Joining a meeting can now mean attendees sign in on an iPhone from the golf course, log on at home in the office, and book a hotel meeting room with co-workers at a conference. “Hybrid meetings” are par for the course, and the tech required to facilitate them is a guest expectation.
Colin Raininger, an engineered sales Specialist at AVT.ca, an audiovisual solutions firm based out of Mississauga, Ont. says, “The technology has been there for a long time already, but the pandemic put it in the hands and minds of the masses at a rate far faster than anyone expected. This technology is not just for event techs or IT teams anymore.”
During the pandemic, Hilton rolled out its EventReady Hybrid Solutions, featuring hotels in its portfolio equipped with bandwidth capability and trained staff. At Marriott, guests can download the Meeting Services App and manage details of their event from their smartphone, including ordering more coffee and requesting assistance or services.
But Raininger notes that hybrid meetings aren’t always easy. In the past, meetings tended to be either virtual or in-person and there were different set-ups for each. Running a meeting as if everyone is physically present, when half may not be, presents a technological challenge with constantly moving parts as there is a constant stream of new offerings available.
“As one concept finally gets adopted, a new one is already being introduced,” Raininger says. “The most exciting part of this industry is that we are being shown new products so frequently — often before we’ve had a chance to sell the previous one.”
Raininger consults with a large number of hotels on hybrid meeting spaces and knows the importance of offering the right tech. “Whether for customers booking accommodations or using their banquet or meeting facilities to host their events, having this feature today is just as significant as when in-room Internet became an option, or on-demand movies before that.”
He notes equipment and tech older than five years should be upgraded. “In many cases, trying to integrate new technology into old equipment turns out to be more time-consuming and costlier than to look at new bundles, “all-in-ones” or ecosystems,” he says
Acquiring the right gear depends on the offering and the needs of the guests. “The cost of these amenities will really be determined by the scale in which they are being applied,” Raininger continues. “Is a meeting room going to be equipped for a group of four or five? Will they have a system that is permanently fixed in a room, or possibly a portable system that can move from the business centre to the lounge, and then even into a suite? Or will it be a banquet room that will accommodate seminars or town halls?”
So, is hybrid the new normal for meetings? Raininger thinks so. “As the technology becomes more stable and more accessible, work/play trips may also become the norm. And with this, a hotel or resort with video conferencing and hybrid-meeting amenities will be sought out just as much as those with in-room Wi-Fi, or pet-friendly suites,” he says, adding hybrid meetings are here to stay and the expectation to accommodate isn’t going anywhere.
By Andrea Victory