Bloomberg Businessweek has highlighted the pros and cons of virtual conferences and training as compared to face-to-face conferences and seminars. With the cost of transportation, event attendance fees, lodging, and other travel expenses skyrocketing, while budgets for training and collaborative events plunge, the financial benefits of virtual events are obvious. However, there is a valid argument for the priceless value of personal, face-to-face interactions and relationship building that comes with personal interaction.
From online classrooms, video tutorials, video conferences, and training simulations, virtual techniques are currently used by schools and universities, Fortune 500 companies, governmental departments, the military and other organizations. In the GovLoop Guide, Building Better Conferences and Training: The Value of Virtual Events in Government, the authors propose that rather than reducing governmental costs by cutting training and conferences, the question to answer is:
“How do we deliver mission-achieving knowledge to public sector employees within modest budget constraints?”
So, what trends support the balance between virtual and personal interaction?
Hybrid Events and Apps
Most public sector managers have attended webinars, but perhaps not hybrid events. Hybrid virtual events incorporate a blend of on-site and virtual means for communicating information or offering training. Meeting Professionals International provides a How-To Guide for Hybrid Events and describes a hybrid event as a “gathering of at least one group of face-to-face participants that digitally connects with participants in another or multiple locations.”
According to Meeting Professionals, the benefits of Hybrid events are numerous:
- Reach a greater audience (in person and virtual)
- Attendees can participate alone or in groups
- New options exist for greater communication
- Multiple events can be connected without time and location restrictions
Hans Hwang, the Vice President of Cisco Advanced Services, believes it is imperative that event planners determine event objectives and requirements. Hwang states “if an organization will require employees to be able to participate from their smartphones in addition to their desks, it will need to make sure that employee devices can access the content and that infrastructure can support the users logging on from multiple devices.”
Likewise, managers need to consider the desired outcomes of employee training and interaction. Depending on the needs of the organization, developers can produce apps that allow workers to receive updates, new training, video conferences, and virtual event streams directly to their mobile devices. This is especially valuable technology for departments spread across vast regions, or with workers positioned in other parts of the globe.
In addition to cost and time savings, virtual events increase the collective IQ of the organization, allowing knowledge transfer throughout the organization without the boundaries of time or place. If personal interaction is a priority for the learner, participate in a hybrid event within a small group. Hybrid events allow for mobile meetings, conferences, and training sessions. Even employees dispatched to the developing world can be involved in strategic planning sessions, training classes, and conferences.