As the ways we meet and work change, virtual meetings are become more inclusive and allowing for greater intention and more engagement.
Virtual meetings are a fact of life for professionals around the world. Gatherings large and small that once took place in everything from conference rooms to amphitheaters now take place on Zoom or similar platforms. If you’re one of the many workers suffering from Zoom exhaustion, this may come as a surprise, but: virtual meetings can be highly effective, and they likely aren’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future.
No, virtual meetings will not fully replace in-person gatherings. But they will influence how companies gather for years to come — both face-to-face and online. And, if you’re a Travel Manager, you will want to stay on top of these changes so that your company and your Travelers can enjoy the benefits.
Here’s a look at 3 ways you can expect meetings of all types to change in the coming months and years.
1. Welcome More Attendees from Around the World
For the longest time, in-person meetings have been associated with hard travel costs: the cost to fly in attendees, the cost to feed attendees, the cost to put attendees in hotels, etc. But, with virtual attendance as an option, those costs are reduced — and meetings become more inclusive to:
- People who work internationally. In some cases, companies may not pay for an employee to fly from Singapore to San Francisco the way it might pay for an employee to fly from Phoenix to San Francisco.
- People who cannot afford to travel. If travel costs fall on an attendee or within an attendee’s budget, virtual attendance suddenly makes participation possible.
- People limited by disability or other factors. Some employees are physically limited to the extent they cannot travel for in-person meetings, making virtual attendance the only avenue.
We’ll likely see exclusively in-person meetings continue to some degree, but look for more and more meetings to present an option between in-person and virtual attendance. Hybrid meetings will require planning to be much more buttoned up than in the past with a heavy emphasis on planning. A high-touch approach to these hybrid meetings is also a chance to make them better for all attendees.
2. Attend the Right Meetings and Meet with the Right People
In-person meetings can be limited in many ways. You might find that you attend a session that is not relevant to your work, while you miss out on a session that could have been career changing. And you might not get a chance to meet with all of the people you wanted to meet with. A virtual option can help eliminate these issues.
By offering a virtual option, companies allow attendees to be more international than they would have been otherwise. Expect future meetings with virtual options to have pre-meetings or materials that take place or circulate weeks before the actual meeting. These pre-sessions and pre-materials will give attendees an opportunity to better evaluate the sessions that are right for them. A virtual option also requires attendees to be more strategic about scheduling brief meetings and conversations, which will help them better connect with people they want to see.
3. Host Better Meetings and Events
What’s better: A conference room full of in-person attendees who are busy checking email on their mobile devices? Or an online meeting full of virtual attendees who are active in the conversation and engaged with the content?
Of course, anyone would choose the latter — virtual attendees who are active in the conversation and engaged with the content. And the COVID-19 pandemic will force all of us to raise our content game when it comes to meetings, conferences and other events. No longer will we have a captive audience in a conference room or convention hall, so we’ll now need to look beyond just attendance numbers. Instead, we’ll need to look at engagement to measure whether or not the meeting or event was a success.
In short, moving to a world where virtual meetings and events are possible means that we all have an opportunity to host better meetings and events.
Are You Ready for Meetings of the Future?
If you’re meeting are to keep up with trends in the future, they will need to be more inclusive, more connected, more sustainable, more intentional and more engaging. And the right business travel strategy and program will continue to be a key part of your meeting and event strategy.
At JTB Business Travel, we work with companies large and small, serving as the travel management company that helps them save on spend while creating comfortable, productive experiences for their Travelers. We use a common-sense approach to business travel to inform our products, services and recommendations. When you’re ready to prep for the meetings of the future, we’re here to help. Get in touch to learn more about our services.