If organizations have learned anything in the shift to hybrid work, it’s that people want choice. They want to decide for themselves when and where they work, how they collaborate with others, and to build a schedule that matches their energy and productivity cycles throughout the week.
As business conferences begin to welcome back in-person attendees again, they’ll have to take this new reality into account. Offering a blend of remote, in-person, and hybrid attendance options opens up a huge opportunity, said Allan Tate, executive chair of the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium: it enables conferences to optimize each of those experiences and deliver more value to attendees.
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For instance, at the 2022 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, the 17-year-old conference’s first hybrid event on May 22-23, attendance will be much more intimate than in pre-pandemic years. Limited to 265 people, the in-person experience will cater to an audience that wants to network. The Symposium has a long history of connecting MIT academic leaders with CIOs and industry experts, and it will continue this tradition with a more intimate, exclusive feel, says Tate.
“This year, attendees joining us on site are invited to the CIO Award Dinner on May 22nd on the seventh floor of the MIT Samberg Conference Center, which is an absolutely beautiful venue overlooking Boston,” he says. “In years past, we could only invite a small portion of our attendees to this dinner, so it’s a big change and allows for more networking.”
On the opposite side of the spectrum, the conference will also improve the remote experience based on audience feedback from the last two years. The Digital Learning Series in 2020 and the remote MIT Sloan CIO Symposium in 2021 illuminated what matters to a remote audience: access to sessions on-demand and collaboration with a large virtual international community.
“We were pleasantly surprised by the advantages of a virtual format last year,” says Tate. “For example, we introduced an open conversation format that people really enjoyed. That would be difficult to replicate within the structure and schedule of an in-person event, but online, attendees were able to dive deep into topics and connect with others who shared their passions.”
The conference is also exploring ways to bring the two audiences together. “We’re bringing back a technology for Q&A that we used in the past, which will allow both the virtual and in-person audiences to ask the moderator questions simultaneously,” says Tate. With this feature, remote attendees will have access and engagement with what’s happening on stage in person, while in-person attendees will have the chance to keep a pulse on what’s happening in the larger global community surrounding the event.
Digital ecosystems: Reshaping the future of business
To make these experiences possible, the Symposium has become a consumer of digital platforms for video streaming, ticketing, payment, and online community services, among others. This has been a smaller-scale version of what larger enterprises have experienced over the last two years, says Tate.
“Digital transformation has accelerated, and the trade of services is driving innovation and new ecosystem partnerships,” he says. “This, in turn, is creating beneficial competition that will shape what the future looks like for all companies.”
The challenges facing CIOs haven’t changed drastically over the years, says Tate, but they’ve evolved. For instance, Tate says, “every single company out there is facing elevated cyber threats accelerated by the digitalization of economies. We’ll address this in our morning keynote, Cybersecurity in an Increasingly Interconnected and Volatile World, led by our center for Cybersecurity at MIT Sloan (CAMS).”
“There's also been accelerated digitalization with people going to touchless, seamless transactions, work-from-anywhere employees, and shop-from-anywhere consumers,” he says. “The acceleration of cloud to enable these customer experiences will also be a big focus at the Symposium.”
As in years past, the Symposium will also offer CIOs an opportunity to sharpen their leadership focus and skills. This year, the agenda will address collaboration opportunities between the CIO and an increasingly tech-savvy C-Suite.
“The business-minded CIO is in a great position to lead,” says Tate. “CIOs have come a long way in the past years. They're really taking their seat at the table with the rest of the C-suite – not only leading the technology but actually leading the business, building resilience, and preparing for the unknown.”
For the full agenda or to register, visit https://www.mitcio.com.
[ Get answers to key digital transformation questions and lessons from top CIOs: Download our digital transformation cheat sheet. ]