Have hybrid meetings—meetings that combine an in-person and virtual component—suddenly been put on your meeting planning radar? You’re not alone.

As the COVID-19 pandemic lingers, many meeting and event planners first started planning virtual events in a rudimentary fashion, such as via Zoom. While you may have dipped your toe into the virtual event pool—or already dived in headfirst—the consensus is that hybrid meetings will be a permanent part of the meetings and events landscape even when COVID-19 is far in the rearview mirror.

Meetings Today’s Sarah Kloepple joined virtual meetings veteran Mary Ann Pierce of MAP Digital for the session How to Produce Expert Hybrid Events in Five Steps during PlanetIMEX’s Community Day. Pierce is recognized as a virtual meetings pioneer, with an impressive client list that includes major financial institutions.

Check out Sarah and Mary Ann’s presentation, using MAP Digital’s MetaMeetings platform, to discover the essential information you need to stage a successful hybrid event—now and in the future—by accessing this link or watch below.

Transcript of the presentation is below:

[Start Transcript]

Sarah Kloepple: Welcome everyone from around the world to Planet IMEX for our session, "How to Produce Expert Hybrid Events in Five Steps." I'm Sarah Kloepple, content developer of Destinations and Features for Meetings Today

Mary Ann Pierce: I'm Mary Ann Pierce, founder and CEO of MAP Digital, a hybrid events company.

Sarah: We are coming to you live from New York City where Mary Ann is, at her offices. I am in Baltimore. We are on MAP Digital's MetaMeetings platform. Do you want to tell us a bit about the platform, Mary Ann, and what we're looking at?

Mary Ann: I'd be happy to Sarah. On this platform is being streamed to you. Sarah and I are in Zoom rooms. Our technicians are taking that video and making it into an embedded stream. You'll see next to us and ask a question button. Please use it. We want to save time at the end for your questions. If we do not get to your questions, we will answer you afterwards.

Also, on the MetaMeetings platform, I'd love for you to go to the library and social media page. That's where we posted some of the really great content on hybrid events that Meetings Today has curated, as well as some of the tips that MAP Digital, some of our processes, some things that we'll also cover in the session.

We also will be releasing this webcast On-Demand. Maybe some time, probably early tomorrow morning, it'll be ready. If you want to come back and watch it or refer someone else to, we'll really delighted to share that content with you or with other people in our industry.
This is our MetaMeetings platform. This is how we've been producing hybrid events for the last 15 years. We're not new to this game.

Sarah: [laughs] Thank you, again to everybody for joining us. Thanks again to Mary Ann for helping us put this session together.

We work with Mary Ann most recently on a contributed article that she wrote for us about the five key considerations that a planner needs to keep in mind when getting into the hybrid game. You can find that, like she mentioned, in the library tab. This session will also expand on that article quite a bit.

Mary Ann is also one of Meetings Today's 20 Trendsetters of 2020. Selecting trendsetters is something that Meetings Today does every year. They're all profiled in one of our summer issues and also are featured online.

This year, we did things a little differently. Our trendsetters are always professionals in this industry who are bright, capable, and forward-thinking. This year, we of course could not ignore the coronavirus pandemic.

We shifted quite a bit to looking at meetings and hospitality professionals who really stepped up during this time to help others in the industry navigating this crisis. Mary Ann was definitely one of those people who stepped up to help.

She was nominated, like many of our trendsetters are, by our reader who noted that at the start of the COVID lockdown, she really made time to share her knowledge and experience with hybrid, with corporate association and independent planners, even when she knew most likely they wouldn't become customers because MAP Digital, a lot of their clients are financial clients.

Mary Ann ended up helping a lot of people with that knowledge.

Mary Ann: Sarah, it was my honor. I think all of us can say we were completely scared in this surreal environment that just was thrust upon us. We are all in this together. If I could have been helpful to people, that was great. Now, it did get to be, as I would say, incoming, but you learn to cope.

Around the whole discussion was really -- if you remember back so many months ago -- we didn't know what was going to happen. That was the big penny that needed to fall. That was the more of where the fear is. Some of us thought we'd go back in a few months, but it looks like that wasn't what happened.

It was a collective, let's say, breath-holding for all of us. With COVID, the biggest thing, that has become an accelerator to really push our industry into their digital transformation. Events industry has been teetering for a while. We've been digital for almost 25 years. We've been webcasting. The financial services mandate that webcasting.

That's why we're there. That's our wheelhouse. I didn't see a lot of adaptation with being truly some of the goodness of the digital. That has changed. The only game in town we have right now is virtual and digital.

Let's look at some other industries that have been disrupted -- medicine, retail, education. We're not alone. We're all going to have to recollect, reform, and reimagine our industry to come back stronger.

[Download our free eHandbook on hybrid meetings!]

Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, let's talk a bit about MAP Digital and how you guys adjusted post-shutdown in those earlier days and maybe what you learned from it.

Mary Ann: We always get these surprises in life. This was a surprise. We knew a little bit before maybe the rest of the industry. Since we work in the financial services, they have great intelligence. When they told us they were going to shut down their office, we were like, "What are you talking about?" That's where their conference center is.
I just stood up and I said to our staff, "Temps," -- whoever was in the office -- "to the whiteboard," which is right back there. We like to write on the walls. When you build software, it's part of design thinking and agile to do all that. We do do that.

We sat around. We go, "My gosh. We're used to capturing our speakers in ballrooms. Now we have to capture them in Zoom." We talked and talked and talked. This is my staff here, part of our staff. Our staff has grown exponentially. I think we were at almost four times our original pre-COVID staff.

We just needed to open the MetaMeetings platform, so it just takes the video from a Zoom as if it was somebody in the back of a ballroom. That wasn't the most tricky part. The tricky part was, how do we produce?

We have photographs through Zoom of our staff members at their new workstations, which is their kitchen table, in their bedroom, or spare room, and this is their new normal. We just went right back into our equipment and just shipped out equipment to Minneapolis, Los Angeles, to our team all over the country.

Some of my staff members go, "Shouldn't we wait a little bit?" I said, "No," because I've gone through 9/11, Sandy. It's like, "Disaster recovery. Get it out there," because who knows? That could be the last time we could have done it. If I was wrong, a couple thousand dollars of a UPS bill, it happens.

That's how we had to get through everything. Our clients are financial services. They don't stop. It's about trading. We were expected to take what was a physical conference and make it virtual in a heartbeat, and we did. We learned a lot of things. We really had to work at triple speed, but it is a different beast. It's a different way of thinking and a different way of working.

The real thing, the critical mass that happened is that we did a virtual event on March 23rd for my friend Diane Devitt, "The Age of the Coronavirus." It was a really, really good. It was a webcast. It was how we do it on our MetaMeetings platform.

I curated a panel of...It was "Is Virtual Events the New Normal?" I thought I coined that phrase, but it was the first time I heard it. Anyway, I don't think it really [laughs] is mine and invited some industry experts to sit around.

If you can just go back, we were shock-and-awe. We were just trying to process. Now, I'm practically a digital native, even though generationally I'm not. I've been in the digital space for so long that I was trying to assure people that there is benefits up there. There are some good things that can happen, but it was really the shock the morning of the face to face.

One of my colleagues thought we'd be back by June. I'm like, "I don't think so. I think this is not a sprint. It's a long march." Once it was over, literally, my email blew up. It was like somebody sky-wrote my name on the cloud or something.

I was just getting just inundated from LinkedIn and from my email. "You have to help me." I'm like, "I don't know you. I don't know your business. I don't know how you do your conferences." Everyone was so pressured.

A lot of these planners had so much pressure because they had cancellations to deal with, which was...We had Jonathan Howe on this Age of Coronavirus. It was just unbelievable to look at all the legal stuff that has to happen.

It was like they had no reference. Their organization didn't have a digital strategy. They didn't quite anticipate this. They were calling me asking me for a budget. I'm like, "For what? We need to get all the stakeholders at the table."

I'm not a good mind-reader. One of the first steps of our five steps that we're going to be talking about today is...You can turn to the next slide, please.

Basically the first step is get your internal and external client stakeholders at the table and on the same page, because this is not a temporary solution. This is how we're going to go forward. It's going to be integrated into hybrid.

Even when we do go back to face to face like we're used to, we're not going to leave behind what we learned in digital. This is a long-term strategy. It's a corporate association. It's all hands on deck, because these are the people that the strategy will influence.

First of all, let's get the business owner, the account manager. Who owns the profit and loss? Who's the person who's paying for this? Since this is such a radical disruption, the CEO, the COO, and the CFO need to be part of this decision-making. Sales and marketing, these are the people who are really disrupted.

How are you going to talk to your customer, your attendee, to your exhibitors, to your sponsors? These are things that they need to be weighed in. How do they measure success? How do they need to get their job done?

Also, find out a little bit later on, there's going to be some benefits of going virtual that they never even experienced before. Let's bring that up to them now so they can start integrating it into their strategy for their department. Probably the most important person to get in now that you'd go digital, and you're in the hybrid or virtual -- soon to -- hybrid is IT and security.

You're collecting people's email addresses, their personal private information. You're collecting content slides, which can be considered intellectual property in certain circumstances. This is data. Data needs to be protected. This is a place you cannot skimp on.

You need to make sure that whoever you choose as a vendor and the multiple partners, that they have data security, because the US government has a mandate, a law called third-party oversight, TPO. Write it down and take it to your team.

[Related: 5 Key Steps for Building a Hybrid Events Model]

Even if MAP Digital makes a mistake in the data, my client's responsible. The government is not letting you pass the buck and blame it on the vendor. You are responsible. This is something to take very seriously, especially when we are in all digital space.

Also, your communications PR, your education and learning, because one thing you're going to be learning is that we're going to have video. We have this video byproduct that was more difficult to collect in face to face. Now, it's easy. Can learning repurpose it? Can we put little snippets together to reach out in social media and build audiences?

You have a digital asset now that you can play with. It could benefit them a lot. I like to say when things like 9/11 happens and Sandy, and I saw this when I was a little girl watching TV with my dad, in "The Tonight Show" was George Carlin going, "When a situation's out of control, assume as much control as possible."

When people were calling me, and I developed something that I needed to know so I could give them the budgets and the advice. It's the 10 critical questions. Everyone who said they wanted a demo or whatever, I said, "Yeah, I would love to do all these things but would you help me help you? Would you please fill this in?"

The first one to seven questions are pretty tactical, are pretty who, what, when, where, why. It's in any marketing plan. It's like common sense. I need to have that because that's the framework in which I can build a budget or can build a recommendation.

The 8th, 9th, and 10th threw a lot of people, because these things are not used to being asked in a face-to-face maybe RFP or a face-to-face building of a budget or a plan. The eighth one is, where do you want your content usage data to go? Your attendee's content usage data every time they click on a website or a slide or ask a question, these are all recorded. Where do you want that to go?

They go, "Well, wow, we don't know what to do with that." That's why you get your stakeholders. Your marketing department will know what to do with it. Your sales might know what to do with it. Maybe even learning. This is a whole thing that we're getting out of our silo thinking.

This disruption, this digital transformation in the events industry is getting more people at the table and more participation, more inclusion. With the video asset, what do you want to do with it? Going to ignore it? You could find some multiple uses that can help you really grow revenue and increase relevance. I'm sure your marketing people will help you with that.

I mentioned before that your speakers have huge, huge networks. This is content marketing. You have that video asset of their thought leadership. We've experimented with sending out those snippets, we call them, really hitchhiking on the speaker's network to build the notice of the conference brand. Some of the data has been really astounding.

What I did was that the planner would come back and fill this in, and I would have a Zoom call. One time at a Zoom call, and they were 12 people on the call. I was delighted. I was a little overwhelmed. I was delighted. I go, "So marketing. What do you think? Sales, what do you think?" I'm an outside person. I could be a little bolder and say, "Well, how's this? Have you considered this?"

I could really have a very, very, very deep meeting. That would have taken months to find out. We don't have months. We were disrupted. We had to come together quickly. That's the first step.

Sarah: Amazing. You're talking a little bit about MAP Digital, its technology, and a little bit about its process, especially from the last couple months. There's a lot of technology out there. Maybe how is a planner supposed to navigate into a hybrid situation?

Mary Ann: There's a lot of technology out there. This is step two. There's a lot of technology. There's some great technology that do certain things. What a planner needs to do and the organization needs to do, because this has to be an institutional decision, is they need integration. Take your technology stack and integrate it into a hybrid event platform.

When you think about your attendee, if they're watching a webcast or a Zoom and they want to go ask a question, they shouldn't have to log out to go into another platform and then log back in, or if they want to go networking. Serve it up for your attendee and work with your technology providers. They will share the USID that's a user server identifier. It's a number that goes back and forth.

Connect the wires in the back. You do this by an API, which is application programming interface, digital handshake. We have it with a couple of companies we'll show you in the next slide, where it's like you do this really well. When the attendee's on that in a registration process, when they come to time for show, we're passing effortlessly that users...It's a number back and forth.

Also for the planner, since this is the only game in town virtual and then becomes hybrid, you need your own dashboard. You should not be downloading Excel spreadsheets, uploading this, and fishing around for your content, the digital content.

Workflow. We'll show you later that we got into Zoom by clicking a button within our platform. It's already there for us. Data. Everything should be in one platform. It should be served up for what your business needs are. One thing I'd like you to remember that with the new technology, whoever you choose, integration is innovation. It's like work with the best and have them work together.

It's almost a kumbaya moment, everyone working together. Just a kind of would-be, the perfect universe would be interesting and I've been dreaming about this for a while. MAP Digital, we're there and we do the video. We do content. You think about content management, webcasting. We do a couple other things on site like digital signage and badging, but we're not going to be doing that for a while.

This A symbol there is a company called the Ardian Group. They're based out of Pennsylvania. They work with the State Department, the government, and the UN. They're very, very, very secure registration program. We've opened our doors with their digital handshake. You would go back and forth in anticipation of working together.

[Related Podcast: Expert Tips on Transitioning From Live to Virtual Events]

Data stream, we're going to be seeing later is a really, really robust event data analytics platform. We're not quite API'd together, but that would be my next thing to work. Grip Networking. Grip is a great program, great networking program, great use of AI. Really, really remarkable. We worked with them on a program which I'll talk about later.

I will never build a platform like Tim Groot built for Grip. It's just too good. I'm going to API into it. What you have here is a platform thinking. Everyone's working together, all sharing data and intelligence grows. This would be my wish for our industry to think platform thinking moving forward.

Sarah: That's great. Just a reminder, if anybody has any questions, you can do that through the Ask a Question button on your screen. Obviously, Mary Ann, the venue, I'm sure, plays an important part as well in hybrid. They need to respond to this new situation, too.

Mary Ann: The venue for hybrid is mission-critical. The venue has been disrupted. Obviously, people have been laid off. There's really nothing going on. In the future, soon, we're going to really need them, need them in different ways than they're used to servicing us.

Once again, everyone has to have better lateral thinking, more expansive thinking because, again, we're all in this together. We're going to really need the venue, because we're going to need a huge uptick in Internet access and the network infrastructure. That's how rooms and functions are connected.

In some venues, sometimes they look like it was built by an angry squirrel. That's not going to go anymore, because we're going to rely on everything being pushed in the cloud, everything pushed. Also remember, 5G is coming. It's coming in stadiums and in some couple events centers.

When 5G comes, it's hard to wrap your head around non-latency and what will happen in capacity with 5G. It's going to be super-fast. It also will knock out all the existing networking and equipment, and we'll start from scratch.

This would be a perfect time for the venues to partner with the planning and with the technology, see if we can start from scratch together. Think of our whole new leaf because we're wiping out the old.

Number of venues we're talking to are asking us to discuss with them, work with them on a touchless environment for presentations. No longer is the speaker going to go up to a podium and plug in their laptop and touch cables. It's just not going to happen. This presentation will be collected on the MetaMeetings website or another website, the content management.

It's collected, it's reviewed, published on the website if permission is given for that, on the webcast if permission is given for that. It's pushed to the podium laptop via local area networks. That's why network infrastructure is so critical. Touchless signage, not running around with a flash drive anymore. Everything has to be wireless.

Webcasting, every session will be webcast. It will be a video. We're talking huge amounts of bandwidth. Also, the venues are going to talk to their AV companies.

How can we make webcasting less expensive, capturing the video less expensive because it is labor-intensive? Are there ways, without stepping on any union toes, that we can be more efficient, because this is going to be the game that we're going to have to play?

Badging, lead retrieval, all those things are going to be touchless. That means the attendee is going to be relying on this, on their phone. This is going to be their passport. That means you're going to have a lot of hygienic charging stations and very robust wireless Internet access for them to continue to be connected.

It's really an opportunity for the venues to think very different on what their business sale or the business platform is selling square feet. Maybe they start thinking about selling the digital space around their venue, because this is the game that we're playing. This is the only game we have. It means partnering with the technology providers.

We're talking to some venues to embed MetaMeetings within the walls. Once we collect the PowerPoints, it gets pushed to the right room. The webcast is there. The signage goes there. It's almost like this little orchestration. There's other software that can do, too.

What happens with that? Maybe we all start sharing cost. Maybe the planner walks in and says, "I want to have this embedded. I want to use whatever's embedded there. What's the cost?" It's attractive because it's turnkey. The platform is great.

What you get from that is all the data. Maybe start sharing the data, because the data that the venue might think is important, the planner might not think it's important. It's important to them. You know that most conference centers are owned by the city or the destination. Cities are looking to attract certain sectors of business.

[Related Webinar: Best Practices to Accelerate Your Pivot to Virtual Events]

It's like, "Yeah, let's share that data because a business tourist spends five times as much as a regular tourist." Wouldn't it be really interesting to foster these smart venues to help smart cities? Another byproduct we're thinking, like these business tourists, they have the conference app that comes with plugging into that digital smart venue.

As soon as they're off the phone, that's their passport to the destination, too. You can start pushing, "Oh, here's your coupon for golf, and here's this, and welcome to Cincinnati," and all that great things.

A couple of other destinations has said to us, "We really want to position Singapore as a Fourth Industrial Revolution capital. We want to attract those conferences, attract those businesses, that's AI block chain, all that stuff." You know what we want to do? We might want to work with the conferences and do a syndication of their content, almost like a TEDx, like Singapore presents.

We're seeing different ways of thinking, more expansive, more cooperation, more integration, and a little more experimentation. The real challenge and the real opportunities, venues really have a lot to think about. The events community, we all need to partner with them to say, "Here's how you can help us."

Sarah: We've talked about stakeholders. We've talked about tech partners. We just talked about venues. Who else needs to be at a planner's side when they're navigating hybrid?

Mary Ann: You need a team because everyone thinks because we're virtual, it just happens. Do you know how many people are on this Zoom helping us right now? Like people in the help desk. We have people pushing our slides for us because I can't talk and also manipulate Zoom at the same time.

It needs a team. That's a team that's experienced. More importantly, you need workflow. You need workflow that's on the platform that you were going to build, because with Sarah right now, she's on the back end of our MetaMeetings. We, of course, center the Zoom URL. All she had to do was go in the back of MetaMeetings, click on our work page, audience won't see that.

She just clicks on an icon and she opens into the Zoom. We are working remotely. We don't see each other anymore. You're not in the control center when you say, "Oh, camera one, camera two." No, you can't run down the corridor to do something or push that speaker on the stage. The process is really detailed.

Let's have that workflow. Let's have it all on the platform. Somebody might get sick. On the platform, somebody else goes in there. Your experienced team are your AV people. Really, people who've come from video. Video engineers, webcast engineers, of course, are critically important.

They also have to know Zoom, WebEx, BlueJeans, Teams, they're all different. They all have gnarly little things that happen sometime. Knowing this medium is really, really important. I like to think about what we're doing now like early TV.

One of my mentors is Imero Fiorentino, one of the first lighting directors in television, "Playhouse 90." He used to tell me all the stories, used to happen when things would blow up at Playhouse 90. It's the same thing. We're figuring this out. This is not the most facile. We can't do MTV switching back and forth because the Internet has a latency of at least 20 seconds.

It's not as facile as we would like it to be, but you know what? Standby. In beta, there is some terrific new software happening. This video space behind me will become a playing field, will become another screen. No more of those crazy screens where your head fades back. This will actually become a playing field.

A company called mmhmm. That's M-M-H-M-M. It's only in Mac. If it gets to PC, it's going to blow up. It's terrific. We'll look and see what they're doing. Like I said, everything has to be accessible. As many of the people in my company are from the theater, I used to run a major theater company back in the day. I still run my company like I'm running a theater.

" Places." "Half hour." Say, if it's not on the page or the platform, it won't get staged. Do all your critical thinking. Get everyone what they need so when we go live or have to deploy, it's at our fingertips. Just a big shout out to our MAP Digital team who, from that moment like, "Oh, my gosh" to now literally, have produced over a thousand live Web sessions like this.

We're gearing up to do our big show, which is 500 live sessions in four days in 14 tracks. We've been doing this very large conference, webcasting, of course, for over 20 years. To do it virtually, we're going to need twice the number of staff, because we have to get the speakers there.

There are lots of [indecipherable] . There's all different critical thinking to do. If it's an internal team or an external team, the best thing is the experience and workflow, because truly in digital and hybrid, God is in the details.

Here's some of our workflow. We build software, too. We have a back end that is like, "You can't say the dog ate your homework. It's on the platform. The content's on the platform. The speaker's presentation is not in your email, it's on the platform." This is great. This is what Sarah went to, the bottom one here.

Here's an event, the time, all that good stuff, what track. You click on that little icon, you're in Zoom. You don't have to remember anything. Here's your participants. You click on those links, that's their contact. "Hey, you have to get in Zoom, you're about to go live in five minutes."

The one on the top is our workflow. It's like, "Is this going to be webcast? Do we have the slides?" It's our dashboard. Anyone who's in AV, this is like, "Here's everything we need to know." It's all there visually. I can store it and I can click. Help that team. Help your producing team. Help you by getting on a platform.

When you're in the firing line, you want as many good tools as you can get in this new live virtual environment.

Sarah: Absolutely. What is this final step that planners need to take? This is probably one of their most critical partners that they need to be aware of, and something we've talked about you and I and Meetings Today pretty extensively.

Mary Ann: The last one -- maybe should have been the first one -- is you attendee. We've all been disrupted. We've been busier than we've ever been in our life. We're grateful for that. The [inaudible] been disrupted. They don't commute. They are at home. They wear socks. They don't wear shoes.

We're still trying to figure this medium out, because it is cold in a way. It also can be very interactive. It can be very personalized. They can click around and get what they want, like on our MetaMeetings platform. You could be looking at the slides as we're talking, downloading, asking questions.

We need to talk to our attendees, because they're all we have. They're not packing a suitcase, getting on plane, going to general session, greeting friends in the hallway. Empathetically, what are they going through? When we listen to them, maybe they'll give us some clues. They might surprise us on some things that we could be doing that would really, really help enhance their experience.

That's something we take and we try to talk to attendees to say, "How can we do better? What do you need from us?" In many ways, when MAP Digital follows some of the tenets of design thinking, the first place to start is at the consumer. You ask the empathetic question, what is your problem, because it's my job as the service provider to solve your problem?

That's something to really start thinking of your attendee as being a partner. They're going to tell you what they want, because this is all new to everybody. Let's communicate. Let's try some things. Let's experiment.

It's also very important, as you will see in the next couple of slides, that it's really important to map your attendee's journey. You'll get all this data. To make that data in a relationship way, you really will see an arc that you probably never saw before in face to face.

One of our financial service clients was working with us and saying, "We were looking to have a unified events platform for our enterprise." I was like, "Oh, real, please choose me, choose me." They did, so that's nice.

Here's some of the critical questions I was asking them. I'm going, "Why are you looking for one platform?" This is a good question to ask because you want to see where the pain is for any of your clients so that you can sell better, but also that you can provide better. He said something, "Oh, well, corporately, we have about 85 event apps all through the country."

Somebody's brother has an app and they use it in Brazil. First of all, it's against compliance. We talked about data before and data security. You have all that variability. You have danger. They also have different workflow. This is how you upload data on this one. You do it differently on that one. There's not a consistency throughout the whole organization on how to work.

If somebody leaves, they have that legacy knowledge and you have to train somebody. It's also they had problems with branding. People, "Oh, this app didn't put the headline like this and all that." Whether they're 20 lines of business in six regions, you should have a consistent branding.

He said to me, "That's all really important. Obviously, we need to do that." What's most important to us is that we can't tell when a customer maybe went to an investment banking conference. They went over to Singapore. They went to a retail conference. Then they had a dinner with private wealth.

[eHandbook: A Guide to Bridging the Meetings Experience Between Live and Online]

If we are fragmented like that, we can't arc our customer's journey through our marketing and sales campaign. That is a deficit that we need to change. If we're talking about how success would be measured, how to go from a call center to a profit center, is mapping the attendee journey, especially in your C-suite because they're the ones who are looking for that.

With that being said, I blurted this out. Three years ago, I was on stage with Dahlia El Gazzar and Michelle Bruno. We call ourselves the event tech witches. My hair is different now, but we all had different color of hair. It was all curly.

I just said, "Update this currency," and the whole audience cracked. Data is currency. Plan your event so that you can data the data that you need strategically. It also transform into revenue.

Let's look at some of the data. Let's look at a case study that we did. MAP Digital was asked to help out a friend in Poland, part of this large women's network, the Equality Moonshot. We work with Global Summit of Women. These are our pro bono accounts.

This woman was producing a very, very ambitious Fourth Industrial Revolution conference in Poland, one of the first. Real Davos level speakers and content. The sisterhood said, "Send Mary Ann over there and give [indecipherable] a hand."

I said, "Sure. Why not?" We could do anything we wanted. If you remember the slide of the platform, I'm working with other technology providers. That's what we did.

I went over to Poland with this little device that's called LiveShell in my hand baggage. Just plugged it into the camera, plugged it into the Internet. Boom, we were webcasting to London. My team back here at [indecipherable] were capturing that in coded sessions.

When I walked on stage on day two and said, "OK, ladies and gentlemen, on this website, every session that happened yesterday is now available on the MetaMeetings platform. The video, the slides, you can still ask a question of the speakers because it's still open." Literally, I got a standing ovation. We're beside themselves.

First of all, they're not used to that in Poland, generosity of it, which they said it was. To me, it wasn't generosity. It was just good business to keep that content and that data going. They were in their seats, watching the video, sending it to their colleagues, downloading the slides, asking the question.

One person that was on stage was asking me a question asking to meet me. I go, "Listen, I'm on stage." [laughs] It's was really, really interesting. The data was superb. That's one thing. We decided we were going to capture the content. We also worked with Rick on this. We got the artificial intelligence. Everybody [indecipherable] your footprint from LinkedIn mostly.

You have metadata. I'm from Philadelphia. I speak bad French. I was in theater. Now, I'm in tech. That matching was great. We also looked at that, too, not just to make the meetings, but who is our audience?

With the MetaMeetings, with all the sessions, every session has a metadata. This session is about AI. This session is about block chain. This session is about startups. We were just playing with, and this is before GDPR. This was before.

Now, we're much more careful with that, all permission. Any of you who signed in and wanted to be private, we don't know who you are. If you ask a question, if you don't give us your email, or you don't get to it, we won't be able to answer you. If you are private, you want to ask a question, please put your email in there. I won't share it for sure.

We had all this data. We went to our friend Nick Fugaro of Vivastream and said, "Nick, can you give us a hand here? It's interesting." He goes, "Mary Ann, give me every piece of data you can." You can see by this wheel the registration, the boot scans, all these emails.

We had registration. We had all the MetaMeetings, the contextual, who watched what, who downloaded, who sent off, and this little pie plate here. If you watch the webcast, you got eight points. If you download a slide, you got six. We just made up some weights. We put everything together.

They also did a survey that they sent out to the attendees. What was your favorite session? We put it all in the mix, and we're going around. We come up that what the survey with the attendees said was their favorite session is not what the combined data told us. If we go to the next slide, we can see that.

Excuse me, I got ahead of myself. This is the metadata. This is how we weighed it. This is how many people answered the survey and how many people did the webcast. The next slide will show the results if you want to advance that, please. These are the top sessions, They're a little small. Maybe you take photos off of software, sometimes. It's a little small.

There's always those speakers, the keynotes, that deliver that best in the business or like, "You're going to be a unicorn business in two weeks," and all that good stuff, that really are experiential and bring down the house. Many times, they get the top ratings because they have, they fulfilled that emotional theater, coming-together, face-to-face need.

When it came to we put all the data together, how many people went back and looked at the sessions, clicked, or forwarded, those people found themselves in the middle, because I don't think people go back to watch a speech that move them. Many of them, what we discovered from the data is that they went back to those sessions that were how-tos.

How to use the block chain, how to do this, how will AI affect medicine, because it would help them in their business. They were the ones who are most shared. You need both. Isn't it interesting there's more of an afterlife with how-to? You need that keynote, people will come for that keynote, but they'll keep coming back on demand for those how-tos.

That's one thing about putting your attendee at the center and then seeing what their behavior really is. They might tell you in a pre-survey that they want to do something, that they love telecom, but their booth visits are all software companies. It's interesting.

Here's another thing where we can map that attendee's journey. This person was very, very active. That's not his name, because GDPR, we had to move it. If I saw this event planner, I would go to this person. They're an influencer. I would sit down and ask them to help me curate content. Why not? This is the arc of their journey.

With permission, some of my sponsors, this person is probably somebody who could become a customer. There's a lot of things you can have. Got to be careful with the data, all that stuff, good advice, but really do some wonderful things. Next slide, please.

Sarah: Why don't we recap and maybe go through those five steps all together again?

Mary Ann: It's almost like get everyone on the same page, just like we called everyone to the whiteboard. Everyone. Everyone can contribute. Some of our people who were temps really came up with some great ideas. The time now is for deep collaboration, because no one's an expert. Not even me. Not even my team.

We know there's much bigger things that are happening out there, very expansive, new, like using this background as a playing field. It's great. Who thought that that's what we need to do? Integrate the tech stack. It's good housekeeping. Please do it. Please invest in your technology providers. I'm a technologist. I love problems and I love solving them for my clients.

Let's have a partnership. Let's partner with others. That said, I would never build a networking platform, but I'd partner with [inaudible] . That level of cooperation is really neat. Build a platform because this is long, long tail.

The venues really have very interesting road ahead. We need them when we go back. There's going to be so many things that planners and even technology people are going to be relying for them on. This is almost separate. Meetings today could have a separate session on this, because this is really very interesting stuff.

It's also your team. It's all about the team. It's always about the team. Many of some of the event platforms that are out there, some of them don't support the team. More and more they will because it's cumbersome, it's difficult.

Also, have the workflow. Once again, if you take away from this is platform, platform, platform, let's get everyone on the page. Let's map your attendee's journey. That's where we're going to find relevance, new revenue, and new ways of communicating that are going to be exciting for both the attendee and for the producer. At this point, we should see if we have questions.

Sarah: Again, there's an Ask a Question button on your screen if anybody has any questions. Let's see here.


Sarah: We have one here. They wanted you to maybe go back over. You're talking about security and third party.

Mary Ann: This is the heart attack. I must tell you; you say the word compliance in my office and people are like...

Sarah: [laughs]

Mary Ann: It was very difficult and it was very arduous for us to get it. It's a lot of paperwork. It's a lot of disaster recovery and looking at how your systems are [inaudible] . It may help you in the long run. It was hard, very hard and made us better, and then also serve our clients better.

You really need to talk to a professional, because if you're collecting email addresses, and someone hacks the system, has the emails, and they publish the emails, you're responsible. The federal government does not take that very lightly.

I don't know what it is, but you can get prosecuted. You don't want to be in the news. You don't want to be in the courts. You really need to take data protection extremely seriously. Third-party oversight, you can't get out of it by saying, "My vendor made a mistake."

Intellectual property is another thing. More in the financial. If people upload their slides, and they're a publicly traded company, that information cannot get out before the right time, because it could be inside trading. We need to be very, very mindful of this. Also, your attendees will not trust you if you do not keep their data safe.

Sarah: Absolutely.

Mary Ann: GDPR is going to be very interesting, too. It's going to get deeper.

Sarah: We have a couple questions here again. You want to go over maybe how to see this presentation again, how the content that they can view later?

Mary Ann: Just go to the same URL that you are now. It will be on demand tomorrow morning. We're going to go and do a quality assurance, do a little edits. We need to publish it. Those who are attending, we'll send you out an email. It's published. It will be up for another month or so, maybe two months.

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Feel free to download the content. Feel free to ask a question. We will stop the questions, but you can reach me. My email address is in my profile. Look at my pic and bio when I had different color hair. That's right, Sarah. The photograph you have of me, that's five years old. This is COVID hair.

Really, reach out to us. If you have any questions, definitely email me. As you know, I will answer you as I answered many people in the past.

Sarah: Great. Let's see. It looks like there's a question here about you. Maybe going over, again, the selling of digital space of a venue, maybe you have bandwidth to going over that again.

Mary Ann: For the venues. If you just think of your venue, how many people here have loved to negotiate the bandwidth cost for their events? That's just going to amplify. The venues are going to realize that if everything's going to be in the cloud and not touchless, that means you're going to need the bandwidth in which to get the attendees, the producers, and speakers in the cloud.

That will require a lot of Internet, a lot of bandwidth. Also, they're going to have to network better. We are working with a venue that says, "Oh, we really love your MetaMeetings, we love to use it."

These five meeting rooms are not network to the center closet, so they can't be on with you. We need to think these are the highways, the routes. These need to be redone. The digital space, this is a little more "Star Wars."

Wouldn't it be great if a venue says, "Oh, well we have a content management platform. You have your speakers upload it here, and then we push it to the room for you. We'll have a conference website, because we already have the database, and we already have the schedule. We can also pull the digital signage, because it's all there, or you can bring your own in?"

Wouldn't it be great if you plug right into this. Then webcasting, since webcasting will be required, whether people enter Zooms [inaudible] . Having people coming in Zooms, and people are in the ballroom, it'll all have to be webcast.

It'll all have to be on video platform. Planners are going to need a lot of help, because are you going to bring all these vendors in? Maybe we should all talk about, how can we simplify this, and integrate, share cost, and share the benefits, which could be data and revenue that's produced from different experiences the data generates?

It's kind of a dream I have, but I think it's possible. I don't think it would have been possible before COVID, before this disruption. It would have been a little too far-fetched, but it's the only game we have right now.

Sarah: Let's see here. It looks like we have a question that says, "When you're on a short-term lead to organize a hybrid event, what are the most effective ways to communicate to your audience to map their journey?”

Mary Ann: When you're on a short-term lead. I'm not sure what that means, but you basically have to put something together in a...

Sarah: I think so, yeah.

Mary Ann: You need to have a platform that you're working with that's collecting their data. Who watched, who downloaded, all of that. You have to look at your platform, because your platform is the one. Once your attendee gets on the platform, are you tracking who went on the webcast, who downloaded the slides, who asked a question?

That's the only way you can do it. When you have that data, you start to analyze it. You can do it yourself if you want if you're really good at flipping Excel spreadsheets, or you can get analytical platforms like Bear, ADAPT, DC, Datastream, there's many other ones.

First of all, you need to capture. You need to have a platform that will capture the actions of your attendee. You also need to design that experience so there is choice, there is interactivity so you can get a little bit more than just, say, watch the webcast. Maybe they networked.

You can't get into some of the privacy stuff, but you almost have to create the experience where there's many places they can touch something that will trigger data. I hope that answers your question.

Sarah: Great. Yeah, it looks like those are the questions we have so far. If anybody else has a question, again, the ask a question button should be on your screen.

Mary Ann: I have a question for you, Sarah.

Sarah: Yeah, please.

Mary Ann: What are planners asking you at Meetings Today? What are some of the pain points that you're hearing or that your editors are addressing?

Sarah: I think that last question about short lead time is probably I'm sure a pain point for many planners right now. We all want to meet face to face again, but planners do know that when they do meet face to face again, we're all still going to have some kind of virtual component to go with that live event.

Budget is always something that is top of mind for planners. What you talked about in this presentation a little bit is how not to make hybrid just a cost center, but making it more like an avenue for profit too. I think that's really of value to planners.

Mary Ann: The people who can profit are your other stakeholders. Everyone's different, but sometimes, planning gets siloed. Sometimes, they report to a CFO, sometimes it's right under sales, sometimes marketing. Sometimes, marketing doesn't have the budget because sales won't give it to them. We need to get over these silos at this point.

Here's a lovely opportunity to disrupt your own organization, saying, "Hey, we're all in this together and here's what we can do." If price is such a big problem...Believe me, just because we work for financial services doesn't mean that they're throwing money at us. I can tell you one thing that happened to us.

This is where we proved that we went from a cost center to a profit center, that we are API into some of our companies. We become part of their workflow, so it's easier. The agenda, they key it once and we're pulling it in our platform. We're saving them time and money there.

Also, more importantly, we're touching their customers. Since someone logs in, I can be pushing you, Sarah, your one-on-one meetings. I'm pulling it from the inside of the organization to you, or I see your metadata or someone that says, "Well, let's send Sarah this report." We become part of the value proposition.

We were asked by the sales department of a company to do some really interesting complicated programming. We gave them a number that it was they'll never go for it, but it was the number. They made up their minds and said yes within less than 24 hours. You know why? It affected their bottom line.

That's the transformation that we need to be thinking about in the partnership. Of course, price matters, but doing good business matters too.

Sarah: We have time for maybe one more question, and one just came in. Someone asked, "What are some key questions I should ask a prospective platform provider?"

Mary Ann: Very good. We can't say show me your code because that's rude. You have to see who else they've worked with. You should talk to their customers always. You should talk to them about security and compliance.

The features are great. Some of these new platforms have really their bells and whistles, and they're great. Some of them have been in the event space for less than two years. Let's make sure they really understand what your main points are, and will they support you? That's another thing. Sometimes, these platforms are do-it-yourself, and that means you're on your own.

We have a [inaudible]. You can use our MetaMeetings platform. Do it yourself, and none of our clients do. They want us to do it. We have a full team that will do it, because they have other things to do. They have to service their client. They have to build their show, their audience client, and their internal client. They just want us to run the show.

I would ask also about their compliance, what level of compliance security they have. That's critically important, and also will they support you and talk to other clients.

Sarah: Those are some great questions. Thank everybody who submitted a question and thank you again to Maryann and to MAP Digital for helping us bring this session to you today from Planet IMEX. Of course, thanks to Planet IMEX for hosting us. We hope you all enjoyed the event this week.

If you'd like to learn more from Mary Ann, we plan to host I think a couple of webinars with her in the future. Stay tuned.

Mary Ann: Stay tuned. We're going to bring stakeholders to the table, and you're going to see, basically we're going to reenact that Zoom when I had 12 people coming in.

Sarah: [laughs]

Mary Ann: We're going to show that, how we can do some creative thinking together and maybe put some great new ideas for the industry. Thank to everyone who joined us, and thanks to MAP Digital team.

Sarah: Yeah, thank you guys.

Mary Ann: [laughs] Bye. Have a good weekend.

Sarah: Thanks. Bye, guys

[End Transcript]

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