Boštjan Horjak, Liberty Incentives & Congresses Slovenia, director
We’ve all heard of hybrid cars and other machines. What about hybrid meetings?
Nowadays many people think these things are impossible, just like many didn’t believe internet will ever replace printed media. Yet it is happening. Modern technology of communicating over huge distances enables the conference participants to follow the speakers in the same way as if they were sitting in the hall. This kind of participant does not have to cover the costs of travel and accommodation. The advantage of hybrid meetings for organizers is that they can reach a larger number of participants due to lower costs. Hybrid meetings will definitely be more and more present for the obvious reasons – yet we also have to consider the environmental view. If we take into account the carbon footprint, such meetings are less burdening to the environment. Virtual meetings however, will probably never fully replace conventional ones – nonetheless, networking is also an important part of a meeting.

Professor Dr. Nataša Vaupotič, dean of Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at University of Maribor and vice president of organisation board of European Conference on Liquid Crystals (ECLC 2011)

What is your opinion on virtual and hybrid meetings? Will they replace traditional meetings?
I highly doubt that – in natural sciences the key is personal contact, conversation, interactive cooperation, exchange of ideas by drawing sketches, models etc. Such debate and conversations take place during the conference – during the lectures, breaks, often even late at night in hotel lobbies, since key questions and ideas cannot come on demand, like for example at the agreed upon time of the video conference. Mostly, the time allotted for lectures is too short for deep debate. These continue (or begin) in breaks and after the lectures.

Will virtual hybrid meetings become an addition to classic meetings?
If yes, then only as an addition for some important scientists who are unable to attend the conference and only have time to join by videoconference. Yet this only enables an introduction of the research not in depth debate.

Have you ever thought of offering this kind of meetings to your participants?
We haven’t. As I said personal contact is very important. Yet we have to take into account the economic factors. Our last conference proved many scientists could not attend due to the economic crisis.  If means for research and development will continue to decrease a virtual or hybrid meeting will become the only way to connect the scientists. Of course, I hope this bleak future does not come true.

Maja Vidergar, Cankarjev dom, head of marketing projects
Will hybrid meetings replace traditional meetings?
No, I don’t believe they will. We can certainly transmit messages, yet a personal contact or experience (feel, smell, look – to mention a few building blocks of the trademark of Slovenian tourism) cannot be replaced.

Will virtual hybrid meetings become an addition to classic meetings?
Yes. We believe the future brings a combination of classic and virtual meetings. This is the way the equipment of congress centres is developing.

As a PCO, do you consider offering these services to participants of your events?
Yes, sooner or later. The knowledge is becoming more and more accessible, so our clients are bound to demand it. Think of all the people unable to attend meetings from physical, political or economic reasons…