Hybrid Hour: Leading by Example

5 Takeaways from PCMA’s Tonya Almond

By Danica Tormohlen

In January in the midst of the global pandemic, PCMA Convening Leaders 2021 was one of the industry’s first examples of a hybrid event featuring a full online conference and sponsorship program with in-person events simultaneously held at six different locations, including the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, Caesars Forum in Las Vegas, Gaylord Rockies in Denver, The Palm Beaches, Fort Lauderdale and Oklahoma City.

Tonya Almond, VP of Knowledge and Experience Design at PCMA, joined Journalist Danica Tormohlen for a conversation on producing a hybrid event for this audience of event professionals. Here are five key takeaways from that Hybrid Hour Conversation on Clubhouse:

1. Orchestrate synchronous moments. PCMA used conversation starters to break up education and build in networking. The sold-out breakout rooms were one of the most popular features. Another example: Visit Austin hosted a “Battle of the DJs,” and more than 200 attendees created a Zoom after-hours party.

2. Create cohorts and communities. Attendees were placed in learning cohorts based on demographic data. Using AI built into the platform, attendees were grouped into micro-communities based on personal and business interests and were offered recommendations to make connections through meet-ups and 1-on-1 meetings.

3. Know before you go. While most attendees and exhibitors will set their schedules and plans before arriving on site at a destination, that isn’t always the case in the virtual space. One of Tonya’s key lessons learned: Over communicate “what you need to know before you go” on how to use the technology.

4. Emotion + virtual = connection. At the opening of the event, PCMA produced a live, in-person performance that was broadcast to online audiences around the globe. Kicking off the event with a mashup of “I will survive” and “I’m a survivor,” along with a performance by a Detroit choir, evoked hundreds of comments in the chat. One comment that stood out to Tonya: “I didn’t think I would feel this way from a digital event.”

5. Fight the sameness. Determine why you are bringing your audience together so you can design experiences to fight the sameness and support people where they are with omnichannel access. Prior to the pandemic, PCMA produced hybrid events in conjunction with Convening Leaders for a number of years. “Digital can bring growth for your organization,” she said. “We have reached new audiences who have converted from digital to the in-person event, bringing in $1 million in new revenue over five years.”


Key Stats on PCMA Convening Leaders 2021Attracted nearly 3,900 attendees from 47 countries, about the same as the attendance for PCMA’s 2019 Annual Meeting in PittsburghEngaged participants in 900+ 1-to-1 meetingsProduced 51 pre-recorded and live sessions with 97 speakers Partnered with JUNO for the virtual experience

Want to know more? Watch the PCMA’s CL21 Makers Series: https://conveningleaders.org/makers/

and Join Danica Tormohlen and Dana from JUNO on Clubhouse 4 to 5pm ET Thursdays!

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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.