Whether training new staffers, motivating a sales force or updating executives on business objectives, meetings are a fact of life for marketers and often consume a huge portion of their day-to-day work. And budget. For far-flung and global meetings, sometimes the best way to get all the stakeholders and needed attendees in the seats, so to speak, is to let them sit in those seats at the home office instead of flying everyone to the corporate headquarters. Enter the satellite meeting.
Satellite events are small-scale, regionalized live events where companies invite customers to meet face-to-face and experience a mix of live and virtual event content like keynotes and educational sessions. Each satellite event taps into content from a larger central hub event, where presentations are being generated live or virtually in real time. Satellite meetings are becoming more and more popular as tele- and video-conferencing equipment becomes sophisticated enough to meet the needs of the meeting world.
Fully digital webcasts are not always a good option for a meeting because personal connection and give and take suffer, as does retention of key messaging, according to research by Fenton, MO-based Maritz Travel, a meetings-oriented agency. Author Martha Beck wrote, “Basic human contact—the meeting of eyes, the exchanging of words—is to the psyche what oxygen is to the brain. If you’re feeling abandoned by the world, interact with anyone you can.” And that’s what Chris Gaia, vp-marketing at Maritz says can be accomplished with a satellite meeting when getting everyone together physically isn’t feasible. Here are Gaia’s top tips on how to do it:
Tip 1. The more you help the remote attendees achieve their goals, the more likely it is you will achieve yours. This means that if you are trying to introduce your sales force to a new product line, understand that they want to know the points of pain that this product will address for their customers. They want to sell, so make sure you frame your content in such a way that they will get what they want, and therefore stay interested long enough for you to get the brand education in that you need to accomplish, too.
Tip 2. Make sure your host is both charismatic and a subject matter expert. This seems like a no-brainer, but the audience will know and tune you out if your speaker is boring, or can’t take on all comers during the Q&A. And if that happens, you lose. The time and resources spent will be wasted because no one in the audience will hear you. And they will resent you for wasting their time. Make sure your host focuses on breaking through the content in order to deliver the critical nuggets of information you need to communicate, instead of drowning everyone in—dare we say it, marketing speak. say it—marketing-speak.
Tip 3. Don’t forget to plan for the follow-up. If the education ends with the meeting, you’ll never know if your messages were delivered and absorbed until your product doesn’t sell, or your customers complain they don’t understand the new policies. Every meeting needs to have an exit survey. Measure satisfaction with the event and measure retention of the pertinent information. You’ll be glad you did.
Tip 4. Plan for direct interaction between the presenters and the remote attendees. Let them ask questions during the presentation, if possible. Ideally, format the meeting like a roundtable discussion, rather than a series of slides or videos. If they know you’re listening, they will, too.
Tip 5. Bring in the end users and channel partners who will be directly affected by the new… whatever it is, for the presentation or panel. Your audience will want to be represented, especially if they are a critical part of the new initiatives or changes. If you can show them that the company cares about what they think, they will care what you have to say.
Tip 6. Remember that a meeting is never a stand-alone event. The attendees will be talking about it after the fact, especially if you did your job well during the meeting, so make sure you have a piece of that conversation. Approach each satellite meeting not as a one-off, but as part of a larger communications strategy, and use the opportunity to keep collecting input and disseminating information. Once you’ve got ’em hooked, don’t let ’em go. “At the end of the day,” Gaia says, “these meetings are a way to change attitudes, like all events, and if done well, to change behavior.”