You spend a lot of time, and money planning your annual meeting or conference. Each year you should evaluate, not just where you will have your meeting, but why you are having the meeting, what you hope to accomplish, and what is the most effective way to reach your target audience. Here is a list of 10 questions my team uses to help determine whether a traditional annual meeting is the way forward, or if a virtual conference or a hybrid of the two makes the most sense. There are advantages to each type of meeting, and why often the budget drives these decisions, focusing on goals and outcomes will drive your team’s decision making process and ensure that your time and money are well spent in moving your organization towards their goals.
1.Why are we having this meeting, what do we hope to accomplish?
The most important element of any successful meeting is to have clearly defined goals. What do you want to happen as a result of this meeting? Are you looking to educate, to determine policy or focus, are you wanting to generate sales? Creating SMART targets for your annual meeting, conference or education series will bring you much closer to achieving those goals.
2.What is the budget for this conference or meeting?
When choosing to have a meeting, in house or at a venue, face to face, virtually or a hybrid meeting will often be driven by your budget. But you will need to consider which type of meeting will actually help you best achieve your goals. Consider the cost/benefits of hosting an in-person meeting, versus a virtual or hybrid meeting. When considering the budget you will need to take into account both attendance and engagement at each type of meeting. While a webinar might be the most budget effective, if attendance is poor, or engagement is low, you will not achieve your goals or objectives.
3.Who is our target audience?
Age, location, investment in the organization or goals should help inform your decision. Younger people are more likely to embrace technology, but they also appreciate making connections, and developing relationships with other participants. Millennials in particular value shared experiences and of course, love to share their experiences via social media. Creating a conference with your end user in mind, will help create an exceptional experience.
4.How well do the participants know each other?
A group of people who have shared experiences already may value the flexibility and the time saved by having a virtual meeting. If your goals are working towards consensus or policy or mission driven, an in-person meeting might help establish your culture and norms and move your organization closer to its goals.
5.Is brand awareness or outreach a goal for this event?
The bigger and wider the audience the more options you will want to have for people. Having a hybrid meeting opens the event up to those who want to travel and have the full on experience, and those who want to experience the conference from afar. Not without challenges, a hybrid meeting can provide the best of both worlds.
6.What would we like participants to do after this meeting?
This is the most often ignored aspect of hosting a conference, annual meeting, or corporate event. What is the next step you want participants to take? Is it education to inform their jobs, is it to purchase something from you, or are there specific action steps you want them to take when they are back in their office. Having a really clear idea on this aspect will help focus your meeting on those important strategic goals and ensure that your participants take appropriate action.
7.Who is the key speaker, what is the current relationship of the participants with this person?
Is the keynote the CEO of your organization or a key thought leader in your industry? Will participants value being in the same room with this person. Or is the value in the message? Just like with teenagers who don’t want to listen to what their parents have to say, sometimes someone from outside an organization can say the same thing the leadership has been saying, but somehow the message gets through more clearly. Understanding your target audience and your key note speaker’s relationship with the audience will help you decide which type of meeting to host.
8.What technologies will we use, who will manage it?
Technology will be an important part of ANY meeting, face to face, hybrid or virtual. There is nothing worse than having the technology go wrong. Every conference, webinar, annual meeting or event must have a technology contingency plan and an expert who can jump in when things go wrong. Assume it will go wrong and plan for it. If you are using technology for the first time, or hosting your first hybrid meeting, determine how you will be fully trained, and how you can practice with the technology prior to your event.
9.What impact do we hope to see as a result of this event?
Consider the bigger picture. Not just what do you want the participants to experience, learn or take away, but what good to do hope to see in your community, your industry, or the world as a result of this conference, meeting or event. If this question has you stumped, go back to your mission statement and find the opportunity.
10. Does this meeting fit into our mission, goals, and objectives, and does it bring us closer to achieving our strategic goals?
As you work through these questions with your team, you need to come back and take a critical look at how this event brings you closer to achieving your strategic goals. When you are laser focused on what it is you want to accomplish, and how you want to have a positive impact on the world you will find your Annual Conference or Meeting will be a sought after event people will want to both participate in and experience for themselves.
As you work your way through these questions with your team, the path forward should be clear.