Hybrid Hour: First-Hand Experience From a True Hybrid Medical Association Meeting

Kathleen McClemmy Shares Insights on Producing the Aesthetic Meeting 2021 in Miami and Online for a Global Audience in April

By Danica Tormohlen, Host of Hybrid Hour


Kathleen McClemmy, Director of Meetings, The Aesthetic Society. She is one of the first association organizers brave enough to move forward with an annual in-person meeting and trade show.


Kathleen recently produced the first major medical meeting and trade show, The Aesthetic Meeting 2021, April 29–May 3, 2021 at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The hybrid event attracted 700 in-person and 500 virtual attendees and 119 booths covering 155,335 gross square feet of exhibit space. The event was originally scheduled in Boston, but she moved the event to Florida because it was open.

Fun fact:

Among the attendees at The Aesthetic Meeting 2021, 89% of people answered “yes” when asked if they were fully vaccinated for COVID-19, but proof of vaccination was not required. The society worked with 42Chat to ask health screening questions via text to attendees each day.

Moving forward with in-person:

“Our board felt strongly about having an in-person meeting. We had to cancel our April 2020 meeting in Las Vegas. With that said, if we didn't move forward with the 2021 meeting, that would be two full years where we wouldn't have any kind of interaction with our attendees. We're all about education, and we have a lot of hands-on interaction. The products and services change very quickly in our industry. Exhibiting companies benefit from that face-to-face interaction. They were not excited about any more virtual meetings. We decided that if we were serious about moving forward with a face-to-face meeting, including a virtual component, we would need to move our meeting out of Boston and move it somewhere else.”

Timeline and results:

"We had six months to get everything done, protocols in place, and wheels on the ground. Typically, we have 5,000 attendees and 250 exhibitors in person. We had to take our entire international attendance out of our expectations (25%), and we ended up with 60% less attendees for this hybrid and 50% less exhibitors."

Sponsorships hot on site.

“Virtual sponsorships were totally an option. We had no bites, but we had amazing on-site sponsorships. Sponsorships on our app, on the escalators, stairs, pillars, walls and room drops. We didn't really have any issue selling sponsorships. Our exhibitors were so hungry to be in front of a doctor that they would have bought anything at that point, so we were wildly successful.”

Economic impact of the IRL:

2,400 group room nights were sold at local contracted hotels at the SLS South Beach, Ritz-Carlton, The Cadillac, and The One. Spectra Management, which manages MBCC, employed 250 people. Freeman and its AV division employed over 200, as well as an estimated 300 from the other local service providers. The society hosted seven social events at the following locations: Loews Miami Beach, Miami Beach Convention Center, Dolce, The Betsy, The Temple House, and The Villa.

Don’t devalue your content:

"We provide CME credits. Our registration fees are based on the value of the CME credits. We charged the same fees for in-person as virtual. We really didn't get any pushback for this."

Advice about in-person and virtual production:

"Don't make a hybrid event so complicated and don’t go down the rabbit hole with what-ifs. Find out what is most important to your organization and address those. Don't get wrapped up in everything that can go wrong. Rip off the band-aid and do it. We're going to have some missteps, and that's OK."

Engage members to monitor the chat:

"My biggest tip is to have really great facilitators in the chat. Not just staff, but an industry person who can speak their language and facilitate questions. We asked the program committee, which helped people to stick with it and stay engaged." The association also recruited medical school residents who were excited that we asked them to help.

Budgeting for production on site for streaming.

"The program committee was totally against pre-taped recordings. We picked four keynotes to livestream and had a session running in the exhibit hall with short presentations and debates, as well as our 'Aesthetic Bowl’ competition. We had multiple cameras and angles going in each room. The production was what we spent our money on in terms of the virtual platform."

Short-term hybrid strategy:

"For at least the next six months, we will be doing all events as hybrid. For HIPAA, we need to provide a lot of our content live. We will keep evaluating. If we have demand, we will decide whether we continue to do hybrid for the another six months."

Feel like you missed out? Listen to a recording of the full Clubhouse hour with Kathleen McClemmy here.

You can listen to Danica Tormohlen and JUNO weekly on the Clubhouse app! We are live tweeting every session. Join the conversation with #junohybridhh or tweet @junoliveconnect any questions in advance!

Mark your calendar: Join us for Hybrid Hour at a special time this week at 10 a.m. ET on Friday, June 11. We hope more of our European audience can listen and connect with our guest Megan Martin, Associate Director of Conferences at International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer. She served as the President of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of PCMA (RMPCMA) in 2020. During her tenure, she helped to produce digital and hybrid chapter events during the pandemic. RMPCMA held the 6 Foot Laboratory, a face-to-face meeting in the era of COVID-19 with a hybrid virtual component last September. Check out the program recordings and planning tools here.

Danica Tormohlen is an Award-Winning Journalist, Content Strategist and Omnichannel Media Pro. For trade show industry news and analysis, follow her on Twitter @DanicaTormohlen.