The Association of Briefing Program Managers (ABPM) held their fall workshop in October - embracing all things virtual in content, delivery and projects. We sat down with Darby Mason-Werner, Senior Director of Client and Partner Strategy, to chat about some of the key themes coming out of the workshop and how we can take examples, trends, and lessons learned to create our own best practices for hybrid briefing programs leading into 2021.
What was the overarching theme for the fall conference?
There was a deeper acceptance and realization that we're going to be doing this remote experience for a lot longer than we had expected. This opened larger conversations and micro discussions on what virtual, in-person, and hybrid briefings will look like.
There were some centers that gave examples of how they have already opened (in parts of Europe) and what they've done to 1. Reopen their centers and 2. Elevate virtual briefings.
Tetra Pak, Verizon and DATEV shared insights on what it's like to move from virtual to hybrid to in-person and all of the surrounding preparations, opening a great panel conversation for what actually works.
What examples can you share with us that address these themes?
Program managers are having to get creative!
- Tetra Pak, for example, is using an occupancy management approach to help them control not only the number of employees that are on-site during briefings but also to make sure the right employees are on-site. These teams have to pivot in real-time to make sure they're adhering to capacity restrictions but also getting subject matter experts and account representatives in the room.
- We're also seeing companies embracing a daily temperature check and health assessment in the form of waivers and health forms.
- DATEV is creating more socially distanced rooms and completely reconfiguring the layout and flow of their customer experience journey.
- Verizon is looking at using smaller hubs in different cities to attract local customers, so they will not have to travel as far and can manage smaller office capacities.
Are there touchpoints from the virtual event that we can learn from for remote experience programs?
The virtual platform was very well done and offered better engagement through Zoom rooms and smaller breakout rooms for more specific or intimate conversations. The majority of people also used their cameras so it was great to see a friendly face!
A few things that are easy to accomplish with a virtual briefing program, similar to a virtual event platform are:
- Post-event content. Each of the sessions and panels were recorded, so members can continue to view them and engage with content through November.
- Chat. In-the-moment chat capabilities during sessions helped discussion leaders to address questions that arose in real-time. Facilitators could scan the chat area and manage the inquiries as they came in, creating more immersive dialog.
- Polls. Are an easy one to do, but not always top priority. Polls were built into the presentations, which helped increase engagement. The answers too, would help steer the conversation for many sessions which made sure the dialog was as meaningful as possible to attendees.
- Sponsor showcase. This area was really well managed. The breakout rooms were a nice way to carry on more personable conversations and address specific needs for ABPM-ers. Each sponsor could give a larger demo in a one to many format, but also have 1 to 1 or 1 to many demos where we could talk about challenges specific to different centers, programs, and teams.
- Networking sessions. These were a good focal point as well. The 'barista' could partition out breakout rooms - and based on your interests, you could identify a topic and jump into a room of the same interest in that topic. This made for better networking around shared challenges.
These are all components of a good virtual briefing strategy that can be part of a technology provider's package or can be built manually into your approach.
Can you share with us a few of your key takeaways?
Mostly, we're feeling encouraged. Briefing programs are staying dedicated to what they do, planning and preparing briefings and serving as a strategic sales tool. Many are busier now, than before and seeing sales teams really trusting and beginning to rely on them.
We've also heard many leaders sharing that they feel more responsible for and able to fight for their teams and demonstrate efficacy because of how they are able to pivot and support new business going forward.
There's definitely a focus on enhancing the experience through personalization, customization, and up-leveling the engagement.
- There is a shift in process changes, where teams can pull from a broader set of resources and discussion leaders. Now that we're settled into this new form of remote of customer experience, for many that means less travel, leading to more availability. Therefore program managers have access to a diverse group of subject matter experts that can contribute to the conversation. S
- There is greater adoption of and interest in virtual briefing platforms. This type of technology helps bring consistency across all meetings with the same messaging, same look and feel, and same processes to run briefings (i.e. what's happening in California is mirrored in the London offices). This is equally important for internal stakeholders as well, providing briefing details, agenda info, attendee insights, more content available to preview prior to the briefing. This helps customer engagement start before the briefing day!
- There is a transition from full-day briefings to multi-day briefings in smaller segments or even spread out across a couple weeks, which helps customers stay focused in smaller segments and helps strengthen the relationship and build trust as you sequentially schedule meetings and conversations, rather than an all at once, in your face approach. In these smaller sessions and 'series', it's easier to have more refined conversations and share information focused on scaled back topics.
- There is a growing use case for having select team members on-site even through the briefing may be virtual. At places like HPE In Geneva and Schneider Electric, they're using team members to give live demos within the center and virtual tours that still mimic the in-person experience when moving from one room to another or between solution showcases. Some are even using robots to get video capture and bring other IoT elements into the virtual experience.
Can you share some out-of-the box customer engagement ideas?
A couple of programs are doing some fun stuff around sensory customer engagement. They are delivering physical items to customers that can be incorporated into virtual experiences. Care packages consist of food and beverage, grocery deliveries, and of course swag.
But where this gets really exciting is when these care packages are shared virtually. Program managers are building out agendas that include networking time where they have a group whiskey tasting together, or bring in a chef that guides everyone through a special meal prep with the groceries they received.
As we look to 2021, what can you recommend to programs/managers for the new year?
Invest in a fully functional virtual briefing platform. Concerns about virtual experiences and maintaining engagement numbers will become even more pressing. And as we fully flesh out this hybrid approach to customer experience, we'll need to have tools in place that can support not just in-person or on-site experiences but both happening simultaneously. If you move from rooms and transition to demos, do you carry the zoom/laptop around with you so everyone is moving around together and getting the same experience? Teams will need to lean upon technology and processes to help them seamlessly transition between the two and account for these separate and combined touchpoints.
Also, just keep it up. There is genuine excitement about what we're all doing. Business and infrastructure is moving forward and companies are innovating and providing services. Customers from locations worldwide in different industries (healthcare, hardware, software) are coming to our doorstop, so it's extremely necessary to carry the torch and support our sales teams, internal stakeholders, and customers. We're here to keep all these companies a float.
Did you stop by our booth? In case you didn't make it by, Darby is still setting up 1:1 demos, you can book yours here!