As of 2020, the event industry was valued at around $891 billion. A few key types of events include concerts, festivals, sporting events, in-person meetings, conferences, trade shows, etc. The in-person meeting, a sector of the event industry is valued at $330 billion in the United States as of 2022.
However, in early 2020, the in-person meeting industry was forced to restructure and reevaluate operations to continue to serve its customers during the emerging COVID-19 pandemic. Research by Boscolo-Berto et al. (2021) analyzed two meeting types — full virtual and hybrid congress — to better understand what kinds of events would best replace in-person meetings. A fully virtual congress allows all participants to join a meeting via a video from the comfort of their own home or wherever they may be. A hybrid congress meeting gives the option for guests to attend in person or via an online video.
There are many advantages of a fully virtual congress. First is the convenience factor, allowing all contributors to attend virtually from wherever they are located. Second, virtual conferences and meetings can be recorded and rewatched at a later time. Third, the cost of attendance is more affordable than attending in-person meetings, as virtual meetings eliminate costs such as airline tickets, Uber rides, hotel bookings, food and beverage, venue fees, and miscellaneous costs, which add up quickly. Research conducted by Clariti Technology (2022) uncovered that “virtual meetings reduce travel costs by 30% and the need for business travel by 47%”. Last, the number of individuals allowed to attend an event is not limited by size as there is no constraint on occupancy. On the other hand, virtual events do come with limitations, such as difficulties in socializing and limited peer-to-peer interactions, which can create unwanted boundaries. The planner of the meeting is limited to what activities can be presented due to the lack of personal connection.
On a similar spectrum, the hybrid congress meeting style is made to accommodate guests who would like to attend in-person or via video conferencing. This meeting style allows the guest to choose the level of learning immersion they wish to have. Boscolo-Berto et al. (2021) highlighted the International Congresses decision of what type of meeting they wished to have once COVID-19 had been announced as a global pandemic. Trans European Pedagogic Research Group’s scheduled 16th Annual Meeting was held in a hybrid format for guests to participate in-person at their own risk. If a group decided to hold a hybrid congress, the next step would be to observe WHO recommendations and policies.
Advantages of hosting a hybrid congress allows guests to immerse themselves in the collaborative, in-person experience and build stronger face-to-face networks. Second, hybrid meetings allow flexibility of attendance for guests if conflicts arise. On the other hand, drawbacks of a hybrid congress are unavoidable similarly to virtual meetings. Streaming and technology issues arise and can cause difficulty for all parties. In addition, conversation between in-person attendees and virtual attendees as well as the types of activities are limited while holding a hybrid congress.
Overall, because the in-person meeting industry had to close its doors for two years, virtual and hybrid meetings were introduced and have proven their strengths effectively through new forms of communication. These anatomical societies were forced to restructure their in-person meeting format and because of this COVID has shed light on other meeting formats rather than the traditional setting. The digital age of meetings has proven innovative and continues to take steps forward in the meeting industry.
Boscolo‐Berto, R., Porzionato, A., Stecco, C., Macchi, V., & De Caro, R. (2021). Anatomical societies find new ways to come together in a post‐Covid world. Anatomical Sciences Education, 14(6), 739–751. https://doi.org/10.1002/ase.2135
Clariti Technologies. (2022, August 29). How businesses can save money through online meetings. Clariti has all essential tools for teamwork, from email, chat, calendar & cloud storage organized naturally in Workspaces. https://clariti.app/blog/how-businesses-can-save-money-through-online-meetings/