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+ Hybrid Meeting Case Study
The Case for a Hybrid Meeting
When Steph Pfeilsticker, CMP, CMM, saw a presentation on
hybrid events given by former MPI CEO Bruce MacMillan in
2010, she experienced an a-ha moment.
As senior event planner for Thrivent Financial, she knew
the impact her National Sales Meeting had on the ﬁnancial
representatives who attended, and on the company’s bottom
line. She uncovered data showing that reps who attended
increased their sales in the three months following the event.
However, only 40 percent of her ﬁnancial reps were attending.
What if the company could somehow reach the other 60
percent? That was her business case when she presented the
idea of a hybrid event to her leadership in early 2011.
Pfeilsticker won approval for that event proposal in
February 2011, and began the process of planning and
collaboration leading up to the November NSM.
High-performing ﬁnancial reps receive complimentary or
discounted access to the face-to-face event. The vast majority
of those who had not attended face-to-face in the past had not
qualiﬁed for gratis access.
“I wanted to place a value on the virtual stream [free implies
lack of value], but not price ourselves out of the market,”
She knew if she got them to log onto the virtual meeting,
those who usually didn’t attend the national sales meeting
would get the content and education they needed to increase
their production, so remote participation was priced at a $49
early-bird rate and $99 regular registration.
About Thrivent Financial
Thrivent Financial for Lutherans is a faith-based,
not-for-proﬁt ﬁnancial services organization of nearly
2.5 million members with the strength of more than
US$75 billion in assets managed.
What would current Steph
Pfeilsticker tell pre-hybrid
“Don’t get bogged down with the naysayers
who might not understand it. Keep the ﬁre in
your belly and don’t second-guess your plan
when you recognize the value and know that
it’s the organization’s future. Don’t let the
technology scare you. It’s a machine, and we
know how to make machines work. If we can
understand it, we can trust it.”
Photo Credit: Holger Ellgaard
Stephanie Pfeilsticker, CMP, CMM,
the virtual strategy manager for Thrivent
Financial, shares her key takeaways from
creating a hybrid national sales meeting.
1. Learn everything you can about hybrid
events and virtual event technology.
Network with other planners who have
produced a hybrid event. Having more
knowledge about hybrid events will help
you formulate questions to ask and better
communicate with technology providers.
2. Become an educator. Put together a
presentation or orientation materials to
explain the hybrid event concept to those
on your team who are unfamiliar with
it. Keep it basic to be sure that the least
technically sophisticated person in the
room can understand. Confusion
3. Choose partners who communicate
well. Choose a technology partner that is
willing to talk about exactly how things
operate. It’s important to ﬁnd providers
who are patient, don’t rush you and
4. Engaging the remote audience is a
priority. Think of engagement as you
design your event, not as an afterthought.
5. A virtual emcee is a must. The
virtual emcee is the remote attendee’s
connection to the event. Increase that
connection by creating compelling
segments for them during the face-to-face
breaks. Make it interesting so that they
are less likely to be lured by distractions
in their own environments.
6. Insist on testing the equipment.
Request tests of the equipment used for
the remote portion of the event.
Case Study: Hybrid Meeting | Page 2
PROGRAM DESIGNED FOR A REMOTE AUDIENCE
With increased productivity as the goal, Pfeilsticker determined that the attendees
she was targeting for the virtual element would need content that speciﬁcally
addressed their needs.
“I wanted to create a separate experience for people that were attending
virtually,” she says. “I knew that from a production perspective, many were
looking for more fundamental skills. ”
The live event, which ran for four days, included a virtual component for
three. Pfeilsticker directed that all general sessions be live-streamed, but only the
breakout sessions that focused on building basic sales skills or were introductory
in nature would be part of the virtual experience. Even when face-to-face attendees
were on break, there was something scheduled in the virtual studio, so the screen
never went black.
To ensure a continuous ﬂow of content, a virtual emcee ﬁlled in between sessions
and during breaks. Pfeilsticker worked with subject-matter experts to write all
the questions and content for these segments, which included interviews with
speakers or experts, speciﬁcally designed to provide more introductory sales
technique information. This was provided exclusively to the remote audience.
She also took time to coach virtual emcee Emilie Barta in the history, culture and
jargon of the company to ease her ability to communicate with the audience and
with the Thrivent executives she interviewed.
TOOLS FOR ENGAGEMENT
The platform used for the digital portion of the Thrivent event featured three
chat rooms in which different topics were discussed. A company representative
moderated each of the chat rooms to facilitate and spark discussion. Between 10
and 20 people would typically participate in these discussions.
Remote attendees also had an Idea Book mailed to them that contained a
full schedule of the virtual program, speaker bios, presentation descriptions and
plenty of room for jotting down ideas from each session. All attendees were asked
to narrow down their ideas and submit three electronically that would be included
in their business plans, due at the end of the meeting. Many remote attendees
commented that the printed booklet made them feel like they were valuable parts
of the event, Pfeilsticker says.
DOING HER HOMEWORK
When she sent out RFPs to companies providing
virtual event services, Pfeilsticker ran into her
ﬁrst big difﬁculty: The responses were rife with
confusion. Comparison was difﬁcult because
companies bidding for the same job didn’t always
provide or charge for the same services. She ﬁnally
chose a company with which Thrivent had a
previous relationship. That company would be
able to provide two of the services she needed—
streaming and platform.
Photo Credit: Calvin Teo
Put Together a Bullet-
Proof Business Case
Thrivent Senior Event Planner Steph
Pfeilsticker did her research before she
approached leadership with her idea for a
hybrid event. She uncovered that people
who attended the national sales meeting
raised their production levels as a result.
With improved productivity as the main
goal of the NSM, her business case for
making it a hybrid event also answered
the following questions.
1. What is your objective for your hybrid
event? To provide education that would
improve the productivity of ﬁnancial reps
not attending the face-to-face event.
2. Who are the attendees you want
to reach? Financial reps who aren’t
attending the event—which largely
included reps who were looking for more
3. How will you reach them? Tailor the
virtual portion of the event to speciﬁcally
address the online audience’s need
for fundamental skills and charge a
registration fee that is affordable, yet
creates a perceived value.
4. What do you want them to do?
Increase productivity comparable to the
productivity increase usually seen in face-
5. How will you measure whether your
objectives were met? Monitor the
productivity of remote attendees (it
increased more than two times that of
Case Study: Hybrid Meeting | Page 3
REMOTE ATTENDEES WERE HOOKED
Some 75 percent of Thrivent remote attendees stayed with the event all day, Pfeilsticker
says. “Statistics show that remote attendees typically stay on for two to three hours. So
it was somewhat remarkable with our attendees that 75 percent were on from the very
beginning—7:30 a.m.—until it ended at 5:30 p.m. each day.”
PROMOTING THE ON-DEMAND CONTENT
After the conference ended, Pfeilsticker knew the content was still useful. Thrivent’s
virtual provider captured the streamed content on its own site for on-demand use. To
encourage Thrivent’s ﬁnancial representatives and corporate employees to access the
content, a weekly article highlighting a general session and providing a link to the on-
demand site appeared regularly on the company intranet.
Pfeilsticker characterizes the post-event strategy as basic. “We simply wanted to
drive the ﬁnancial representatives back to the on-demand site to view content that
would help them grow their business,” she says. “In the future, I will focus more energy
on creating ways to repackage the content throughout the year, and not just rely on the
attendees seeking it out.”
Pfeilsticker measured the productivity of both remote and face-to-face attendees for
three months following the event. In terms of increase per attendee, the remote attendees
boosted their production more than two times that of the face-to-face attendees.
Response to the event was very positive. Remote participants loved the idea that
they could receive the content and still be in the ofﬁce, fulﬁlling other duties. “Family
is really important in our organization. Being able to still be with their families was a
huge beneﬁt for them,” she says.
Additionally, in a follow-up survey, 51 percent of the remote attendees said they
were likely to attend future national sales meetings in person.
SEEING IS BELIEVING
Fear of the unknown is a typical response when introducing innovative ideas.
Pfeilsticker found that new concepts, such as the role of a virtual emcee, were difﬁcult
for many to understand. She had to resell many ideas throughout the planning process.
“I really had to be more of an educator than I had imagined,” she says.
However, with the success of Thrivent’s ﬁrst hybrid event, things have changed.
Naysayers saw for themselves how the hybrid format vastly expanded the reach of the
NSM. As a result, Pfeilsticker began to receive calls about adding virtual components
to other company events. So, she wrote a business plan proposing the creation of a
virtual strategy group and has since become its manager.
Photo Credit: Calvin Teo
Case Study: Hybrid Meeting | Page 4
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
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, Switzer-
land, 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.
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-to-
face 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 market-
ing 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
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 innova-
tive 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.
Interactive Meeting Technology, LLC is an event tech-
nology consultancy, which creates digital interactive
experiences that transform attendees into active par-
ticipants. 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 technol-
ogy, 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 organi-
zations to deliver work-based learning programs and accredited qualiﬁca-
tions that improve key capabilities, such as service, innovation, leadership
and problem solving.
© 2012, Meeting Professionals International. All Rights Reserved
Mediasite Events is the trusted market leader
for conference webcasting, hybrid meetings
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provide the highest quality webcasting experience to organizations who
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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 geographi-
cally 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.
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 initia-
tives that shape the future and bring success to the meetings and events
community. For more information, visit www.mpifoundation.org.
Meeting Professionals International (MPI), the meeting and event industry’s
largest and most vibrant global community, helps it’s members thrive by
providing human connections to knowledge and ideas, relationships and
marketplaces. MPI membership is comprised of more than 23,000 members
belonging to 71 chapters and clubs worldwide. For additional information,
Meeting Professionals International
3030 LBJ Freeway, Suite 1700
Dallas, TX 75234-2759
28, Rue Henri VII
Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
6519-B Mississauga Road
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