How the University of Maryland hosted its first-ever hybrid Board of Trustees meeting

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Hybrid event
Board meeting

The UMCP Foundation Board of Trustees provides fundamental support to the University of Maryland (UMD), College Park, for stewarding its resources to the benefit of the university and its mission. Trustees oversee the investment and distribution of private funds, promote philanthropic support for the university, and assist and advise foundation and university leadership. 

With the Board of Trustees convening only three times a year, each meeting is vital in aligning trustees, and maintaining effective oversight of the foundation and university. Moreover, the need for creative, hybrid engagement is important, now more than ever, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated apprehension around travelling and gatherings.

Challenge: creating a connective, collaborative hybrid board meeting

After holding virtual meetings over the past two years, and with restrictions eased for in-person gatherings, University of Maryland leadership was keen to provide a hybrid event experience for their University of Maryland College Park Foundation Board of Trustees meeting that would seamlessly connect 90 in-person and virtual attendees.

Here's how the UMD team pulled it off:

A professional, University of Maryland-branded meeting venue

UMD branding greets attendees when they enter the event

“Creating a polished and branded meeting venue was very important for us from the beginning,” says Lindsay Meyers, Senior Director, Office of Special Events. “Being able to curate every aspect of the experience was critical. We wanted to design everything in a way that trustees would immediately feel they had come to the right place, and also capture the energy, professionalism, and pride of previous Foundation board meetings.” 

With this in mind, UMD organizers were able to completely brand their in-person venue with decor and signage, and leveraged Zuddl’s customization tools to brand the entire virtual event venue with UMD logos, colors, and graphics as well. 

The result: a fully branded and high-quality venue production that showcased the university and the critical role the Foundation plays. The venue wowed the trustees as well. The mirroring of UMD branding elements in-person and on the virtual platform established a sense of familiarity and furthered the sense of a shared experience.

Easy and intuitive navigation for virtual attendees

It was essential for UMD organizers to make the user experience as easy and straightforward as possible. Virtual attendees were able to easily access the meeting, and understand how the platform worked without any hassle. 

Lindsay and her team also customized the virtual event lobby to make navigation effortless. They placed hotspots in the lobby that would direct trustees to central areas in the venue such as the Stage. They even placed a Help icon in the lobby so that trustees could quickly reach out for assistance to a live staff member. “Our attendees felt confident in using the platform to attend the meetings,” Lindsay says.

Seamless real-time connection between virtual and on-site participants

The event brought virtual and in-person attendees together for a shared experience

For UMD organizers, one of the most important goals in hosting the board meeting was to create a shared and interactive experience, or to quote Lindsay, “show the attendees that they were all together.”

To achieve this, the UMD team used two unique in-platform features that brought virtual and in-person attendees face-to-face, supported by the highest production quality provided by ETP:

  • Gallery view: This platform feature gave virtual attendees a physical presence at the event by featuring them on a LED screen at the physical venue so that in-person attendees could see them. This was a simple, but powerful way to make everyone feel like they were all sitting around a large table at the “same” meeting, so to speak. “The Gallery view set this event apart from other hybrid events; it put everyone on the same playing field,” Lindsay shared. 
  • Contributor view: A game-changer for hybrid events, the contributor feature brought virtual speakers face-to-face with in-person speakers, enabling lively back-and-forth, real-time conversations and participation.

Zuddl provided each virtual attendee with a separate feed, which ETP projected on the LED wall at the physical venue in order to allow attendees to become speakers where they could ask a question or add their insight to a conversation. With this, Lindsay and her team were able to produce extremely curated roundtable discussions as they were able to turn the spotlight on each trustee when needed, just like a slickly produced TV news segment. “There was no barrier for virtual speakers to share and participate, they could engage just as if they were standing on stage,” comments Lindsay.

A level of participation and interactivity never seen before

As the Board of Trustees only assemble a few times a year, every meeting needs to be as efficient as possible. UMD organizers used in-platform spaces and tools to open up two-way communication that enabled and encouraged each trustee to share their views, discuss and decide on business decisions, and connect socially.

Here’s how:

  • Polls pushed out during the meeting allowed trustees to vote on critical issues in real-time. By inviting all participants to share opinions with a click of a button, organizers were better able to ensure that all voices were heard - something that isn’t often the case with in-person meetings where the “crowd psychology” effect of hand-raising can influence opinion.
  • UMD organizers created virtual Breakout Rooms to host workshop-style small group discussions. (Attendees in Rooms can video chat with the entire group and can see each other’s facial expressions and body language leading to more intimate and focused conversations.) Trustees were provided theme-specific prompts that they problem-solved together. They then rejoined the full group back at the main Stage to present and discuss the results of the workshop.

By inviting their colleagues to participate rather than be passive, the UMD team ramped up engagement and inclusivity, and by leveraging in-platform tools, they were able to drive 30% more engagement as compared to previous events.

To sum up...

Although this was UMD’s first hybrid board meeting, it was a resounding success. Not only did the organizers facilitate a focused and purposeful meeting where trustees, regardless of physical location, were able to work efficiently together, but they also created a new and improved experience that was inclusive, and truly memorable. Lindsay concludes “We did not have to settle on using a conference call line or screen sharing, we could curate the entire experience.”

This event set a new expectation for hybrid events, illustrating how you can have a fully engaged virtual and in-person audience.

Lindsay Meyers
Senior Director, Office of Special Events
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The University of Maryland, College Park is the state's flagship university and one of America’s preeminent public research universities. A global leader in research, entrepreneurship, and innovation, the university is home to more than 37,000 students, 9,000 faculty and staff, and 250 academic programs.

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