CRA Business Tools

By Donna M. Airoldi

Meetings technology solution Bizly has expanded its platform to allow for planning virtual and hybrid meetings, particularly simple, self-service events, the company told BTN. The virtual meetings feature went live on Wednesday, giving planners three event options to select—in-person, virtual or hybrid. 

The platform is agnostic when it comes to which third-party virtual meetings tool a client chooses. “Whether Webex, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc., we are compatible with all the different videoconferencing technologies,” said Bizly CEO Ron Shah. “It works alongside whatever you are using.”

One reason for that is data security. “We want to be able to enable a certain level of comfort for [companies], so we are not facilitating something that may breach their security protocols,” said Bizly chief strategy officer Kevin Iwamoto. “It’s easier to allow the company to make the vetting and the choices and selection of that third-party provider and be able to integrate with their corporate solution.”

The tool also provides guidance for the planner on setting up and facilitating a virtual meeting and turning on security settings, and offers best practices for communication with attendees, like sharing pre-meeting materials and event facilitation notes.

“One part of our value-add is helping the organizer do [virtual meetings] better, no matter how much experience they have or don’t have,” Shah said.

Another benefit is having the ability to organize a hybrid event in one place. “Instead of setting up two workstreams or two systems, one virtual and then trying to patch that into the smaller [in-person] meeting, you have one place to set the whole thing up,” Iwamoto said.

In addition, invitations for hybrid meetings allow participants to select whether they will attend in person or virtually, so planners can adjust accordingly. 

Soon, Bizly will begin to require venues that respond to inquiries to provide their health and safety protocols using a checklist that the company created based on U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Meanwhile, “a recent [Professional Convention Management Association] study found that 51 percent of more than 1,000 people polled said smaller, local events will be the first to return,” Iwamoto said. “Our goal and sense of urgency is centered around modifying our platform to be action ready for these small, local meetings when companies start calling people back. … We want to use the current opportunity to build the infrastructure to support those meetings while buyers have the time to focus on this.”

Iwamoto added, however, that too many companies don’t understand the dynamics of a simple meeting, and they treat it like a regular meeting, “but it is not, because the end users are not meeting planners or full-time travel professionals,” he said. “The end users are administrative assistants and other people who do this on a part-time basis.” 

He also said that a lot of companies still do not have a policy, process or technology around planning small, local meetings, dealing with new protocols and regulatory agencies, adhering to social distancing, sanitization and the ability to see where people are meeting and how many people attend. 

“It’s mind-boggling to me, if you are a program owner, why you wouldn’t use Covid as a compelling event to get your arms around managing this space,” Iwamoto said. “But they haven’t planned for it. When the business comes back, and in the absence of a policy, a process, a technological solution to facilitate this, it will go right back to pre-Covid, which is everybody doing their own thing. … [A]nd without a solution to capture and report on [simple meetings] on a regular basis, you will be behind the 8-ball, and I would question what kind of value you are really adding to senior management in being able to communicate the actual situation to date of where the company is and where the employees are.”

Credit to Business Travel News.