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eBay: Hybrid Across Borders
When Pierre Omidyar started eBay in 1995, he said he wanted to “create an efﬁcient market where regular people could compete with big business.” Seventeen years later, eBay has become big business, with 90 million users and more than US$9 billion in revenue a year. As with any company’s rapid expansion, there were bound to be growing pains. And, because of a major restructuring, eBay experienced a problem many large companies encounter: The multinational Internet corporation needed to ﬁnd a way for colleagues in 14 ofﬁces in 13 European countries to interact with and see and hear their leaders talk about business strategy on a regular basis. Enter the European Team Brief (ETB), developed by communications specialists at the company in 2008. The ﬁrst briefs were limited to weekly emails with embedded video. But after a year, the team introduced Web conferencing on a shoestring budget. The 14 ofﬁces had a one-hour, live, joint meeting each week using Microsoft Ofﬁce Suite. And slowly the meeting evolved into today’s HD (high-deﬁnition) videoconference solution. Participants in the weekly, multi-ofﬁce hybrid meeting now interact both face-to-face (in large designated areas within their ofﬁces) and virtually (connected to the other ofﬁces via the videoconference system.) The ETB has become highly popular among European eBay employees for its useful information, fun approach and the team spirit it engenders.
communications for eBay. That department created a structure for the weekly meetings that employees liked—one that allowed them to put faces to names and get a live, team-oriented experience that provided updates on important company business. Though the ETB originally began as a way for management to update teams, the format has evolved to one that is less hierarchical and more discussion-oriented. Participants from the various ofﬁces interact and ask questions in real time. Davies establishes an agenda and plans for each meeting several months in advance. “We currently have 14 ofﬁces in 13 different countries around Europe,” he notes. “It’s growing all the time as eBay grows. Last month, we added our recently acquired business in Turkey, Gittigidiyor.” The timing and frequency of the event has ﬂexed around the needs of the business. When the need to connect the wider regional team was at its strongest, the brieﬁng occurred at 10 a.m. Mondays. Company leaders liked how ETB could be used to set the tempo and tone for the week. Scheduling the meeting on Monday, a day when most people in the European ofﬁces avoid travel, also resulted in greater attendance. Recently, ETB meetings have moved to a monthly frequency, with occasional ad hoc meetings, reﬂecting a decision by the company to increase its local market focus. The ETB is marketed to European employees through email invitations and follow-up summaries.
PRE-PRODUCTION: Supersize with LifeSize
After experiencing difﬁculties with Microsoft Ofﬁce Suite for a live meeting of this size and complexity, the eBay global IT team chose to invest in an HD videoconferencing solution called LifeSize. The organization has a technical support team that manages a videoconference bridge (to minimize communication glitches by ensuring a dedicated, two-way audio and video connection between the ofﬁces), working out of the U.S. and Ireland. In addition, the IT department provides onsite support at the larger locations. Otherwise, the ETB is managed in-house.
STRATEGY: Team Approach
“[Our] objectives are to connect employees to their leaders and to our business strategy so that employees understand where we are going and why—and also how we are performing as a business,” says Richard Davies, head of European employee
Hybrid Meetings Case Study: eBay | Page 1
“We connect all sites 30 minutes before the ETB starts and communicate throughout via a group Skype chat to troubleshoot any issues that occur during the meeting,” Davies says. “The local support team members act as ‘studio managers,’ ensuring that presenters have everything they need and to help co-ordinate Q&A sessions.” Key vendors contributing to the ETB include Crystal Interactive, which provides an audience response system, and Craft of Communication, a company that coaches presenters to apply theater and TV skills to business communication.
5 Tips for Team Bonding in a Hybrid Meeting
1. Win your audience every session. Your brand is only as good as your last brieﬁng. Hold yourself accountable for the time your audience invests in your meeting. 2. Coach your presenters to be engaging and to work effectively with a camera. Give them meaningful feedback on their performances. 3. Ensure the content is the most important thing you are talking about each week. Explain why everyone needs to know about an item and if you can’t do that, drop it from the agenda. 4. Don’t let speakers overrun their time. 5. Make sure people leave the room with spring in their steps.
ONSITE: Testing, One Two Three
Production standards are taken seriously. Microphones are carefully situated to pick up all voices, and the video switching between speakers is seamless. Creative elements such as video clips also help to keep the meeting interesting. The latest technological addition has been an audience response system (ARS), developed speciﬁcally for the ETB by Crystal Interactive. It enables audience members to participate in live polls, ask questions and submit feedback during the meeting, all of which is done via a browser-based web-conferencing site accessed through the participants’ smartphones, tablets and laptops, Davies says. Technical difﬁculties are rare; eBay upgraded to an HD videoconferencing system and used a videoconference bridge. When they do occur, the team managing the bridge is able to reconnect sites centrally. And, with the Skype backup, communication can be maintained. With support in the form of presentation instruction and trained teams of reporters who can conduct interviews and facilitate Q&As at the different locations, the individual ofﬁces have embraced their parts in the production of the ETBs. The role of host rotates among the different leaders and each tries to tailor the experience to reﬂect his or her ofﬁce’s location or nationality. The structured format encourages humor, a great deal of interactivity and plenty of time for discussion.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
eBay uses these vendors for its monthly European Team Brief (ETB).
Crystal Interactive, London
Live, virtual or hybrid, this company uses interactive event technology to increase its communication at meetings and conferences. It also delivers hard copy transcripts for analysis after the event. An addition to this meeting was the audience response system (ARS) developed speciﬁcally for the ETB by Crystal Interactive. Visit www.crystalinteractive.co.uk.
POST-PRODUCTION: Survey Says!
Recordings of each ETB are now published on the company’s intranet as part of an ETB resource page. The recordings are also used to help train and coach presenters. Over the years, the number of attendees at the weekly ETB has grown. Success is measured in an annual communication survey and through the company’s Pulse survey, which addresses wider issues relating to employee engagement. Nearly 100 percent of responders to the feedback from the 2011 annual survey said the ETBs keep them in touch with eBay Europe business strategy. Most (85 percent) said the meetings keep them in touch with leadership. According to a recent Pulse survey, trust in eBay leadership to make sound business decisions and provide a clear picture of where the company is headed has increased by more than 50 percent over the past three years. A company that brings strangers from all over the world together to buy and sell goods on the Internet has found a way to bring its European team together. Colleagues now have a way to meet their counterparts and talk about business strategy on a regular basis. And last year, the European Team Brief received an Emerald award from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) EMEA region for “best employee communications.”
Craft of Communication, London
Craft of Communication helps managers and executives develop communication skills and coaches presenters to apply theater and TV skills to business communication. Visit www.craftofcommunication. com.
LifeSize, a division of Logitech, delivers high deﬁnition video communications products with ofﬁces in more than 80 countries. The organization has a team that manages a videoconference bridge (a system designed to minimize communication glitches by ensuring a dedicated, two-way audio and video connection between the ofﬁces). Visit www.lifesize.com.
Skype is a service provider that offers free calling among subscribers. It also enables ﬁle transfers, texting, video chat and videoconferencing. The service is available for desktop computers, notebook and tablet computers and other mobile devices, including mobile phones. EBay connects all sites 30 minutes before the ETB starts and communicates throughout via a group Skype chat to troubleshoot any issues that occurred during the meeting. Visit www.skype.com.
Hybrid Meetings Case Study: eBay | Page 2
Mediasite Events is the trusted market leader for conference webcasting, hybrid meetings and video management solutions. Powered by the patented Mediasite webcasting platform, our expert technicians provide the highest quality webcasting experience to organizations who seek to complement their events by streaming to viewers on any computer, tablet or mobile device. Mediasite Events empowers meeting professionals to reach new audiences, build instant archives of video presentations and explore new revenue streams online. Visit http://events.sonicfoundry.com to learn more. TNOC | The New Objective Collective brings ideas to life using live and digital communications. The collective is specialized in crafting Live, Hybrid and Digital Events and training teams to deliver them effectively. Collective contributors use modern collaboration techniques to provide objective-based services. The projects are managed in online collaboration spaces enabling geographically dispersed team and their supply chains from around the globe, each with a distinct specialty, to collaborate. Whenever possible, the collective uses open source methodologies and innovative collaboration partnerships to consult and deliver live and digital event experiences for corporations, associations and open source communities. Interactive Meeting Technology, LLC is an event technology consultancy, which creates digital interactive experiences that transform attendees into active participants. It helps clients develop a strategy around their digital initiatives. Then, it brings their vision to life. The company works across Web, mobile, social, digital signage and hybrid meetings. The Meeting Support Institute is an association for companies and individuals with products or services on the content side of meetings, offering a wide range of tools from art to technology, AV to facilitation, knowledge to science. Its goal is to help meeting professionals design the content side of meetings and events. The institute informs and educates about available tools in the market via its knowledge base, presentations, dinners and conference. Here, suppliers meet each other and their clients. The University of Derby Corporate is the corporate training and development division of the University of Derby. The school works with a wide variety of organizations to deliver work-based learning programs and accredited qualiﬁcations that improve key capabilities, such as service, innovation, leadership and problem solving.
Jenise Fryatt Fryatt has a background in journalism and communications and more than 20 years’ experience in the event industry as the co-owner of U.S.-based Icon Presentations audiovisual company. An avid meeting industry blogger, social media consultant and former community manager for Engage365.org, Fryatt also has extensive experience leading virtual discussions, creating and distributing content online and studying and participating in virtual-event experiences. Ruud W. Janssen, CMM A digital global nomad, Janssen is an online collaboration and bespoke new media specialist for events, as well as speaker and trainer. With a solid background in conference organizing and hospitality marketing, he has a curiosity and appetite for slow food and fast media. Living in Basel, Switzerland, he is the founder of TNOC.ch, an unconventional marketing collective specializing in crafting live, hybrid and virtual experiences for international, organizations. He is also founder and curator of TEDxBasel and co-founder of Event Camp Europe. Richard John As workforce development fellow at the University of Derby, John brings academic perspective to the project. The university makes a virtual events simulator, the eAPL (Accreditation of Prior Learning) process and a body of research available to the team. John is also a course director for the Chartered Institute of Marketing and a guest lecturer on events management programs at universities in the U.K. and Germany. His articles on face-toface communication have appeared in more than 50 magazines, and he is a regular columnist in a number of MICE magazines. Rosa Garriga Mora Rosa is an ROI consultant for meetings and events and serves as marketing and media manager for the Event ROI Institute. She holds a master’s degree in international events management from Stenden University in the Netherlands and London Metropolitan University. She is a certiﬁed meeting architect and is editor of the book The Tweeting Meeting. She currently lives in Barcelona, Spain, where she also works on projects related to meeting design. Samuel J. Smith Smith is a thought leader, speaker and award-winning innovator on event technology. In 2011, BizBash Magazine named him one of the most innovative people in the event industry. In 2010, Smith co-founded Event Camp Twin Cities, an innovation lab for events that rewrote the rules for attendee engagement in hybrid events. Smith judges the annual EIBTM Worldwide Event Technology Watch Awards in Barcelona, Spain.
Marj Atkinson, research manager Jessie States, editor, meeting industry Jeffrey Daigle, creative director
Jennifer Juergens, president, JJ Communications
About the MPI Foundation
The MPI Foundation is committed to bringing vision and prosperity to the global meeting and event community by investing in results-oriented initiatives that shape the future and bring success to the meetings and events community. For more information, visit www.mpifoundation.org.
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