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by Padraic Gilligan, VP, Industry Relations, MCI

In early 2012 Vok Dams Consulting, the consulting arm of the eponymous German based marketing and live communications agency, produced an intriguing white paper on “Hybrid Events, a new trend in live marketing”. The authors, Altenstrasser and Korte, define hybrid events as the “integrative interplay of social media and live marketing” and proffer the hypothesis that “in the future no event will be successful unless it involves social media” (Download whitepaper here)

Defining Hybrid

The white paper makes no reference to the plethora of discussion and activity that has been on-going for almost 3 years on the “meetings” side of The Meetings and Events Industry. Nor does it take cognisance of the broader definition of the term “hybrid” which meetings professionals use. While the concept of a hybrid meeting pivots around creating effective messages for two or even three audiences – the live audience, the on-line audience and the off-line, post meeting audience, Vok Dams limit their definition of hybrid events to live marketing + social media (to include not only classic social media platforms but all web-based tools) and focus, largely, on one audience.

What’s important, though, are the exciting findings of the Vok Dams study which highlight the unique effectiveness of hybrid solutions, the robust client appetite to taste them and, most importantly, the central importance of the live event itself.

Maximising audience reach and intensity of contact

As a MarCom agency, Vok Dams presents “live events” as a specific category or channel on the marketing spectrum describing them as the measure with the “highest contact intensity”. They further describe social media, because of their reach, as having “the greatest potential for brand, product and business communication”. The “integrative interplay” of the two makes for a revolutionary approach to live communication with maximized contact intensity and reach. The implications of this are valid across the entire meetings and events spectrum and will impact clients in the not-for-profit congresses sector as much as those in commercially driven corporations.

When people come together, magic happens

Large medical congresses, board of directors’ meetings, training seminars, incentive travel experiences, product launches and Gala dinners are all “live events” that bring people face to face and generate what Vok Dams calls “high contact intensity”. Sebastien Tondeur, CEO of MCI, the globally integrated association, communication and event management company, describes it, somewhat less abstractly, thus: “When people come together, magic happens!” Either way the magic or intensity is a sine qua non of the live event and the belt and braces that ensure effective, impactful and memorable communication.

Before, During and After the Event

Technology, then, comes into play and provides almost infinite dissemination and marketing opportunities. The event is no longer limited by time and space and assumes a life before, during and after the event itself. Prior to the event social media platforms can promote the event, recruit delegates and connect them to each other. During the event digital platforms facilitate dialogue and promote user generated content. After the event technology enables easy event evaluation and feedback and allows the on-going delivery of content to delegates.

Technology also opens the event to other participants, outside of the live audience: delegates can join the live event in clusters from remote hubs or individually from their own homes while the content captured at the live event can be re-purposed and even monetised for other audiences.

Communication Revolution

Clearly we are in the midst of a communications revolution not experienced on this planet since Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 1440s. This is having, and will continue to have, huge implications for the Meetings and Events industry. The use of new technology in meetings and events is about to move beyond the narrow and rarefied realm of the innovators and early adopters (reckoned by marketeers to comprise less than 20% of the available market) creating, according the recent report by the Rosa Garriga and the MPI Foundation, demand for a “new breed of meetings and events professional”.

MCI and the Meetings and Events Industry

For 25 years MCI has been at the forefront of this industry and, naturally, is deeply immersed in new meeting architecture and the latest technological innovations. MCI has been leveraging the power of social media on behalf of its clients across all its product practices – Association Management & Consulting, Destination Services, Meetings and Events, Production and Professional Congress Organisation – as well as developing proprietary technology solutions that facilitate the management of very large events across different cultures, languages and currencies.


MCI Dublin is piloting a new meetings concept entitled “MeetSmarter – Build, Connect, Share” which showcases how the hybrid model can help MarCom executives successfully reach their objectives. MeetSmarter is an on-line, interactive, digital experience fused with a live meeting – real people, real places, real time. Due to take place in Killarney, Ireland’s best equipped meetings destination, this 2 day educational event features speakers from key social media companies as well as companies experienced in hybrid events. The event will be fully “socialized” affording participants direct insight into the extended nature of hybrid events with key touch-points before, during and after the meetings itself. All set amidst the spectacular natural setting of Killarney, this promises to be a memorable, impactful learning moment. Participation is by invitation only to MarCom specialists in associations and corporations – contact [email protected]

Padraic Gilligan is VP of Industry Relations at MCI and VP of Ovation Global DMC, MCI’s destination management division. He can be contacted on [email protected]


5 thoughts on “From Spectator to Participant – the Revolutionary Impact of Hybrid Meetings and Events

  1. Polp says:

    Great analysis of The new Trends – which will further drive the importance of meetings on every level. Looking forward to read more …
    Polo Looser, Aera VP, MCI

  2. there are a lot of tools on the market already allowing people to use social media channels for events so it will be interesting to see the MCI take on it.

  3. Kevin Patrick Barko says:

    Padraic, this is an AWESOME article – Thanks!

  4. D. Hardman says:

    Note to I Quote: “the exciting findings of the Vok Dams study”.
    The findings are exciting indeed – so much, and so out of line with other surveys and experiences, that it provokes some healthy suspiciousness.
    The survey wasn’t monitored by an independent, scientifical institute or organisation. Author W. Altenstrasser is not only Managing Director (as stated in the Editorial) but also Executive Press Officer. Author David Korte is “Head of Research” but professional online networks like Xing and LinkedIn do not show other personell in a Vok Dams Research Department. That brings up the stingy question: is the study possibly not so much of a study, but more a Vok Dams PR Paper?

    1. padraicino says:

      Fair comments, Mr Hartmann, but the opening paragraphs of this blog post do, in fact, pose some questions about the Vok Dams white paper and its lack of connectivity with other Meetings Industry discourse on the topic of Hybrid Meetings.

      I’d be very interested in taking a look at the “other surveys and experiences” that are “out of line” with the Vok Dams paper. Can you provide some references?

      Really appreciate your comments overall and thanks for taking the time to engage!

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