Thanks to a tip from @GreenA_V, I stumbled across this article about Intel’s battle between face-to-face meetings and virtual. Even Cisco is measuring the value of F2F vs. virtual. With cost-cutting budgets and sustainable thinking, meeting planners are all starting to accept the reality of the virtual world. For the most part.
Intel hit backlash from some shareholders because, while they didn’t mind a combination of the two, quite a few shareholders wanted to keep the physical meeting on the table as an option. The article quotes a shareholder resolution that states, “Face-to-face annual meetings allow for an unfiltered dialogue between shareholders and management.”
I think this is the most important point to drive home. Accountability. Virtual accountability is a far cry from face-to-face questions that put management on the spot and make them own up to their strengths and weaknesses alike. Immediately.
And from our clients we’ve also heard that next to content, face-to-face interaction is the single greatest reason they attend meetings. Sure, you can host a web cast that provides a content-rich experience, and you can even initiate networking through Twitter streams and other modes (if your attendee base is tech-savvy). But you lose the magic of being in the same room with like-minded individuals that perhaps you only engage with long distance normally anyway.
Integress also experienced unusually low attendee engagement with web casts as an alternative to face-to-face meetings. One of our clients has a long history of scientific meetings that provide outlets for discovering and dispersing cutting edge information of timely topics that are well-covered by both the media and top scientists. You would think busy doctors and researchers would appreciate web casts that allow them to get more done in a day.
We found that when comparing web casts that offered similar information to face-to-face meetings held the same year, F2F stood out head and shoulders above…much to our surprise. We promoted both in similar ways, through eblasts, member updates, and on the association web site. The numbers don’t lie.
- After promoting the web cast series for 8 months, only 2% of the expected registrations were realized.
- After promoting the face-to-face event for 3 months, 100%+ of the expected registrations were realized.
This is only one instance in which F2F won out. And don’t get me wrong—I frequently participate in web casts and see the great value in them. I just happen to agree with the hard truth that hit Intel like a ton of bricks—F2F is not dead yet.
I would like to note that, as per the article mentioned, a coalition is apparently being formed to protect shareholder rights during virtual meetings. I can’t wait to see what innovations spring from that well.