as a replacement for face to face meetings in the future.