Going Hybrid: Important Points to Consider

Last spring, Inn leaders everywhere made quick decisions about how their Inns would continue to serve their members when they could not meet in person. As meeting restrictions slowly lift, it is time to strategize again about the best meeting format for your members. Inns must balance providing the in-person interactions that members are craving with taking safety precautions for members who are not yet comfortable meeting face-to-face. Hybrid Inn meetings can provide a solution.

However, hybrid meetings are more than recording an in-person meeting and posting it online. They require careful planning, professional execution, and—in some cases—additional resources to deliver a high-quality member experience.

To determine if hybrid meetings are in your members' best interest, determine your members' comfort levels with meeting face-to-face. On the Inn's end-of-year membership satisfaction survey, include questions about desired meeting format, safety concerns, and preferred time frame for resuming completely in-person meetings. Knowing how many of your members want to attend in person versus virtually will help you decide if hybrid meetings are best for your Inn.

Inn leaders must also assess the Inn's capacity to accommodate hybrid meetings. Because they are essentially two, simultaneous events, hybrid meetings require more resources and personnel support than in-person or virtual meetings. Technological and audio-visual support are needed for both in person presenters and virtual attendees. The Inn may need to continue paying a virtual meeting platform subscription fee in addition to paying for physical space. Pupillage teams will need to ensure that their programs can be presented just as effectively for a virtual audience as for a live one. The Inn may want to consider contracting a professional audiovisual company to manage the technological complexities of the hybrid experience.

Once the Inn has determined its members' needs and its capacity for hybrid meetings, it may need to alter its operations to deliver the highest quality member experience for both in-person and virtual attendees. Here are some ideas:

  • Several weeks prior to the meeting, collect RSVPs from your members indicating if they will attend, and if so, if they will attend virtually or in person. The Inn Management System (IMS) can collect RSVPs from members in one centralized location; contact your chapter relations director for more information.
  • If the Inn will be providing food for its live attendees, it should give virtual attendees a meal option, as well. For example, several Inns have used Grubhub successfully to allow virtual attendees to order meals and have them delivered at the start of the meeting. If the Inn patronizes a local restaurant, leaders could arrange for virtual attendees to choose a meal for a pre-determined price from that restaurant and pick their meals up just prior to the meeting. Find more ideas from Inn leaders here on how to engage virtual attendees.
  • Test your technology and audiovisual equipment ahead of time. As important as this is for virtual meetings, it is especially important for hybrid meetings when you are attempting to "link" in-person presenters with a virtual audience.
  • Take steps to include virtual attendees in the entire meeting. Designate someone from the Inn's executive committee to act as the "host" for virtual attendees. This person can facilitate virtual networking, introduce the program, and lead discussion among virtual attendees. If the program includes a Q&A segment, the virtual host can ensure virtual attendees' questions are addressed.
  • Search the Program Library for innovative ideas. Once you have found a suitable program topic, consider how the hybrid meeting format can enhance the delivery of that program. Can the presenters record part of the program ahead of time? Will some presenters be live while others join virtually? How can you engage both in-person and virtual attendees with the presentation in real time?
  • Send out a post-program evaluation to all attendees to collect their feedback on what went well and what could be improved for future meetings.

While we will eventually go back to meeting in person, that does not mean the Inn needs to continue its operations as it always has. Now is the time to think creatively and strategize about the future of your Inn's meetings. Whether you plan to continue virtually for now, try hybrid meetings, or host socially distant in person meetings, your chapter relations director can help you reimagine what is possible.