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The PCO: The future is hybrid

In the latest edition of The PCO, the official publication of the International Association of Professional Conference Organisers, Barbara Calderwood of MCI explored what the future has in store for association events and spoke to ICC Belfast about the steps venues are taking to create a seamless event experience.

Fully virtual congresses may be the engagement technique that associations must embrace right now for their business resilience, but hybrid will surely be the blended congress solution of choice for their robust recovery and growth beyond the immediate impact of COVID-19.

Never has there been a more important moment in time for PCOs to demonstrate to associations the full force of their value proposition. We are key in supporting associations with the redesign of their congresses to fit the digital space and in driving engagement with their customers
for effective business resilience and growth. We do everything from redesigning the blend of virtual and physical components that form the hybrid congress to selecting a digital platform; from space management around physical distancing measures to devising a financial strategy that embraces on and offline participation… Then there’s programme redesign, anytime on-demand content access, sponsorship acquisition strategy and digital marketing, alongside our 360-degree core project management experience. These are just a few of the skillsets we bring to the table that demonstrate the true worth of a PCO.

Digital transformation, both virtual and hybrid, is empowering associations to revolutionise their ability to engage their audiences through their congress. PCOs provide the turn-key capacity to build all the solutions needed for a hybrid congress, selecting on behalf of associations the best digital engagement tools, destinations, venues and production to achieve optimum results for their association customers.

PCOs have a long and established understanding of the importance of a congress in achieving the core objectives of an association: how the congress needs to align with the association’s overall strategy and fulfil its goals. As global restrictions start to lift and physical distancing measures become a significant consideration at congress venues, PCOs are working with associations to build hybrid solutions for their congresses. With this in mind, PCOs are
selecting the venues that best align with the PCO’s hybrid redesign, configured to meet the overarching objectives of their association customers.

ICC Belfast recently ran a LinkedIn poll to gather opinions directly from its audience on how many business events they thought would be hybrid in 2021. The results indicate it's a trend that's here to stay. Of the total respondents, 50% believe that up to 75% of business events will be hybrid next year in comparison with 17% who believe up to 25% of business events will be hybrid. 

Marie-Claire Caldwell, Head of Sales and Marketing at ICC Belfast, explains the importance of venues becoming hybrid ready:

“The venue team act as an extension of the PCO. ICC Belfast takes a partnership approach when working with the PCO to successfully deliver hybrid events. The specialist, in-house, team will advise, based on experience with past clients, on what works particularly well and how to take any event to the next level. Their intricate knowledge of the space, hardware and software available at ICC Belfast also means that from conception to close, the event experience is
operationally seamless.

For hybrid events, having onsite technology enhancements such as high bandwidth for live streaming, customisable studios and broadcasting capabilities as part of the venue infrastructure, all support the PCO in delivering the best hybrid solution for the association.

The venue teams’ knowledge of production capabilities and the logistics in situ are important in their collaboration with PCOs in the delivery of the in-person hybrid elements."

To view The PCO Q3 2020 edition in full, follow this link.


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