7 Reasons Why Your Association’s Annual Meeting Should be a Hybrid Event

7 reasons why your association annual meeting should be a hybrid event

The following is a guest post by Catherine Mills. Catherine is Director, Council on ADA Sessions at the American Dental Association (ADA). Catherine is based in Chicago, IL.


Founded in 1859, the American Dental Association is the oldest and largest national dental society in the world. We host our annual meeting, the ADA Annual Session, in a different U.S. city each year to cater to the geographical distribution of our members.

As we planned for our 152nd Annual Session in 2011, we decided that we needed to jump with both feet into the hybrid meeting environment to meet the demands of a rapidly changing world.  We wanted to address the needs of young graduates entering the dental work force. They grew up with digital technologies and expect online interactions. In addition, digital technologies have matured and bandwidth costs have decreased, to the point where a “digital extension” to our Annual Session wasn’t just a possibility—it was the best opportunity to share our meeting with the broadest audience.

Thankfully, we had the opportunity to work with a great set of companies: Freeman, bXb Online and INXPO, who together helped deliver the ADA Annual Session hybrid event, which we call “ADA365.”

There are thousands of associations across the globe, and I know that many of you are considering digital options (e.g. “digital extensions”) for your annual meeting. As such, I wanted to take this opportunity to share seven reasons why the ADA chose to “go hybrid” in 2011.

1) Extended Reach.

Can you guess what percentage of our member base attends our Annual Session?  Less than 10%. That means that 90% of our members miss out on a given year’s meeting! Not anymore. A digital extension allows us to reach more members and provide more value for our membership fee.

2) Education and Networking (Online).

Even if you can’t attend in person, we can still offer educational content and a connection to ADA members. This is especially true for younger dentists who can’t afford the time or expense of being away from their practice. And that’s the great thing about a digital platform: even if you can’t attend in person, you can still find and connect with other dentists, online.

3) Give Members a Taste (Of What They’re Missing).

The digital extension allows us to showcase and deliver the best elements of the Annual Session on the show floor and in the educational sessions. We don’t “give it all away” online, of course, just a taste to whet your appetite. And that leads to the next benefit.

4) Convert Digital Attendees to In-Person Attendees.

It’s our belief that members who attended digitally this year will be more inclined to attend in person next year, when we host the 2012 event in San Francisco. We’re looking forward to researching the 2012 results late this year, to see just how effective the digital extension was in driving face-to-face attendance.

5) Build Upon Our Industry Leadership.

I love the quote, “A leader leads by example, whether he intends to or not” (source unknown).  The hybrid event allows us to further our leadership position among other dental industry organizations through the strategic inclusion of these organizations in ADA’s hybrid event strategy. We believe that taking a technology leadership position helps set an example for our industry, as well as other industries.

6) Create Stronger ROI.

The Annual Session succeeds through the support of our exhibitors. The digital extension allows us to create new and exciting ROI vehicles to our exhibitor community, who can now reach more members online.

7) Drive Revenue Growth.

In today’s economic environment, associations need to grow revenue in order to remain viable. We expect that our hybrid event will allow us to create new revenue streams down the road that will be made possible through the measurable results. These results accrue to the sponsoring organization and the participating attendees who drive that sponsorship.


Thanks to the hybrid event, the 152nd ADA Annual Session was perhaps the most special and groundbreaking session that the ADA has ever had. We believe that the benefits were significant and will help build the business case for making the hybrid event an annual tradition for the ADA.

Re-printed with permission from bXb Online. Read the original post here.