The Association of Briefing Program Managers (ABPM) held their spring conference in April, so we sat down with Darby Mason-Werner, Senior Director of Client and Partner Strategy to talk about lessons learned and key takeaways from the event. What's next for briefing programs and what are the major trends we're seeing in the hybrid year ahead.
What was a core theme at the ABPM Spring Virtual Conference 2021?
To no surprise, the overarching theme at this year's conference was the move to hybrid. This is the new normal for the briefing industry. Everyone has done and is doing virtual for over year now, but what's next, as we navigate these uncharted waters is continuing to deliver a stellar customer experience for virtual AND in-person customers.
The realization is - we're all not as far along as we'd like to be. Most programs are still in the research phase, which is ok. Research is good. Though there will be bumps and challenges, your company's approach to hybrid programs will lay the foundation for what can quite possibly be a long time.
Even more so, companies and briefing programs are looking at ways to incorporate virtual touchpoints into in-person and on-site experiences.
Is there one common challenge almost every program is trying to solve for?
How to enable the dialog to be '3-way' - you, me, and that person over there. It's a unique and fun challenge to fulfill for sure, but really a very important and fundamental one. You have to keep the experience at the same level no matter which piece of the 3-way conversation you're participant in.
In the briefing world, there are no 2nd class citizens.
What are major areas of focus for briefing programs as more companies return to the office?
In addition to addressing hybrid experiences, there are 3 strategic areas that are going to facilitate this transition, empower briefing program planners, and support the customer journey.
- TECHNOLOGY This includes auditing current technologies, evaluating new technologies, understanding how to use them, and championing the technology to your teams and customers. Examples include virtual briefing platforms, 3d modules, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, broadcasting equipment, digital signage etc.
- PROGRAM MANAGEMENT As this transition ensues, how we run our programs and train discussion leaders to help them prepare for a continued virtual, in-person, and hybrid facilitation is key.
- COMPASSION This community of briefing professionals has been and still is a true community. Throughout the past year, members and partners have continued to maintain open doors and channels for learning and sharing best practices and challenges solved. We must still continue to support each other as human beings.
Did you see Darby at our 'virtual booth'?
How do physical spaces factor into the briefing program experience?
Companies are already transitioning away from traditional spaces and layouts and moving away from hierarchical settings in the workplace to influence culture and create more space, i.e. flexible work environments, co-working, and desk booking.
This includes auditing physical assets and inventory, re-envisioning how people flow and move through your space, and re-arranging the flow, furniture, installations, and demonstrations to facilitate the best customer journey post-pandemic. How do you design those spaces when you have someone in person and someone that is not, while making everyone feel equally involved?
Executive briefing centers are 'the gathering place' for customers and key stakeholders. It's a space where they are not at home, not at work, but in a dedicated space that enables open conversations. We are the curators of those experiences and need to be able to provide the space necessary for these conversations, innovation, and collaboration.
Was there a general sense of when briefing centers will reopen?
It's important to know that many briefing programs have offices open, especially overseas, but they are not hosting customers. Different industries and organizations have in fact had teams and core roles running operations already, especially from a tech, security, and production value.
But when it comes to briefing centers specifically opening their doors to customers, it's looking like this fall will be the earliest through January 2022. Very few are aiming for summer. Even customers are still trepidations about traveling and the logistics that come along with it - though they are eager. We all have zoom fatigue. All of us.
What are some new roles emerging for briefing programs?
It's a whole new world of work out there, for the diverse jobs that make up the workforce. As we tackle these new challenges, briefing program managers are making a concerted effort to have deeper 1:1s, facilitate productivity, listen to each other, etc.
But what about job duties that are beyond our normal scope, beyond our capabilities, or even completely new and niche? The top 3 job skills on LinkedIn are creativity, persuasion, and collaboration... and with good reason as jobs embrace the digitally savvy .
Roles continue to change and evolve and new hires are being added to the mix to execute on a variety of new capabilities that briefing centers are beginning to harness.
- Digital content creators for online, virtual, mobile and kiosk activations
- Camera crews to film demonstrations, site tours, etc.
- Production assistants to support every new, digital, and creative touchpoint
- Space management pros to facilitate a modular approach to program and room set-ups
Can you share some advice for programs to help push through the remainder of the year?
We need to continue to show the value of the relationships that we build with customers within our programs. Our efforts build us our company's as the trusted advisor and ultimately leads to more sales. Continue to show your value and tie back to actual metrics - be it virtual, in-person, or hybrid - briefing programs are a core component of the business success and other teams, departments and upper management need to continually be reminded and made aware of that.
In fact, our programs and efforts are the #1 way companies are able to communicate with their customers.
Living through the past year is a testament to how we can continue to do this for customers and it's been a true joy to see the community all come together.
For more insights and ongoing conversations around the changes we're experiencing in the briefing industry, tune-in to The CXApp Live! podcast.